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Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

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Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal
Forensic tent at The Maltings, Salisbury (cropped).jpg
A forensics tent covers the bench where Sergei and Yulia Skripal fell unconscious
LocationSalisbury, Wiltshire, England
Date4 March 2018
TargetSergei Viktorovich Skripal
Yulia Sergeyevna Skripal
WeaponsNovichok or family nerve agent[a][b]
Victims3 hospitalised[c]
Suspected perpetrators
Russian secret services

On 4 March 2018, former Russian military intelligence officer and British spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury, England, with a Novichok nerve agent, according to official UK sources.[3][4] After three weeks in a critical condition, Yulia regained consciousness and was able to speak.[5] Sergei was in a critical condition until he regained consciousness one month after the attack.[6][7]

A police officer was also taken into intensive care after being contaminated when he went to Sergei Skripal's house. By 22 March he had recovered enough to leave the hospital.[8] An additional 48 people sought medical advice after the attack, but none required treatment.[9][d]

In the 1990s, Sergei Skripal was an officer for Russia's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) and worked as a double agent for the UK's Secret Intelligence Service from 1995 until his arrest in Moscow in December 2004. He was convicted of high treason and sentenced to 13 years in a penal colony by a Russian court in 2006. He settled in the UK in 2010 following the Illegals Program spy swap. Sergei holds dual Russian and British citizenship; Yulia is a Russian citizen, and was visiting her father from Moscow.[11]

Later in March, the British government accused Russia of attempted murder and announced a series of punitive measures against Russia, including the expulsion of diplomats. The UK's official assessment of the incident was supported by 28 other countries which responded similarly. Altogether an unprecedented 153 Russian diplomats were expelled.[12] Russia denied the accusations and responded in kind to the expulsions and accused Britain of the poisoning.[13]

On 12 April 2018, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) concluded that blood samples "confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical."[14]

Poisoning

At 16:15 on 4 March 2018, an emergency services call reported that Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old resident of Salisbury, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, who had flown into London's Heathrow Airport from Russia the previous day, had been found unconscious on a public bench in the centre of Salisbury by a passing doctor and nurse.[15][16][17] An eyewitness saw Yulia foaming at the mouth with her eyes wide open but completely white.[18] According to a later British government statement they were "slipping in and out of consciousness on a public bench".[19] At 17:10, they were separately taken to Salisbury District Hospital by an ambulance and an air ambulance.[20]

According to the UK government, the two were poisoned with a nerve agent.[2] The police declared a major incident as multiple agencies were involved.[21] Following the incident, health authorities checked 21 members of the emergency services and the public for possible symptoms;[22][23] two police officers were treated for possible minor symptoms, said to be itchy eyes and wheezing, while one, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who had been sent to Sergei Skripal's house, had been in a serious condition.[24][25]

On 22 March 2018, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was discharged from the hospital. In a statement he said "normal life for me will probably never be the same" and also thanked the hospital staff.[8] As of 26 March 2018, Skripal and his daughter remained critically ill.[26][27] On 29 March 2018 it was announced that Yulia Skripal's condition was improving and she was no longer in a critical condition.[28] On 5 April 2018 doctors said that Sergei Skripal was no longer in critical condition and was responding well to treatment.[29] On 9 April 2018, Yulia Skripal was discharged from hospital and taken to a secure location.[30][31]

On 17th March, The Sun reported that the Skripal's vet had contacted the police on 4th March regarding the Skripal's pet cat and two guinea pigs and said "the cat and the guinea pigs were removed from the house and taken away to be assessed.”[32] On 5 April 2018, British authorities said that inside Sergey Skripal's house, which had been sealed by the police, two guinea pigs were found dead by vets, when they were allowed in, along with a cat in a distressed state.[33] The guinea pigs were reported to have died of thirst; the cat was taken for testing to the Porton Down chemical weapons facility, where all three bodies were incinerated.[34]

Investigation

The first public response to the poisoning came on 6 March. It was agreed under the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network that the Counter Terrorism Command based within the Metropolitan Police would take over the investigation from Wiltshire Police. Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of Counter Terrorism Policing, appealed for witnesses to the incident following a COBR meeting chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd.[35]

Samples of the nerve agent used in the attack tested positive at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down for a "very rare" nerve agent, according to the UK Home Secretary.[36]

