British prime minister: 'Highly likely' Russia behind spy poisoning

Source: ABC News | March 12, 2018 | Ben Gittleson

British Prime Minister Theresa May told members of the Parliament today that it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for poisoning Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England earlier this month.

She said Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were exposed to a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.” They were found slumped over in Salisbury, England, last week, and remained in critical condition.

May told members of Parliament that British authorities had concluded the Skripals were exposed to an agent that was part of the “Novichok” group of nerve agents developed by Russia.

Because Russia had produced the agent in the past and “would still be capable of doing so,” it had sponsored assassinations before, and it saw some defectors as legitimate targets, the British government had “concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” May said.

“Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country,” May added, “or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

The British foreign secretary has summoned the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom to the British foreign ministry “and asked him to explain which of these two possibilities it is,” May said. The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has requested a response by the end of Tuesday.

“Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom,” May said.


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  •  Consistent #22234

     Consistent #22239

    But why did Theresa May wait until today to blame Russia? For two reasons. First off, the British government needed to liaise with its allies in relation to any intelligence evidence indicating Kremlin’s culpability. By waiting a week, the British also gave themselves the opportunity to provoke Russian officials into phone and email conversations that bring to light new intelligence. This is useful because the Russians like to gloat when they think they’re not being monitored.


    Second, the means and motive both overwhelmingly point to the Kremlin.

    As I noted the day following the attack, the early evidence of a nerve agent being employed and the proximity of Skripal’s residence to a Secret Intelligence Service training facility were all hints at Russian malevolence.

    But while this form of attack takes a lot of planning, competency and access to very rare equipment (nerve agent plus delivery system), the most damning evidence against Russia is the particular nerve agent strand that was employed. It was a Russian calling card; Putin knows that because only Britain and a few of its allies hold samples of the particular agent, international experts won’t easily be able to corroborate the British findings. But the Russians also know that the British know that it was them. It’s thus a very Putin-style way of saying, “LOL.”

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