UK minister directly blames Putin for poisoning

 LONDON and MOSCOW (AP) — British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says it’s “overwhelmingly likely” Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the use of a nerve agent against a former spy in the English city of Salisbury.
Prime Minister Theresa May has said it’s “highly likely” the Kremlin is responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

But Johnson went a step further and blamed Putin directly on Friday. He said “our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision, and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K., on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War.”

The Russian ambassador in London says Britain has behaved “in colonial style” in the showdown over the poisoning of an ex-spy.

Alexander Yakovenko has said in televised remarks that Britain has ignored Russian requests to share the sample of the nerve agent that poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, and refused to share any information about the investigation.

Britain has blamed Russia for the poisoning and announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats. Moscow has fiercely denied its involvement and warned it would respond.

Yakovenko said that Britain has violated international law and diplomatic rules by failing to share the information about the probe, adding “it hasn’t provided a single fact” to back the accusations.

Russia’s envoy at the international chemical weapons watchdog says Britain and the U.S. both have access to the nerve agent used in the poisoning of the ex-spy in Britain.

Alexander Shulgin, Russia’s envoy at the Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has said in televised remarks that the nerve agent used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 may have come from British or U.S. stockpiles.

Britain has accused Russia of staging the attack with the Soviet-designed Novichok nerve agent, accusations Moscow has denied. The British government has announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, and Russia has warned it will respond in kind.

Shulgin said that Russia expects Britain to provide samples of the nerve agent in line with OPCW rules.

The Kremlin says it is preparing steps to retaliate against Britain’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats and halt high-level meetings between British and Russian officials.

After the Russian foreign minister announced on Friday that it would expel British diplomats, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters Moscow’s response “will be coming shortly.”

Tensions between Britain and Russia mounted after ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month. Britain blamed Russia for the attack.

Peskov says that the Kremlin is surprised by the British prime minister’s accusations, saying that they “not only violate international law but also run against common sense.”

The leader of Britain’s main opposition party says the government shouldn’t rush to blame Moscow for the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn says in a newspaper column that politicians must not “rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police.”

Corbyn, a veteran socialist, has angered some Labour lawmakers by failing to declare that Russia was behind the attack that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in critical condition.

In Friday’s Guardian newspaper, Corbyn says it’s possible that “Russian mafia-like groups,” rather than the Russian state, were responsible.

Several Labour legislators have signed a motion declaring support for the Conservative government’s view that there is no plausible alternative explanation, other than Russian responsibility, for the attack in the English city of Salisbury.

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office says Australian leader Malcolm Turnbull has joined her in condemnation of the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in southwestern England.

May’s office said in a statement that the two leaders spoke about the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia. The pair are hospitalized in critical condition in Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London.

May told Turnbull that she visited Salisbury on Thursday and that the act “represented an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the U.K.”

Downing Street says Turnbull “expressed his complete solidarity with the U.K. and its response to the attack.”

Russia’s government will add more Americans to its “black list” in response to new sanctions against Russians accused of election meddling.

Tensions with Moscow are growing before Russia’s presidential election Sunday, after a nerve agent attack in Britain on a Russian ex-spy.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was quoted Friday by news agency RIA Novosti as saying that Russia is preparing sanctions against “a new group of American actors” and possible “additional steps.”

He said Russia would target the same number of people as the U.S. but didn’t say what the sanctions would involve.

Ryabkov said he doesn’t want to definitively close the door to dialogue and accused the U.S. of threatening global stability.

The Trump administration announced sanctions Thursday on 19 Russians and five companies accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Russia will kick out British diplomats in a worsening standoff over a nerve agent attack, but still isn’t saying when or how many.

Lavrov on Friday accused Britain of violating international law and criticized Britain’s defense minister for what he called “uneducated” comments about Russia.

Britain says the Russian state is behind the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. The United States, France and Germany also condemned Russia over the attack.

Russia denies being the source of the nerve agent used and has demanded Britain share samples collected by investigators.

Lavrov said Russia will “of course” expel British diplomats and that he hopes the Skripals recover soon so light can be shed on what happened.



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