Military experts in chemical warfare defence and decontamination, 180 in number, as well as 18 vehicles, were deployed on 9 March to assist the Metropolitan Police to remove vehicles and objects from the scene and look for any further traces of the nerve agent. The personnel were drawn mostly from the Army, including instructors from the Defence CBRN Centre and the 29 Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Group, as well as from the Royal Marines and Royal Air Force. The vehicles included TPz Fuchs operated by Falcon Squadron from the Royal Tank Regiment.[37] On 11 March, the UK government advised those present at either The Mill pub or the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury on 4 and 5 March to wash or wipe their possessions, emphasising that the risk to the general public was low.[38][39]

Several days later, on 12 March, Prime Minister Theresa May said the agent had been identified as one of the Novichok family of agents, believed to have been developed in the 1980s by the Soviet Union.[40][41] According to the Russian ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, the British authorities identified the agent as A-234,[2] derived from an earlier version known as A-232.[42]

By 14 March, the investigation was focused on Skripal's home and car, a bench where the two fell unconscious, a restaurant in which they dined and a pub where they had drinks.[43] A recovery vehicle was removed by the military from Gillingham in Dorset on 14 March, in connection with the poisoning.[44][45]

Subsequently, there was speculation within the British media that the nerve agent had been planted in one of the personal items in Yulia Skripal's suitcase before she left Moscow for London,[46] and in US media that it had been planted in their car.[47][48]

Ahmet Üzümcü, Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), said on 20 March that it will take "another two to three weeks to finalise the analysis" of samples taken from the poisoning of Skripal.[49] On 22 March, the Court of Protection gave permission for new blood samples to be obtained from Yulia and Sergei Skripal for use by the OPCW.[50][51] By 28 March, the police investigation concluded that the Skripals were poisoned at Sergei's home, with the highest concentration being found on the handle of his front door.[52] On 12 April the OPCW confirmed the UK's analysis of the type of nerve agent and reported it was of a "high purity", stating that the "name and structure of the identified toxic chemical are contained in the full classified report of the Secretariat, available to States Parties."[53][54][55]

A declassified letter from the UK's national security adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, stated Russian military intelligence hacked Yulia Skripal's email account since at least 2013 and tested methods for delivering nerve agents including on door handles.[56]

The Department for Environment confirmed the nerve agent was delivered "in a liquid form". They said eight sites require decontamination, which will take several months to complete and cost millions of pounds. The BBC reported experts said the nerve agent does not evaporate or disappear over time. Intense cleaning with caustic chemicals is required to get rid of it.[57][58]

Response of the United Kingdom

Within days of the attack, political pressure began to mount on Theresa May's government to take action against the perpetrators, and most politicians appeared to believe that the Russian government was behind the attack.[59][60] The situation was additionally sensitive for Russia as Russian president Vladimir Putin was facing his fourth presidential election in mid-March, and Russia was to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup football competition in June.[60][61] When giving a response to an urgent question from Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons, who suggested that Moscow was conducting "a form of soft war against the West", Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on 6 March said the government would "respond appropriately and robustly" if the Russian state was found to have been involved in the poisoning.[62][63] UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd said on 8 March 2018 that the use of a nerve agent on UK soil was a "brazen and reckless act" of attempted murder "in the most cruel and public way".[64]

Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking in the House of Commons on 12 March, delivered a statement on the incident, saying:

It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. This is part of a group of nerve agents known as 'Novichok'. Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Mr Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March. Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.[40]

May also said that the UK government requested that Russia explain which of these two possibilities it was by the end of 13 March 2018.[40] She also said: "[T]he extra-judicial killing of terrorists and dissidents outside Russia were given legal sanction by the Russian Parliament in 2006. And of course Russia used radiological substances in its barbaric assault on Mr Litvinenko."  She said that the UK government would "consider in detail the response from the Russian State" and in the event that there was no credible response, the government would "conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom" and measures would follow.[40] British media billed the statement as "Theresa May's ultimatum to Putin."[3][65]

On 13 March 2018, UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd ordered an inquiry by the police and security services into alleged Russian state involvement in 14 previous suspicious deaths of Russian exiles and businessmen in the UK.[66]

Prime Minister May unveiled a series of measures on 14 March 2018 in retaliation for the poisoning attack, after the Russian government refused to meet the UK's request for an account of the incident. One of the chief measures was the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats which she presented as "actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK", as these diplomats had been identified by the UK as "undeclared intelligence agents".[67][68] The BBC reported other responses, including:[69][70]

  • Increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight
  • Freezing Russian state assets where there is evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents
  • Plans to consider new laws to increase defences against "hostile state activity"
  • Ministers and the British royal family boycotting the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia
  • Suspending all high-level bilateral contacts between the UK and Russia
  • Retraction of the state invitation to Russian's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov[9]
  • A new £48-million chemical weapons defence centre[71]
  • Offering voluntary vaccinations against anthrax to British troops who are held at high readiness so that they are ready to deploy to areas where there is risk of this type of attack[72]

The Prime Minister said that some measures which the government planned could "not be shared publicly for reasons of national security".[67] Jeremy Corbyn cast doubt in his parliamentary response to May's statement concerning blaming the attack on Russia prior to the results of an independent investigation, which provoked criticism from some MPs, including members of his own party.[73][74] He supported the expulsion but argued that a crackdown on money laundering by UK financial firms on behalf of Russian oligarchs would be a more effective measure against "the Putin regime" than the Tory government's plans.[75] Corbyn pointed to the pre-Iraq War judgements about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction as reason to be suspicious.[76]

The United Nations Security Council called an urgent meeting on 14 March 2018 on the initiative of the UK to discuss the Salisbury incident.[77][19] According to the Russian mission's press secretary, the draft press statement introduced by Russia at the United Nations Security Council meeting was blocked by the UK.[78] The UK and the US blamed Russia for the incident during the meeting, with the UK accusing Russia of breaking its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.[79] Separately, the White House fully supported the UK in attributing the attack to Russia, as well as the punitive measures taken against Russia. The White House also accused Russia of undermining the security of countries worldwide.[80][81]

The UK, and subsequently NATO, requested Russia provide "full and complete disclosure" of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.[82][83][84] On 14 March 2018, the government stated it would supply a sample of the substance used to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons once UK legal obligations from the criminal investigation permitted.[85]

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on 16 March that it was "overwhelmingly likely" that the poisoning had been ordered directly by Russian president Putin, which marked the first time the British government accused Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poisoning.[86] According to the UK Foreign Office, the UK attributed the attack to Russia based on Porton Down's determination that the chemical was Novichok, additional intelligence, and a lack of alternative explanations from Russia.[87] The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory announced that it was "completely confident" that the agent used was Novichok, but they still did not know the "precise source" of the agent.[88][89]

The UK had held an intelligence briefing with its allies in which it stated that the Novichok chemical used in the Salisbury poisoning was produced at a chemical facility in the town of Shikhany, Saratov Oblast, Russia.[90] An anonymous source told a British tabloid newspaper that allies were also informed about a message from Syria to Russia intercepted on 4 March containing the words "the package has been delivered".[91]

According to a government source, the UK refused to grant a visa to Yulia's cousin, Viktoria Skripal, to visit her, saying that it appears Russia is "trying to use Viktoria as a pawn".[7]

Response of Russia

Russian government

A spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin was on 6 March quoted as saying, "We see this tragic situation, but we don't have information on what could have led to this, what he was engaged in".[92] On 12 March 2018, both Vladimir Putin and his spokesman dismissed questions about the incident from the press as not relevant for the Russian government, with Dmitry Peskov, Putin's Press Secretary, explaining that no official representation about the issue had been made from the UK government, whereas "the aforesaid Russian citizen had worked for one of Britain's secret services" and the incident occurred on British soil.[93][94][95]

Head of the Federation Council's committee on international affairs Konstantin Kosachev, in reaction to Boris Johnson′s statement made in the Commons on 6 March, told the Interfax news agency: "To officially voice a version of events that has not been verified yet is ‘politically juicy’ is first of all an exceedingly dishonest policy. Secondly, it violates the presumption of innocence, and thirdly it puts pressure on investigators."[96][97]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov rejected Britain's claim of Russia's involvement in Skripal's poisoning and accused the United Kingdom of spreading the "propaganda".[98][99] Lavrov said that Russia was "ready to cooperate" and demanded access to the samples of the nerve-agent which was used to poison Skripal. The request was rejected by the British government.[100]

Following Theresa May's 12 March statement in Parliament – in which she gave Vladimir Putin's administration until midnight of the following day to explain how a former spy was poisoned in Salisbury, otherwise she would conclude it was an "unlawful use of force" by the Russian state against the UK[101] – Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, talking to the Russian press on 13 March, referred to the statement as "an ultimatum from London" and endorsed remarks made by the ministry's spokesperson the day prior, who called May's statement "a circus show in the British parliament";[102][103][104] he added that the procedure stipulated by the Chemical Weapons Convention should be followed whereunder Russia was entitled to have access to the substance in question and 10 days to respond.[102][105][106] He called allegations about Russia's complicity "balderdash".[107] The Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, speaking on a Russian state television channel on the evening of 13 March, said that no one had the right to present Russia with 24-hour ultimatums.[108][109][110]

