The Russian foreign ministry last night warned the UK that it “should not threaten a nuclear power” as the diplomatic row over the Salisbury nerve agent attack intensifies.
Russian officials in London also warned that “any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response”.
Theresa May will today outline a range of measures targeting the Russian state in response to what she called an “unlawful use of force”.
The Prime Minister said on Monday that the incident was “either a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others”.
Russia had been given a deadline of midnight last night to respond to the charges, but the Russian embassy in London said: “Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring,” adding that accusations of Kremlin involvement in the attack were “yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia”.
US President Donald Trump told the PM that the US is “with the UK all the way” and that the Russian government “must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used.”
The chair of parliament’s powerful foreign affairs select committee, Tom Tugendhat, last night told City A.M. that the Prime Minister had “a range of options available” including “targeted sanctions against Kremlin-linked individuals and tough action against Kremlin-linked companies listed in London”. He also said the UK “should call Nato together under Article 4 [under which members can bring any issue of concern, especially related to the security of a member country, to the table for discussion] and we should call for an emergency EU summit, as well as considering action at the UN”.
Tugendhat added: “This is a country that has invaded two of its neighbours, launched a cyber attack against a third, attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister of Montenegro and has now launched a chemical weapon attack on the UK.”
Last night a Foreign Office spokesperson said the foreign secretary Boris Johnson had “been calling his counterparts and leaders of international organisations to set out what we know and our concerns that, if as we suspect, it is highly likely the Russian state was responsible, this would be further reckless behaviour which threatens the international community and requires an international response.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone to May yesterday, and the two “discussed the pattern of aggressive Russian behaviour and agreed it would be important to act in unison with allies to counter it,” according to a Downing Street spokesperson.
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the UK was a “highly valued ally” and the incident was “of great concern”, adding “both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it must face appropriately serious consequences”.