Published: Mon, March 19, 2018

Britain accuses Russian Federation of secretly stockpiling deadly nerve agent used in attack

Britain accuses Russian Federation of secretly stockpiling deadly nerve agent used in attack

Russian Federation on Saturday announced it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further measures in retaliation in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it is also ordering the closure of the British Council in Russia and ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St Petersburg.

"Twenty-three diplomatic staff at the British embassy in Moscow are declared persona non grata and to be expelled within a week", the ministry said.

Johnson stated that Britain's National Security Council will meet this week to decide "what further measures, if any" the country will take.

"Independent investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will arrive in the UK tomorrow to kick off their investigation into the nerve agent used in the attempted asassinations of Mr Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury on 4 March", the UK Foreign Office statement said.

Shulgin says there are "lots of legal options and all in line with the provisions of the chemical (weapons) convention, so our hope is to sort it out while acting within the framework of the convention".

Shulgin says: "We warned out British colleagues, should the British side fail to produce any evidence we will draw the conclusion that London has nothing serious against us and at this point there will be a question of defamation". But the Investigative Committee said it would probe the case as a murder.

Vladimir Chizhov, Moscow's European Union ambassador, said Russian Federation has no chemical weapons stockpiles and was not behind the poisoning.

While Russia has vigorously denied involvement in the attack, Western powers see it as the latest sign of alleged Russian meddling overseas.

He told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show that Russian Federation had "nothing to do" with the incident, however his comments were rejected as "nonsense" by United Kingdom officials.

Peskov emphasized that "we have repeatedly said that Russian Federation has no relation to that".

Britain and Russian Federation have each expelled 23 diplomats over the attack as relations between the two countries crash to a post-Cold War low.

Merkel says the European Union's response to the attack, which London blames on Russian Federation, will likely be discussed at next week's meeting of the bloc's leaders in Brussels.

A former double agent, Skripal betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence before his arrest in Moscow in 2004.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said it's "highly likely" the Kremlin is responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. He was later sent to the United Kingdom in exchange for captured Russian spies.

He added: 'I exclude the possibility of any stockpiles of any chemical weapons fleeing Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there were certain specialists, including some scientists who today claim to be responsible for creating some nerve agents, that have been whisked out of Russian Federation and are now residing in the United Kingdom'. Russian Federation has demanded that Britain share samples collected by investigators.

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