Published: Sat, March 17, 2018

'Highly likely' Putin ordered nerve-agent attack on Russian spy

'Highly likely' Putin ordered nerve-agent attack on Russian spy

As relations between the two nations sank to a new post-Cold War low, almost two dozen Russian diplomats in London were packing their bags to leave Tuesday after an expulsion order from Britain.

Russian Federation has demanded that Britain give Moscow access to samples of the nerve agent used on Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

He also stated that while Russian Federation had nothing to gain from such an attack, "I can think of a great number of countries that would benefit from such accusations".

"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 United Kingdom, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War, " said the Foreign Secretary.

Russia's ambassador to Britain said Friday the 23 expulsions will reduce staff at the embassy by about 40 percent.

Interfax quoted the foreign minister as saying a motive behind the UK's actions might be to complicate Russia's hosting of Fifa's World Cup this summer.

Russian Federation said Friday that it will expel British diplomats and halt high-level meetings with the an increasingly global standoff over the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy - but still isn't saying who will be kicked out or when.

She said diplomatic notes sent to the Foreign Office had received replies that "made no sense".

Lavrov on Wednesday criticised May, who had said Russian Federation was "highly likely" to be behind the attack.

The suggestion of Mr Putin's involvement was branded "unpardonable" by Moscow.

He told the BBC a sample of the nerve agent would be sent to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons - the independent worldwide body set up to stop chemical warfare - for analysis.

Wiltshire Police said 131 people had been identified as potentially being exposed to the nerve agent - but none has shown any symptoms.

Russian Federation also gave a dismissive response to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson's call for it to "go away and shut up".

How did we get here?

Britain's foreign secretary accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, describing it as the most brazen such move since World War II.

Russia's envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told The AP that his country has no stocks of the Novichok group of nerve agents, insisting that Soviet-era research into the agents was totally dismantled before Russian Federation joined the organization.

The prime minister, who visited Salisbury on Thursday, said there was "no alternative conclusion" than to believe Russian Federation was "culpable" for the poisonings.

Russian Federation has demanded that Britain share samples collected by investigators.

She added that any boycott of the soccer World Cup, which Russian Federation would host in June and July, was not an immediate priority.

How have other nations reacted?

"All responsible nations share an obligation to take a principled stance against this behaviour", he said.

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) escorts Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May after they spoke to the press at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 13, 2017.

He said: "I condemn in the strongest possible terms this unacceptable attack. I hope and believe that our friends will stand alongside us".

He said Russians should be guided in their decision by their "conscience, understanding of truth and fairness, and love of the fatherland". German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump were quick to assure May they took her views seriously.

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