Rus­sia vows to re­tal­i­ate if Bri­tain im­poses sanc­tions

Rus­sian of­fi­cial says Bri­tish should of­fer nerve agent sam­ples.

The Palm Beach Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Matthew Bod­ner

MOSCOW — Rus­sia vowed Tues­day to re­tal­i­ate if Bri­tain im­poses sanc­tions in re­sponse to a sus­pected chem­i­cal at­tack on Bri­tish soil and de­manded ac­cess to sam­ples of a nerve agent that Bri­tish in­ves­ti­ga­tors say they have iden­ti­fied as Rus­sian.

For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov also said Rus­sia does not in­tend to com­ply with Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s de­mand Mon­day for an of­fi­cial ex­pla­na­tion of how a nerve agent iden­ti­fied as Novi­chok, which was de­vel­oped by the for­mer Soviet Union, al­legedly came to be used in the poi­son­ing at­tack in south­ern Eng­land that tar­geted a for­mer Rus­sian spy and his daugh­ter.

Lavrov in­sisted that Rus­sian ex­perts should be able to ex­am­ine the Bri­tish ev­i­dence but again de­nied Rus­sian in­volve­ment in last week’s at­tack.

May spoke with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump about the in­ci­dent Tues­day af­ter­noon. She told him it was “highly likely that Rus­sia was re­spon­si­ble for the at­tack,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment re­leased by the Bri­tish em­bassy.

“Pres­i­dent Trump stated the United States stands in sol­i­dar­ity with its clos­est ally and is ready to pro­vide any as­sis­tance the United King­dom re­quests for its in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” the White House stated. “Pres­i­dent Trump agreed with Prime Min­is­ter May that the govern­ment of the Rus­sian Fed­er­a­tion must pro­vide un­am­bigu­ous answers re­gard­ing how this chem­i­cal weapon, de­vel­oped in Rus­sia, came to be used in the United King­dom.”

Ear­lier, though, the pres­i­dent had hedged on the is­sue of ac­tual blame.

“We’re speak­ing with Theresa May to­day and, as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will con­demn Rus­sia or who­ever it may be,” he said when asked about it by reporters out­side the White House. “It sounds to me like it would be Rus­sia based on all of the ev­i­dence they have.”

Then-Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son, speak­ing to reporters en route to Wash­ing­ton from Africa, said the nerve agent “clearly came from Rus­sia,” and he warned of con­se­quences. Hours af­ter Tiller­son backed the Bri­tish ac­cu­sa­tion, the White House an­nounced Tues­day that he would be re­placed as sec­re­tary of state by CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo.

In Moscow, the for­eign min­istry said it pre­sented the Bri­tish am­bas­sador with “a strong protest over the un­founded ac­cu­sa­tions lev­eled at Rus­sia by Bri­tish au­thor­i­ties” and stressed that “Moscow would not re­spond to Lon­don’s ul­ti­ma­tum un­til the Rus­sian side is pro­vided with sam­ples of the chem­i­cal sub­stance.”

And it promised that Rus­sia would re­tal­i­ate if sanc­tions are im­posed. “Any threats will not re­main unan­swered,” the min­istry said in a state­ment. “The Bri­tish side should be aware of that.”

May said the use of Novi­chok, which is be­lieved to be unique to Rus­sia, made Moscow’s com­plic­ity in the poi­son­ing of for­mer Rus­sian dou­ble agent Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter, in the city of Sal­is­bury, about 88 miles south­west of Lon­don, “highly likely.” Both re­main co­matose.

In a case they be­lieve to be un­re­lated, Bri­tish counter-ter­rosim po­lice said Tues­day they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the un­ex­plained death of an­other Rus­sian emi­gre, Niko­lai Glushkov, 68, in Lon­don, whose body was found Mon­day. Glushkov had been an as­so­ci­ate of the oli­garch Boris Bere­zovsky, who had fallen afoul of Rus­sia Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin and lived in ex­ile in Eng­land un­til his death by stran­gu­la­tion in 2013.

In Moscow, Lavrov de­nied that Rus­sia had any­thing to do with Skri­pal’s poi­son­ing and re­it­er­ated Moscow’s will­ing­ness to co­op­er­ate if in­for­ma­tion re­lated to the na­ture of the chem­i­cal agent was shared with Rus­sia.

Lavrov said Bri­tain has an obli­ga­tion to share foren­sic data un­der the Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion. Rus­sia also sum­moned the Bri­tish am­bas­sador, Lau­rie Bris­tow, af­ter the al­le­ga­tions, In­ter­fax re­ported.

“Be­fore de­liv­er­ing ul­ti­ma­tums to re­port to the Bri­tish govern­ment within 24 hours,” Lavrov said at a news con­fer­ence in Moscow, “it is bet­ter to com­ply with your own obli­ga­tions un­der in­ter­na­tional law — in this case, the Con­ven­tion on the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons.”


Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin (left) talks with For­eign Min­is­ter Sergei Lavrov.

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