Death of second Russian exile triggers new probe
BRITAIN: British counterterrorism police have opened an investigation into the ‘‘unexplained’’ death on British soil of an arch enemy of Vladimir Putin, just eight days after the nerve gas assassination attempt on a Russian double agent.
Nikolai Glushkov, 68, the righthand man of the deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Putin’s one time fiercest rival, was found dead at his London home on Tuesday. A Russian media source said Glushkov, the former boss of the state airline Aeroflot who said he feared he was on a Kremlin hit-list, was found with ‘‘strangulation marks’’ on his neck.
The inquiry into Glushkov’s death was announced hours before a midnight deadline for the Kremlin to explain how Russianmade nerve agent came to be deployed in the assassination attempt on the double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.
Russia appeared to suggest it would be unwise for Britain to provoke a fellow nuclear power and threatened to retaliate against sanctions, which Prime Minister Theresa May was to announce yesterday. A foreign ministry spokesman said: ‘‘Any threats to take ‘sanctions’ against Russia will not be left without a response. The British side should understand that.’’
May has gained the support of Western leaders including US 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 US ‘‘stands in solidarity with its closest ally’’ and condemning the use of ‘‘heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms’’.
Trump’s unequivocal support will have been welcomed, the White House previously having refused to blame Russia.
Earlier in the day, Trump had sacked Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, a day after the US diplomat had said the Novichok nerve agent ‘‘clearly came from Russia’’.
The Salisbury inquiry has widened as police said 38 people had been treated, prompting fears the Novichok nerve agent could have spread across the city. Col Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia Skripal remain critical in intensive care while Nick Bailey, the Wiltshire police detective who went to the scene, is seriously ill but stable.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, warned Russia not to underestimate British outrage at the attack and refused to rule out a retaliatory cyber strike.
The death of Glushkov came as Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, announced a joint MI5 and police inquiry into the deaths in the UK of at least 14 people, including Berezovsky, said to have fallen foul of Putin and Russian crime gangs linked to the Kremlin.
British police have sealed off the house of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov, inset, after he was found dead on Tuesday.