On the evening of 13 March 2018, the Russian Embassy in London posted a tweet that said that Russia had served a diplomatic note rejecting any involvement in the Salisbury incident.[111] The Embassy posted several other tweets on 13 March that said that Moscow would not respond to London's ultimatum until it received samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators were referring.[112][113]

On 17 March, Russia announced that it was expelling 23 British diplomats and ordered the closure of the UK's consulate in St Petersburg and the British Council office in Moscow, stopping all British Council activities in Russia.[114]

In April 2018 Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to Britain, said in an interview “We have very serious suspicion that this provocation was done by British intelligence”.[115][116] Moscow disputed that it was responsible for the poisoning, stating it was a “fabricated case against Russia”, and their London embassy sent a list of 14 questions to the UK Foreign Ministry.[117] The Russian Foreign Ministry also released 10 questions addressed to Paris about what it claims to be a fabricated case. [118]

Sergey Naryshkin, director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), told the Moscow Conference on International Security on 4 April 2018 that the poisoning was a "grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and U.S. intelligence agencies"; he also said the incident was the latest example of the U.S.-led efforts to undermine Russia.[119][120]

Russian state media

For a few days following the poisoning, Russian state-run mainstream media outlets largely ignored the incident.[121][122]

Eventually, on 7 March, anchor Kirill Kleimyonov of the state television station Channel One Russia's current affairs programme Vremya said that being "a traitor to the motherland" was one of the most hazardous professions and warned: "Don't choose England as a next country to live in. Whatever the reasons, whether you're a professional traitor to the motherland or you just hate your country in your spare time, I repeat, no matter, don't move to England. Something is not right there. Maybe it's the climate, but in recent years there have been too many strange incidents with a grave outcome. People get hanged, poisoned, they die in helicopter crashes and fall out of windows in industrial quantities."[123][124][125][121][126] Kleimyonov's commentary was accompanied by a report highlighting previous suspicious Russia-related deaths in the UK, namely those of financier Alexander Perepilichny, businessman Boris Berezovsky, ex-FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko and radiation expert Matthew Puncher.[123] Puncher discovered that Litvinenko was poisoned by polonium; he died in 2006, five months after a trip to Russia.[127]

The host of the Vesti Nedeli on Russian state television (Russia-1 channel of VGTRK), Dmitry Kiselyov, said on 11 March that the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, who was "completely wrung out and of little interest" as a source, was only advantageous to the British to "nourish their Russophobia" and organise the boycott of the FIFA World Cup scheduled for June 2018. Kiselyov referred to London as a "pernicious place for Russian exiles".[128][129][130][131]

The prominent Russian television hosts' warnings to Russians living in the UK were echoed by a similar direct warning from a senior member of the Russian Federation Council, Andrey Klimov, who said: "It's going to be very unsafe for you."[106]

Chemical weapons experts and intelligence

Porton Down

On 3 April 2018 Gary Aitkenhead, the chief executive of the Government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down responsible for testing the substance involved in the case, said they had established the agent was Novichok or from that family but had been unable to verify the "precise source" of the nerve agent and that they had "provided the scientific info to Government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions you have come to."[132][1] Aitkenhead refused to comment on whether the laboratory had developed or maintains stocks of Novichok.[1] He also dismissed speculations the substance could have come from Porton Down: "There is no way anything like that could have come from us or left the four walls of our facility."[1] Aitkenhead stated the creation of the nerve agent was "probably only within the capabilities of a state actor" and there was no known antidote.[132][89]

Russian scientists and intelligence officers

Vil Mirzayanov, a former Soviet Union scientist who worked at the research institute that developed the Novichok class of nerve agents and lives in the United States, believes that hundreds of people could have been affected by residual contamination in Salisbury. He said that Sergei and Yulia Skripal, if poisoned with a Novichok, would be left with debilitating health issues for the rest of their lives. He also criticised the response of Public Health England, saying that washing personal belongings was insufficient to remove traces of the chemical.[133][134]

