The Latest: German minister backs UK over Russia response
LONDON – The Latest on the poisoning of a former Russian spy in England (all times local):
Germany’s new foreign minister says Berlin “can fully and completely understand” why Britain took action over the poisoning of a former Russian spy.
Britain said Wednesday it would expel 23 Russian diplomats and sever high-level bilateral contacts after Russia ignored a deadline to explain how a Soviet-developed nerve agent was used against the ex-spy and his daughter.
New German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said at a handover ceremony Wednesday it is “disappointing that Russia so far doesn’t appear to be prepared” to help clear up the case. He said it should “create transparency,” either bilaterally to Britain or at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Maas said Germany will consult closely with London “and we can fully and completely understand that Britain had to react to this.”
British soldiers in protective clothing loaded a tow truck onto an army vehicle in southwestern England as they traced the movements of a former Russian spy who was attacked with a nerve agent.
The army cordoned off a road in Dorset on Wednesday as authorities investigated the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Authorities have also blocked off several sites in and near Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London as part of their probe.
The military often assists police in cases where the armed forces have some expertise.
British police and intelligence reports say the Skripals were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent developed in the Soviet era. Though the material is believed to degrade quickly, authorities have sought to cordon off areas under investigation.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry says Britain’s decision to expel Russian diplomats is crude and hostile.
In a Wednesday statement, the ministry did not announce retaliatory measures, but said “our response will not be long in coming.”
Hours earlier, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsions in response to the poisoning in Britain of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter.
The ministry says that May’s statement is “an unprecedentedly crude provocation that undermines the foundations of a normal interstate dialogue between our countries.”
The statement added: “We consider it categorically unacceptable and unworthy that the British government, in its unseemly political aims, further seriously aggravated relations, announcing a whole set of hostile measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the country,” the statement said.
A senior Russian lawmaker says that British accusations against Russia over the poisoning of a former spy could mark an attempt by London to improve its global standing.
Britain has announced that it will expel 23 Russian diplomats, sever high-level contacts with Moscow and take other measures in response to the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
Konstantin Kosachev, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, denounced the British action as “mean and cynical.” He added that the accusations against Russia represent a “dirty game” aimed to “restore London’s position as a key global player.”
Kosachev said that Russia lacked any motive for the poisoning and argued that Britain has failed to provide any proof of Russia’s involvement, adding that “Sherlock Holmes is turning in his grave.”
Britain is warning travelers to Russia that they could face anti-British sentiment amid political tension between London and Moscow over the nerve-agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal.
The Foreign Office updated its travel advice Wednesday, as Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and other measures against Moscow.
It says Britons visiting Russia should “remain vigilant” and avoid commenting publicly on political developments.
The Foreign Office says that “due to heightened political tensions between the U.K. and Russia, you should be aware of the possibility of anti-British sentiment or harassment at this time.”
Thousands of England fans are expected to travel to Russia for the soccer World Cup in June.
The speaker of the upper chamber of the Russian parliament is calling for Russia to take firm and retaliatory actions against Britain in response to London’s decision to expel Russian diplomats.
Valentina Matvienko made the comments several hours after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsions in the escalating dispute with Russia over the poisoning in Britain of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter.
Matvienko was quoted as saying by state news agency Tass that “the British, without presenting any evidence to Russia, have identified Russia as guilty. This is unprecedented, I think diplomatic practice does not know such examples. Therefore, Russia must react very quickly, very rigidly and in a symmetrical manner,” she said, according to state news agency Tass.
The head of a Russian government agency says Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok, which Britain said was used to poison an ex-spy, isn’t part of an international ban on chemical weapons.
Vladimir Uiba, the head of the Federal Medical and Biological agency, said according to the Interfax news agency that Novichok didn’t fall under the Chemical Weapons Convention that entered force in 1997. He wouldn’t say if Russia inherited any amounts of Novichok from the Soviet Union and whether they were destroyed.
Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said earlier Wednesday that Russia completed the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles last year under the convention.
Britain said it will expel 23 Russian diplomats, sever high-level contacts with Moscow and take other measures in response to Sergei Skripal’s poisoning.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is promising that the European Union will be united in responding to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. But she’s dismissing the idea of acting as an intermediary in the escalating spat between London and Moscow.
Merkel told ARD television Wednesday that there will be a “united European opinion” on the matter, and reiterated that Germany takes Britain’s evaluation of the case “very seriously.”
She said that “transparency on Russia’s part is very important — the findings must be taken seriously.”
Merkel noted that, while there are differences with Russia on many issues, “we cannot break off all contacts now — we must keep speaking with Russian officials despite all differences of opinion.”
Russia’s UK ambassador says Britain’s decision to expel some 23 Russian diplomats is hostile and unacceptable.
The embassy says in a statement Wednesday that U.K. Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko was summoned to the Foreign Office and told of the expulsions. Prime Minister Theresa May announced the measure in response to the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
May gave the Russians an ultimatum until midnight Tuesday to explain how a nerve agent developed in the Soviet era came to be used in the March 4 attack. May responded with a package of diplomatic and economic sanctions after she said her request was met with disdain.
Yakovenko says “we consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted.”
A top Russian soccer figure is brushing off Britain’s threat to ask its royal family to stay away from this summer’s soccer World Cup in Russia.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday said Britain’s royal family would be asked not to attend the tournament, as part of sweeping measures against Russia over the nerve agent attack on former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
Nikolai Simonyan, vice president of the Russian Football Union, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying “It’s not so important that officials wouldn’t come, that’s their problem. It’s important if the team comes, and it wants to come.”
