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Sun, 29 March 2020

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Russian intelligence agents carried out ‘barbaric’ Salisbury chemical attack, says Theresa May

Russian intelligence agents carried out ‘barbaric’ Salisbury chemical attack, says Theresa May
4 min read

Two Russian intelligence agents carried out the attack that saw former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia hospitalised on British soil earlier this year, Theresa May has said.


The Prime Minister told MPs the attack, which was carried out in Wiltshire using the nerve agent Novichok, was a “barbaric” act that was “part of a wider pattern of Russian behaviour that consistently seeks to undermine our security and that of our allies around the world”.    

In a statement in the House of Commons, Mrs May said: "I can today tell the House that based on a body of intelligence the Government has concluded that the two individuals named by the police and CPS are officers from the Russian Military Intelligence Service, also known as the GRU.

"The GRU is a highly disciplined organisation with a well established chain of command. So this was not a rogue operation, it was almost certainly approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state."

Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were both left seriously ill after coming into contact with the nerve agent in Salisbury in March.

In June, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess died and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after apparently coming into contact with the same agent in Amesbury, and Mrs May said the two cases were now being treated as a single line of inquiry by the police.

The Crown Prosecution service announced this morning that there was enough evidence to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov - who police said were both travelling on Russian passports days before the attack - with a series of offences linked to the Skripal case.

The pair have been charged with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal; the attempted murder of Mr Skripal, Yulia Skirpal and police officer Nick Bailey; the use and possession of Novichok; and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Ms Skripal and Mr Bailey.

In her statement, the Prime Minister committed the UK to deploying “the full range of tools from across our security apparatus” in response to the findings.

“We will also use these channels of communication to make clear that there can be no place in any civilised international order for the kind of barbaric activity which we saw in Salisbury in March,” she added.   

However, the CPS said it would not be pushing to extradite the pair from Russia because such a move was barred by the Russian constitution.

CPS director of legal services Sue Hemming said: "We have, however, obtained a European Arrest Warrant which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations."

Mrs May was meanwhile scathing about Russia’s role in the investigation into the attack, telling the House: “We repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March and they have replied with obfuscation and lies.

“This has included trying to cast the blame for the attack onto terrorists, onto our international partners and even onto the future mother-in-law of Yulia Skripal.

“They even claimed that I myself invented Novichok. Their attempts to hide the truth by pushing out a deluge of information simply reinforces their culpability.”

“The whole house will have notice the somewhat weaselly language of the leader of the opposition in failing to condemn what I think is now incontrovertible in the eyes of all right thinking people, the involvement of the Russian state at the highest level in the Salisbury poisonings.”

CORBYN: USE OF NERVE AGENTS AN OUTRAGE

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn condemned the attacks, and said the "use of military nerve agents on the streets of Britain" was "an outrage and beyond reckless".

He asked the Prime Minsiter what steps she was taking "to get cooperation with the Russian Government to bring [the suspects] to trial?"

"Based on the OPCW [chemical weapons watchdog] findings, the Russian Government must give a full account of how this nerve agent came to be used in the UK," Mr Corbyn said.

The Labour leader added: "We utterly condemn the appalling attacks, we commend the police and security services for their diligence in investigating this appalling crime, and we will support any reasonable action to bring those responsible to justice, and to take further action against Russia for its failure to cooperate with this investigation."

But Tory former cabinet minister Boris Johnson hit out at Mr Corbyn's response, accusing the Labour leader of using "weaselly language" about Moscow's involvement.

"The whole House will have noticed the somewhat weaselly language of the leader of the opposition in failing to condemn what I think is now incontrovertible in the eyes of all right thinking people, the involvement of the Russian state at the highest level in the Salisbury poisonings," Mr Johnson said.

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