Global leaders back Theresa May as Russia deadline over nerve attack looms

Posted On: 
13th March 2018

Global figures have pledged their full support to Theresa May after she gave Russia until tonight to explain the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

Theresa May has pointed the finger at Russia for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury
Credit: 
PA Images

The United States said it would “stand by our closest ally” while French president Emmanuel Macron “condemned the attack and offered his solidarity with the UK,” in a call with the Prime Minister.

Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and police officer Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey remain in hospital following the attack.

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In a dramatic Commons statement yesterday Mrs May gave Russia's ambassador to the UK 24 hours to explain to the Foreign Office what happened.

She said: “Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.”

Such a conclusion would allow the UK to invoke Article 51 of the UN charter allowing for legitimate self-defence.

According to the Times the UK could hit Moscow with a cyber attack - with one Whitehall source saying the deployment of malware was a likely option.

“Offensive cyber would be something in the arsenal. It would be considered or even likely [selected],” they said.

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said the attack “clearly came from Russia” and would “certainly trigger a response”.

Meanwhile Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the press spokeswoman for Donald Trump, told journalists the attack was “reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible”.

She added: “We stand by our closest ally and the special relationship we have.”

Mrs May also received support from Mr Macron last night as the pair two spoke on the phone to discuss the latest developments.

“President Macron condemned the attack and offered his solidarity with the UK,” Downing Street said.

“They agreed that the French and British governments should coordinate closely as the investigation developed and following Russia’s response.”

Meanwhile Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg condemned the use of a nerve agent as “horrendous and completely unacceptable”.

'HIGHLY LIKELY' RUSSIA WAS RESPONSIBLE

In the Commons yesterday Mrs May declared: “The Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.”

Mrs May said the only possible explanations were that "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".

But Maria Zakharova from the Russian foreign ministry, told the Tass news agency: “It is a circus show in the British parliament. The conclusion is obvious, it’s another political information campaign, based on a provocation.”

And asked about the attack himself, Russian president Vladimir Putin told the BBC: “We’re dealing with agriculture here, to create conditions for people’s lives, and you talk to me about some tragedies. First, get to the bottom of it, and then we’ll discuss this.”

PUTIN 'A CHILD'

Meanwhile, ex-Nato boss General Philip M. Breedlove told MPs Mr Putin had been encouraged to meddle in western affairs because global leaders failed to stand up to him.

At an event in parliament, he said: “Russia is emboldened now to take actions such as assassinations and meddling in our elections, and think they will get away with it.

“In every country, he has established a line up to which he can interfere. When an action is taken and there’s no reaction, the line moves up - it’s like a child.

“In response, what have we done? Precious little has been done, there needs to be a price paid.”