British PM: Highly likely Moscow behind Russian spy Skripal poisoning
About a week has passed since double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were mysteriously found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, poisoned with a nerve agent known as "Novichok." This incident has snowballed into a serious confrontation between Britain and Russia. British PM Theresa May has now almost blamed Russia in the Parliament and asked for the urgent response of Russian Ambassador.
What did PM May say in the Parliament?
PM May told MPs that if Russia doesn't give a credible response soon, UK will conclude that this has been an "unlawful use of force by Moscow." The chemical used has apparently been identified as the one manufactured in Russia. She claimed that Moscow should provide "full and complete disclosure" of the Novichok programme to Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
What are Novichok nerve agents?
Novichok means "newcomer" in Russian, pertaining to advanced nerve agents developed in secret by the Soviet Union in 1970s and 1980s. One Novichok chemical, A-230, is 5-8 times more toxic than VX nerve agent, killing a person in 30secs to 2mins. These agents reduce heart-rate and restrict airways, leading to death by asphyxiation. One variant was approved by Russian military as a chemical weapon.
How has Russia's response been?
Russia, meanwhile, denied any involvement, saying "It happened on British territory and in no way is a question for the Russian federation or its leadership." Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called PM May's statement "a circus show." She said, "It's another information and political campaign based on provocation." President Vladimir Putin urged, "Get to the bottom of things there, then we'll discuss this."
How will UK react now?
PM May now faces pressure to follow up on the incident with a tough stance. This includes expelling Russian diplomats, stringent sanctions and freezing assets of rich Russians connected to Putin. Presently, she has taken a standard step asking Kremlin to explain. But, if they fail to do so, how will PM May respond? This depends on the international co-operation that she can muster.
Russia: This is a western plot to boycott World Cup
The FIFA World Cup will be held in Russia's 11 cities in just three months. Moscow is thus accusing Britain of "undermining trust" ahead of the World Cup. Russian media has speculated that the poisoning could be a Western plot to justify a "coordinated" boycott. UK has already threatened to pull out and asked Australia, Japan and Poland to do the same.