Britain is expelling 23 Russian diplomats after the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy — the single biggest such expulsion since the Cold War.
Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons on Wednesday that Russia has expressed “disdain” for Britain’s wish for an explanation into the attempted murder of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. She says that Russia’s actions “represent an unlawful use of force.”
May said the Russian diplomats have a week to leave Britain.
She also announced a range of economic and diplomatic measures, including a decision to cancel all high-level bilateral contacts with Russia and to ask the royal family not attend the soccer World Cup in Russia.
Russia has denied responsibility in the March 4 attack on the Skripals.
Russia’s UK ambassador says Britain’s behavior in connection with the investigation into the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy is a “provocation.”
Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko told Sky News after leaving London’s Foreign Office Wednesday that Britain’s actions are ” absolutely unacceptable and we consider this a provocation.” He did not elaborate.
Prime Minister Theresa May is about to announce economic and diplomatic measures against Russia in response to the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The father and daughter remain in critical condition in Salisbury, southwestern England.
Yakovenko says “We believe that the measures which are taken by the British government is nothing to do with the situation which we have in Salisbury.”
Russia’s cabinet minister says that Moscow has fully destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles.
In remarks carried by Russian news agencies Wednesday, Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov said Russia completed its chemical weapons dismantling efforts in November and doesn’t have any such weapons.
Manturov was responding to a question about Britain’s claim that the Novichok military-grade nerve agent designed in the Soviet Union was used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England.
Prime Minister Theresa May is planning to announce a range of economic and diplomatic measures against Russia in response to the attack on the pair, who remain in critical condition.
NATO is backing its ally Britain over the poisoning of a former spy, blamed on Russia, and has promised to help investigate the attack.
The alliance expressed “deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent” on alliance territory since NATO was founded in 1949.
NATO also called on Russia to answer Britain’s questions in full about the Novichok military-grade nerve agent used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the March 4 attack in southern England.
In a statement after talks between NATO ambassadors Wednesday, the alliance “agreed that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements.”
Britain has called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the investigation into the chemical agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter.
The U.K. Foreign Office said in a tweet Wednesday that it called for an “urgent” meeting to update council members on the investigation into the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Prime Minister Theresa May is planning to announce a range of economic and diplomatic measures against Russia in response to the assault on the pair. The father and daughter remain in critical condition in a hospital in Salisbury, southwestern England.
May is set to update the House of Commons on the matter later Wednesday.
EU Council President Donald Tusk has said the nerve agent attack on a former spy in England was most likely “inspired” by Moscow and said he would put the issue to European Union leaders at a summit next week.
Tusk said on Twitter Wednesday that he showed full solidarity with British Prime Minister Theresa May “in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow.”
EU leaders will gather for a two day spring summit on March 22-23 in Brussels.
Russia has denied responsibility in the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England on March 4.
Britain’s ambassador in Geneva has lashed out at Russia, denouncing its alleged violations of international law, its actions in war-torn Syria, its “deeply alarming” domestic human rights situation and its “highly likely” role in the poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer in Britain.
Speaking at the U.N.’s top human rights body, Ambassador Julian Braithwaite said Russia’s “reckless behavior is an affront to all that this body stands for.”
Referring to the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England on March 4, Braithwaite told the Human Rights Council on Wednesday that “Either Russia has deliberately flouted the rules-based international order, or it has lost control of its own chemical weapons.”
Russia has denied it is responsible for the poisoning.
Braithwaite also criticized Russia’s “illegal annexation” of Crimea, its “continued undermining of Georgia’s territorial integrity” and its role in Syria’s conflict.
Russia’s foreign minister has dismissed British accusations of Moscow’s involvement in the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England. He added that Russia has no motive to poison Sergei Skripal — but “those who want to press their Russophobic campaign in all spheres of life could have it.”
Sergey Lavrov dismissed the British accusations as unfounded and compared London to a prosecutor who oversaw Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s purges and who said confession is enough for conviction.
Lavrov said London went a step further, expecting the world to rely on its suspicions to blame Russia.
He denounced what he described as “huge aplomb” of British officials who neglect the international chemical watchdog’s procedure for investigating a suspected chemical attack.
The Kremlin says Russia rejects the deadline that Britain gave it to explain any involvement in the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition in hospital after being exposed to a military-grade nerve agent in the city of Salisbury last week.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Wednesday that Russia “rejects the language of ultimatums” after British Prime Minister Theresa May gave Russia until the end of Tuesday to explain how the Soviet-made nerve agent came to be used to target the ex-spy.
Peskov said Britain has so far only offered “baseless accusations which are not backed up by any evidence” and said Russia would cooperate with the investigation but does not see Britain’s willingness to reciprocate.
Britain’s prime minister is set to chair a meeting of the national security council Wednesday to consider sanctions against Russia after Moscow ignored a deadline to explain how a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union was used to target a former spy in England.
Theresa May is weighing a range of economic and diplomatic measures against Russia Wednesday in response to the assault on Sergei and Yulia Skripal. The father and daughter remain in critical condition in a Salisbury hospital
Moscow says it won’t comply with Britain’s demands unless the government provides samples of the poison collected by investigators. Russia’s embassy in the U.K. warned Tuesday that any sanctions would “meet with a response.”