Sunday, 22 April, 2018

United Kingdom to give 'robust' response to ex-Russian spy incident

The spy was granted refuge in Britain after a spy swap in 2010 The spy was granted refuge in Britain after a spy swap in 2010
Melinda Barton | 07 March, 2018, 16:00

British counter-terrorism police have taken over the investigation into the suspected poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter, as Boris Johnson promised a "robust" response if the Russian state was responsible.

Sergei Skripal, 66, an ex-Russian military intelligence colonel, and his 33-year-old daughter who was with him, were found unconscious Sunday on a bench in Salisbury, a city about 145 kilometres west of London, close to the prehistoric stone circle Stonehenge.

'While it would be wrong to pre-judge the investigation, I can reassure the House that should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility, then her majesty's government will respond appropriately and robustly'.

Johnson warned that the England team, who are meant to play in Russian Federation this summer, could be pulled if Moscow were shown to be behind the attack.

A spokesperson for Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin has denied any involvement but said the Kremlin is willing to cooperate. On Tuesday Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, called Russian Federation a "malign and disruptive force" and threatened that British officials would skip the World Cup in Russian Federation this summer if the Kremlin were linked to the Skripals' apparent poisoning.

Britain has cautioned Russian Federation that if the Kremlin was behind any poisoning then there will be grave consequences and British ministers have drawn parallels with the 2006 murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko who was killed with radioactive polonium-210 in London.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that his government had "no information" about Skripal's collapse, but that it was willing to cooperate if and when United Kingdom authorities asked for help. Police officers were seen speaking to staff inside Zizzi's after it was closed "as a precaution", according to police on the scene who spoke with local journalists. "They are now being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance", Wiltshire Police said in a statement.

"The first, of course, was Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned by polonium-210 in 2006", Foxall, director of the Russian Federation and Eurasia Studies Centre at the Henry Jackson Society, added, as quoted by The Telegraph.

On the other hand, Kremlin has denied any Russian involvement in the incident.

He was pardoned before being flown to Britain as part of a high-profile spy swap between Russian Federation and the United States in 2010. Authorities ruled out any threat to the public because of exposure to the unknown substance, but they sealed the area and cordoned off a pizzeria.

British media were quick to draw parallels with the death of Litvinenko, who died in November 2006, three weeks after falling ill from poisoning by radioactive Polonium 210 in London.

Alastair Hay, a professor emeritus of environmental toxicology at the University of Leeds, said testing of the suspected substance causing the mystery illness would take some time. Prior to that he was jailed in Moscow for spying for Britain, The Telegraph said.

Andrei Lugovoi, a suspect in Litvinenko's murder, told radio station Ekho Moskvy that Russian Federation hasn't hunted exiles since the 1940s, and that the Kremlin had nothing to do with the Skripal case.

"He confessed, was amnestied and had served part of his sentence", he told Radio Free Europe.