RUSSIA SENDS U.K. CHILLING MESSAGE
‘One should not threaten a nuclear power’
LONDON • Russia told Britain not to “threaten a nuclear power” in an extraordinary provocative statement Tuesday as the two countries battled over the attempted assassination of a former spy.
Meanwhile, the death of another enemy in London of Russian President Vladimir Putin was the focus of a new investigation by special counterterrorism detectives.
Nikolai Glushkov, 68, the right-hand man of the deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky — once Putin’s fiercest rival — was found dead Monday in “unexplained” circumstances, said police. A Russian media source said Glushkov, the former boss of the state airline Aeroflot who said he believed he was on a Kremlin hit-list, was found with “strangulation marks” on his neck.
The new investigation comes a day after Britain ordered a review of up to 14 deaths in the country that may have connections to Russia.
Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, said, “I will want to satisfy myself that the allegations are nothing more than that.”
Britain gave Russia until midnight Tuesday to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent came to be used in an English city, or face retaliatory measures. British Prime Minister Theresa May has said Russia’s involvement in the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a Russian who spied for Britain, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, was “highly likely.”
But Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, gave a combative television interview saying, “No one can come to parliament and say, ‘I give Russia 24 hours’.”
Zakharova said Britain should not try to scare Russia and pointed to Putin’s recent speech in which he presented a range of new nuclear weapons.
“One should not threaten a nuclear power,” she said, according to some British press reports.
The New Scotsman reported her as saying, “Who does Britain think it is, issuing ultimatums to a nuclear power?”
Russia also threatened to retaliate against sanctions, which May is expected to announce Wednesday.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that his country’s requests to see samples of the nerve agent have been turned down.
He insisted that Russia is “not to blame” for the poisoning.
“We have already made a statement to say this is nonsense,” he said. “We have nothing to do with this.”
But May has gained the support of Western leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for reprisals against the Putin regime that will include sanctions and the expulsion of spies based in the Russian embassy in London.
The White House issued a statement saying the U.S. “stands in solidarity with its closest ally.”
The Salisbury inquiry into the attempted murder of the Skripals widened Tuesday as police said 38 people had been treated, prompting fears the Novichok nerve agent could have spread across the city.
Meanwhile, two forensic tents stood outside the house where Glushkov lived alone with his dog for the past three years.
An anonymous acquaintance of Glushkov told Russia’s Kommersant newspaper that signs of strangulation had been found on the body, which was found by his daughter. It was unclear whether the death was a result of suicide or murder, the paper’s source said.
Alex Goldfarb, a Russian dissident and friend of Glushkov, said: “It looks suspicious in the wake of the poisoning of Mr. Skripal. He (Glushkov) was a public figure in Russia and he was one of the closest partners of Mr. Berezovsky.”
Glushkov had said Berezovsky, who was found hanged, had been murdered on Putin’s orders. Glushkov had claimed to have seen a scarf close to Berezovsky’s body, and said in one interview: “There were traces of him being strangled around the neck.”
Suspicions also surround the death of another of Glushkov and Berezovsky’s friends, Badri Patarkatsishvili, 52, a Georgian who died at his home in Surrey of an apparent heart attack in 2008. Andrey Lugovoi, who is blamed for the murder of Litvinenko, was at one time Patarkatsishvili’s chauffeur and security adviser to Glushkov.
He is now an MP and supporter of Putin.