Russian spy: Embassy warns UK against ‘punitive’ measures

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia

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EPA/ Yulia Skripal/Facebook

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Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, are in a critical condition in hospital

The UK’s threat of “punitive” measures against Russia over the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter will “meet with a response”, Russia has said.

Russia’s UK embassy posted a series of tweets as a deadline looms for it to explain how a Russia-made nerve agent was used in the 4 March incident.

It said there would be no reply to the “ultimatum” until it is given access to samples of the nerve agent used.

No 10 said Donald Trump has told the PM the “US was with the UK all the way”.

In a telephone conversation, the US president agreed with Theresa May that the Russian government “must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used” against Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, it added.

The PM had said the UK must “stand ready” to take action against Russia.

She said details would be set out in the Commons on Wednesday should there be no adequate explanation by midnight on how a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia – part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok – was used in Salisbury on 4 March.

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Media captionDonald Trump to discuss Russian spy investigation with Theresa May

Downing Street said Theresa May also held a telephone conservation with France’s President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who both expressed “solidarity” with the UK ‘s position.

One of the tweets from the Russian embassy said: “Any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”

The embassy added the UK ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the foreign ministry in Moscow and told the UK’s actions were a “clear provocation” and Russia was not involved in the poisoning.

  • What are Novichok nerve agents?
  • The spy at centre of poison mystery

Giving an update in the attempted murder investigation, police said former double agent Mr Skripal and his daughter remain critically ill in hospital after being found slumped on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury.

Det Sgt Nick Bailey, who fell ill responding to the incident, is in a serious but stable condition.

Speaking outside New Scotland Yard, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said 35 other people had been seen in hospital, of whom 34 had been assessed and discharged, while the condition of one person is being monitored as an outpatient.

Mr Basu revealed that Miss Skripal had flown into Heathrow Airport on Saturday, 3 March.

He also appealed for witnesses who saw the pair’s red BMW car before the attack.

He appealed for witnesses who saw the pair in her father’s car – licence plate number HD09 WAO – between 13:00 and 13.45 GMT on the day of the poisoning.

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Ben Whitlock

The car was left in Sainsbury’s upper level car park in the Maltings shopping area before the Skripals went to the Bishops Mill Pub and then the restaurant Zizzi.

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Media captionNeil Basu, the UK’s head of counter-terrorism, made a fresh appeal for witnesses

Mr Basu said the police investigation will take “many weeks”, with the “prime focus” being how the poison was administered.

However, he said detectives were “not declaring a person of interest or suspect at this time”.

  • Up to 14 other deaths to be re-examined for Russian links
  • No change to England World Cup plans

Police confirmed that Mr Skripal, who came to the UK in 2010 as part of a “spy swap” after he had been convicted by Russia of passing information to MI6, was a British citizen.

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Media captionBoris Johnson: “We are giving Russia until midnight to explain”

In other developments:

  • Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced that MI5 and police are to look into claims that as many as 14 deaths on UK soil may be linked to Russia
  • The Football Association says it has made no change to plans for England’s presence at this year’s World Cup in Russia despite calls to consider a boycott following the poisoning of the Skripals
  • Counter-terror police are leading an investigation into the “unexplained” death of a man believed to be Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov – but officers say there was no evidence linking the death to the incidents in Salisbury
  • Ofcom says it will consider whether Kremlin-funded channel RT should broadcast in the UK if Russian involvement is proven in the Salisbury attack. RT said its output “continues to adhere to all standards” and Ofcom was “conflating its role” as a broadcasting regulator
  • Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the UK was a “highly valued ally” and the incident was “of great concern, adding “both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it must face appropriately serious consequences”

How could the UK retaliate against Russia?

Mrs May said the UK must “stand ready to take much more extensive measures” against Russia than it had previously.

She said these measures would be set out in the Commons on Wednesday should there be no adequate explanation from Russia.

Britain could expel Russian diplomats, as it did after the poisoning of former Russian Federal Security Service operative Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 with radioactive polonium.

But many argue that this, and the other measures that were taken after that killing – including visa restrictions on Russian officials – did not go far enough.

So what else could the UK do?

Other possible actions could include:

  • Freezing financial assets
  • Bans on visas
  • Boycotting the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year
  • Taking Russian broadcasters such as RT (formerly Russia Today) off the air in the UK

Read more on how the UK could retaliate

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