Two other Russian scientists who now live in Russia and have been involved in Soviet-era chemical weapons development, Vladimir Uglev and Leonid Rink, were quoted as saying that Novichok agents had been developed in the 1970s–1980s within the programme that was officially titled FOLIANT and the term Novichok referred to a whole system of chemical weapons use; they, as well as Mirzayanov, who published Novichok's formula in 2008, also noted that Novichok-type agents might be synthesised in other countries.[135][136][137][138] In 1995, Leonid Rink received a one-year suspended sentence for selling Novichok agents to unnamed buyers, soon after the fatal poisoning of Russian banker Ivan Kivilidi by Novichok.[139][140][141][142]

A former KGB and FSB officer, Boris Karpichkov, who operated in Latvia in the 1990s and fled to the UK in 1998,[143] told ITV's Good Morning Britain that on 12 February 2018, three weeks before the Salisbury attack and exactly on his birthday, he received a message over the burner phone from "a very reliable source" in the FSB telling Karpichkov that "something bad [wa]s going to happen with [him] and seven other people, including Mr. Skripal", whom he then knew nothing about.[144] Karpichkov said he disregarded the message at the time, thinking it was not serious, as he had previously received such messages.[144] According to Karpichkov, the FSB′s list includes the names of Oleg Gordievsky and William Browder.[143][145][146]

Response from other countries and organisations

US government

Following Theresa May's statement in Parliament, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement on 12 March that fully supported the stance of the UK government on the poisoning attack, including "its assessment that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack that took place in Salisbury".[147] The following day, US President Donald Trump said that Russia was likely responsible.[148]

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the Security Council briefing on 14 March 2018 stated: "The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent".[149]

Following the United States National Security Council′s recommendation,[150] President Trump, on 26 March, ordered the expulsion of sixty Russian diplomats (referred to by the White House as "Russian intelligence officers"[151]) and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle.[152][153] The action was cast as being "in response to Russia's use of a military-grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom, the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilising activities around the world."[151]

European Union and member states

European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans argued for "unequivocal, unwavering and very strong" European solidarity with the United Kingdom when speaking to lawmakers in Strasburg on 13 March.[154] Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, expressed shock and offered the bloc's support.[155] Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit negotiator, proclaimed solidarity with the British people.[156]

During a meeting in the Foreign Affairs Council on 19 March, all foreign ministers of the European Union declared in a joint statement that the "European Union expresses its unqualified solidarity with the UK and its support, including for the UK's efforts to bring those responsible for this crime to justice." In addition, the statement also pointed out that "The European Union takes extremely seriously the UK Government's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible."[157]

Norbert Röttgen, a former federal minister in Angela Merkel's government and current chairman of Germany's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said the incident demonstrated the need for Britain to review its open-door policy towards Russian capital of dubious origin.[158] On April 3, German politician Armin Laschet, premier of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, has criticized the actions of the UK: "If one forces nearly all NATO countries into solidarity, shouldn't one have certain evidence? Regardless of what one thinks about Russia, my study of international law taught me a different way to deal with other states."[88]

Sixteen EU countries expelled 33 Russian diplomats on 26 March.[159][160]

Other non-EU countries

Albania, Australia, Canada, Macedonia, Moldova, Norway and Ukraine expelled a total of 26 Russian diplomats who were believed to have been intelligence officers.[161] The New Zealand Government also issued a statement supporting the actions, noting that it would have expelled any Russian intelligence agents who had been detected in the country.[162]

NATO

NATO issued an official response to the attack on 14 March. The alliance expressed its deep concern over the first offensive use of a nerve agent on its territory since its foundation and said that the attack was in breach of international treaties. It called on Russia to fully disclose its research of the Novichok agent to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.[163]

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, announced on 27 March that NATO would be expelling seven Russian diplomats from the Russian mission to NATO in Brussels. In addition, 3 unfilled positions at the mission have been denied accreditation from NATO. Russia blamed the US for the NATO response.[164]

Joint responses

The leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom released a joint statement on 15 March which supported the UK's stance on the incident, stating that it was "highly likely that Russia was responsible" and calling on Russia to provide complete disclosure to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons concerning its Novichok nerve agent program.[165][166] On 19 March, the European Union also issued a statement strongly condemning the attack and stating it "takes extremely seriously the UK Government's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible."[157]

Expulsion of diplomats

Expelled Russian diplomats

By the end of March 2018 a number of countries and other organisations expelled Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with the UK. According to the BBC it was "the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history".[167][164][168]

The UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats on 14 March 2018. Three days later, Russia expelled an equal number of British diplomats and ordered closure of the UK consulate in St Petersberg and closure of the British Council in Russia.[114] Nine countries expelled Russian diplomats on 26 March: along with 6 other EU nations, the USA, Canada, Ukraine and Albania. The following day, several nations inside and outside of the EU, and NATO responded similarly. By 30 March, Russia expelled an equal number of diplomats of most nations who had expelled Russian diplomats. By that time, Belgium, Montenegro, Hungary and Georgia had also expelled one or more Russian diplomats. Additionally on 30 March, Russia reduced the size of the total UK mission′s personnel in Russia to match that of the Russian mission to the UK.

Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and the European Union itself have not expelled any Russian diplomats but have recalled their ambassadors from Russia for consultations.[169][170][171][172][173][174] Furthermore, Iceland has decided to diplomatically boycott the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia.[175]

Country / OrganisationDiplomats expelledDate announcedNotesResponse by RussiaDate announced
 Albania226 Mar2 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Australia227 Mar2 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Belgium127 Mar1 diplomat expelled (the economic attaché).[177]4 Apr
 Canada4[178]26 Mar4 diplomats expelled. 3 pending applications declined4 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Croatia126 Mar1 diplomat based in Zagreb declared PNG.[179]30 Mar
 Czech Republic326 Mar3 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Denmark226 Mar2 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Estonia126 Mar1 diplomat expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Finland126 Mar1 diplomat expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 France426 Mar4 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Germany426 Mar4 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Georgia1[180]30 Mar
 Hungary126 Mar1 diplomat expelled by Russia[181]4 April
 Ireland127 Mar1 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Italy226 Mar2 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Latvia126 Mar1 diplomat expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Lithuania326 Mar3 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Macedonia126 Mar1 diplomat expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Moldova327 Mar3 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Montenegro1[182]28 Mar
 NATO7[164]27 Mar7 expelled and 3 pending applications declined. Maximum delegation reduced by 1030 Mar
 Netherlands226 Mar2 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Norway126 Mar1 diplomat expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Poland426 Mar4 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Romania126 Mar1 diplomat expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Spain226 Mar2 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Sweden126 Mar1 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 Ukraine1326 Mar13 diplomats expelled by Russia.[176]30 Mar
 United Kingdom2314 Mar23 UK diplomats expelled by Russia.

British consulate in St Petersburg closed. British Council closure.

17 Mar
UK diplomatic mission to Russia reduced in size to match Russian mission to UK. Requires the UK to recall a further 27 officials.30 Mar
 United States4826 MarRussian consulate in Seattle closed60 US diplomats expelled by Russia.

US consulate in St Petersburg closed

30 Mar
 UN ( Russia) Russian mission to the UN1226 MarU.S. initiative

See also

Notes

  1. ^ According to chief executive UK government defence laboratories[1]
  2. ^ The Russian ambassador to the UK suggested British authorities told him it was the A-234 variant[2]
  3. ^ The Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey of Wiltshire Police.
  4. ^ Stephen Davies of Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust wrote an open letter to The Times, published on 16 March 2018, clarifying that contrary to reports, no members of the public were affected: "Sir, Further to your report ("Poison exposure leaves almost 40 needing treatment", Mar 14), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning. Several people have attended the emergency department concerned that they may have been exposed. None has had symptoms of poisoning and none has needed treatment. Any blood tests performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved."[10]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Kelso, Paul (4 April 2018). "Porton Down experts unable to identify 'precise source' of novichok that poisoned spy". Sky News. Retrieved 4 April 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c Russian spy: What are Novichok agents and what do they do?, BBC, 17 March 2018.
  3. ^ a b Asthana, Anushka; Roth, Andrew; Harding, Luke; MacAskill, Ewen (12 March 2018). "May issues ultimatum to Moscow over Salisbury poisoning". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 March 2018. 
  4. ^ Dodd, Vikram; Harding, Luke; MacAskill, Ewen (8 March 2018). "Sergei Skripal: former Russian spy poisoned with nerve agent, say police". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2018. 
  5. ^ "Russian spy: Yulia Skripal 'conscious and talking'". BBC News. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 29 March 2018 ; "Russian spy poisoning: Yulia Skripal 'getting stronger daily'". BBC News. 5 April 2018. Retrieved 6 April 2018 
  6. ^ Smout, Alistair. "Poisoned Russian agent Sergei Skripal recovering rapidly, hospital..." 
  7. ^ a b "Ex-spy 'improving rapidly' after poisoning". 6 April 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  8. ^ a b "Policeman discharged after ex-spy attack". BBC News. Retrieved 23 March 2018. 
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External links