Speaking to Parliament on Monday afternoon, British Prime Minister Theresa May blamed Moscow for the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia.
The pair, who were found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury last Sunday, remain in a critical but stable condition after being exposed to a military grade nerve agent in a local restaurant.
Speaking on Monday, Mrs. May said that the nerve agent responsible for the attack is of a type manufactured by Russia, and that it’s ‘highly likely’ Moscow is behind the attack. Either the Russian state were directly responsible, Mrs. May said, or Moscow had ‘lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent’.
Moscow has denied any involvement in the incident, and Mrs May said that the UK must stand ready to take more extensive measures, should Moscow fail to provide a ‘credible response’.
The British prime minister reported that the Russian ambassador had been summoned, and that Moscow had until midnight Tuesday to respond. She also said that Moscow must provide “full and complete disclosure” about the relevant nerve agent programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
After attending to Mr Skripal and his daughter on Sunday, Det Sgt Nick Bailey also remains seriously ill, although so far, no other people are being treated for exposure to the nerve agent. Mrs May reiterated statements by health officials that the risk to the public remains ‘low’.
Mr Skripal was formerly convicted by Moscow of passing secrets to MI6, but in 2010 he took part in a “spy swap” that gave him refuge in the UK.
The last former Russian spy to be killed on British soil was Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Mrs May, who was home secretary at the time, has drawn criticism for her lack of response to the Litvinenko poisoning. However, her recent Monday statement is being described as « strongly worded » by most commentators.