By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – Britain is encouraged by the “strength of support” it got from its allies in taking action against Russia after it concluded the Kremlin was “highly likely” responsible for the suspicious poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter living in England, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Tuesday.
Reiterating that Russia must make an explanation about the Russian nerve agent Novichok used in the incident, Johnson said the Kremlin had until midnight to respond.
“If they can come up with a convincing explanation, then obviously we will want to see full disclosure of that to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague,” Johnson said.
“If not, then clearly we will want to be announcing the UK response, and that would come tomorrow. In the meantime, what we’ve been doing is talking to friends and partners, explaining what we see as the high likelihood of Russian state agency,” he added.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday that Moscow would not respond to London's request to explain Russia's alleged role in the poisoning unless it is allowed access to the case materials.
Russia had "nothing to do with it," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
"If the procedures provided by the Chemical Weapon Convention are fulfilled, I assure you that the Russian Federation will fulfill its obligations and respond to the relevant request," he added.
- Macron, Gabriel, Tillerson
On the allies’ support, Johnson said: “I’ve been very encouraged so far by the strength of the support that we are getting.”
“I think in particular from President Macron of France, Sigmar Gabriel, my German counterpart, and from Washington, where Rex Tillerson last night made it very clear that he sees this as part of a pack of increasingly disruptive behaviour by Russia – the reckless use of chemical weapons that stretches from Syria to the streets of Salisbury,” he said.
A government statement said Monday evening that Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron “agreed that the French and British governments should coordinate closely as the investigation developed and following Russia’s response.”
Johnson said it is “important that we wait until the deadline has passed.”
“You’ve got to do this correctly. We’ve given the Russians until midnight to explain how the Novichok could have come to be on the streets of Britain.”
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on March 4 in the southern English city of Salisbury.
“It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” specifically from the Novichok group, May told British lawmakers on Monday.
The incident has drawn comparisons to the fate of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.
Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Convicted by a Moscow military court of "high treason" after admitting to leaking information to British intelligence, he had been sentenced to 13 years in prison.