Moscow/London: Russia said on Thursday it would retaliate very soon for Britain’s expulsion of 23 diplomats as Moscow and London traded public insults about a nerve toxin attack on a former Russian double agent in England.
After the first known use of a military-grade nerve toxin on British soil since World War Two, the United States, France, NATO and the European Union gave verbal support to May, though it remained unclear what action the West would take.
London says the Russian state is responsible for trying to kill Sergei Skripal—a former Russian intelligence officer who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6—with Novichok, a lethal nerve agent developed by the Soviet military.
Russia denied any involvement and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused London of behaving in a “boorish” way, adding that this was partly due to the problems Britain faces over its planned exit from the European Union next year.
Lavrov said Russia’s response would come “very soon” but be conveyed to British officials first, an apparent contradiction of an earlier report by state news agency RIA that said Lavrov had promised to expel British diplomats.
In the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats from London since the Cold War, Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday gave 23 Russians who she said were spies working under diplomatic cover a week to leave London.
“The temperature of Russian-British relations drops to minus 23 but we are not afraid of the cold weather,” Russia’s embassy in London said beside the picture of a thermometer surrounded by ice and reading minus 23 degrees Celsius.
May on Thursday visited the normally genteel city where police investigators in chemical protection suits and the army have been removing evidence of the poisoning.
Britain also said it would invest 48 million pounds ($67 million) in a new chemical warfare defence centre at its Porton Down military research laboratory, where scientists identified the nerve agent used against Skripal.
Britain’s allies expressed solidarity over the attack.
The White House said it shared Britain’s assessment that Russia was responsible and supported the decision to expel Russian diplomats.
France, which on Wednesday had said it wanted proof of Russian involvement before deciding whether to take action against Moscow, swung behind Britain on Thursday.
“France agrees with the United Kingdom that there is no other plausible explanation and reiterates its solidarity with its ally,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement.
Updated Date: Mar 15, 2018 20:08:20 IST