Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for a chemical attack on a former Russian double agent
A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement on Britain’s response to a March 4 nerve attack on a former Russian double agent, following a meeting of Britain’s National Security Council, in the House of Commons in central London on March 14, 2018.
LONDON: Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for a chemical attack on a former Russian double agent, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the genteel southern English city of Salisbury on March 4. They have been in a critical condition ever since.
- Below is a list of the actions set out by May in parliament on Wednesday: – Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats who it says have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers.
- “They have just one week to leave,” May said. “This will be the single biggest expulsion for over thirty years and it reflects the fact that this is not the first time that the Russian State has acted against our country.” – Britain “will freeze Russian state assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents”.
- Britain will develop new laws to harden its defences against all forms of “hostile state activity” including being able to detain those suspected of hostile state activity at Britain’s borders. Currently this power is only used in relation to those suspected of terrorism.
- No British ministers or members of the Royal Family will attend this year’s soccer World Cup. Britain will suspend all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the UK and the Russian Federation.
- All capabilities of UK law enforcement will be brought to bear against “serious criminals and corrupt elites”, May says, adding that there is there is “no place” for them or their money in Britain.
- Britain will “fundamentally degrade” Russian intelligence capability in the UK for years to come and prevent them from rebuilding it.
- Britain will start to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activity that threatens Britain and its allies. “We will increase checks on private flights, customs and freight,” she said.
- Britain’s interior minister will consider whether new counter-espionage powers are needed to clamp down on hostile activities of foreign agents in Britain.
- Britain will seek to strengthen its power to impose sanctions in response to the violations of human rights. “In doing so, we will play our part in an international effort to punish those responsible for the sorts of abuses suffered by Sergei Magnitsky,” May said.
- May said “it is tragic that President Putin has chosen to act in this way”, adding that she has no disagreement with Russian people or Russian citizens living in Britain in a law-abiding away.
British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2018.
Moscow says Britain shouldn’t pass judgement on Russian foreign minister
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday it was not up to British Prime Minister Theresa May to pass judgement on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“Theresa, Lavrov is a Russian minister, not a British one.
And it’s the Russian President who evaluates him. I understand, that you would like to think otherwise, but your minister is Boris Johnson,” Zakharova wrote on her official Facebook page.
Her comment was the first official response to a speech in parliament in which May outlined measures Britain intends to take in response to the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal. It was unclear to which comments by May Zakharova was referring.
Britain is wary of acting alone and May has spoken to US President Donald Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in recent days.
In a phone call late Tuesday, Trump and May “agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms”, the White House said.
In a joint statement by its 29 member states, the US-led NATO alliance said the attack was a “clear breach of international norms and agreements” and called on Russia to fully disclose details of the Novichok programme.
British experts say Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, who was visiting from Russia, were poisoned with a nerve agent from a broad category known as Novichok, which developed by the Soviet Union during the late stages of the Cold War.
The Russian chemist who first revealed the existence of Novichok, Vil Mirzayanov, said “only the Russians” developed the Novichok agents.
“They kept it and are still keeping it in secrecy,” he said from his home in the US, where he moved in 1995 after 30 years of working for the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology.
The Salisbury case has drawn parallels with the 2006 death by radiation poisoning of former Russian agent and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, which Britain blamed on Moscow.
In a further twist, former senior Russian executive Nikolai Glushkov, linked to late Kremlin opponent Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in London on Tuesday in unexplained circumstances, British and Russian media reported.