The PM told MPs this afternoon that ministers are ready to take much more extensive measures against the country – and the Russians have 24 hours to let us know whether it was a state sponsored attack, or they lost control of their chemicals.
THERESA May yesterday gave Russia’s Vladimir Putin 24 hours to explain the Salisbury spy poisoning — or face the wrath of Britain.
She told MPs it was “highly likely” ex-MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with a Russian-produced nerve agent called Novichok.
The PM revealed the chemical weapon used was designed by Russian scientists in the 1980s to kill thousands on the battlefield.
Stunned MPs shouted “Shame” in the Commons as she said its “indiscriminate” use in targeting former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia “put the lives of innocent civilians at risk”.
Mrs May spoke out as investigators probing the attack in Salisbury, Wilts, descended on village six miles away. Some arrived in protective suits and put a street in lockdown.
The PM concluded there were only “two plausible explanations” for what happened on March 4.
She said: “Either this was 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.”
Novichok agents are among the deadliest chemical weapons and were designed to even permeate NATO chemical protection suits.
Reading out her devastating indictment, Mrs May listed further evidence amassed by spy chiefs pointing at Russia being to blame:
ITS record of conducting “state-sponsored assassinations”;
HOW it sees defectors as “legitimate targets” to be murdered, and;
INSISTING on still retaining the capacity to produce more of the devastating Novichok agents.
Mrs May also insisted that Moscow must “immediately provide full and complete disclosure” of its Novichok nerve gas program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
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If Putin’s ambassador fails to explain what happened to its lethal nerve agent stock within 24 hours, Mrs May said she will declare it “an unlawful use of force” by Russia against the UK.
Holding out little hope that Moscow will come up with a “credible” explanation, the PM told the Commons: “We have led the way in securing tough sanctions against the Russian economy.
“We must stand ready to take much more extensive measures.
She added: “There can be no question of business as usual with Russia”.
It emerged that earlier, Boris Johnson refused to shake hands with Russia’s Ambassador to London Alexander Yakovenko when he summoned him to the Foreign Office at 3.45pm.
Mr Johnson issued the ultimatum instruction and told him of the British public’s outrage.
The PM’s declaration — which senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper dubbed as “bold” — plunges Britain into the biggest crisis with Moscow since the end of the Cold War 28 years ago.
No10 refused to give further detail of what Mrs May’s threats would entail. She will report back to the Commons tomorrow afternoon.
The Sun revealed last week how the PM ordered Cabinet ministers to draw up “a full spectrum response” to punish Russia if proof emerged that it is the culprit.
Options include expelling Moscow’s diplomats from London, asset freezes and travel ban for Kremlin-linked oligarchs, as well as reinforcing Britain’s troops and jets on Europe’s eastern flank.
The PM and other Cabinet ministers last night began phoning world leaders to build as broad a consensus at possible to condemn Vladimir Putin’s regime.