Theresa May has accused Russia of being behind the attempted assassination of a double agent in the UK

  • Theresa May pointed the finger at Russia in a statement to Parliament on Monday, saying it was “highly likely” that Russia ordered the assassination of the double agent Sergei Skripal.
  • Skripal and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England, on March 4.
  • May said Russia either ordered the attack or “lost control” of somebody with access to the Russian-made nerve agent used.
  • Russia’s foreign ministry dismissed May’s statement as a “fairy tale”.

Britain has formally accused Russia of being behind the attempted assassination of the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a Soviet-era nerve agent on its territory.

Prime Minister Theresa May pointed the finger at Russia in a statement to Parliament on Monday afternoon, saying Russia either ordered the attack or lost control of whoever carried it out.

“Based on Russia’s record of doing state-sponsored assassinations and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations, the government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” she said.

“Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

Citing UK government scientists, May named the chemical compound used in the attack as Novichok, a family of deadly poisons developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Her statement came after a National Security Council meeting where she took evidence from the UK’s three main intelligence agencies, MI5, MI6, and GCHQ.

May gave Russia a deadline of late Tuesday by which to offer a “credible response” to her statement. She said if it did not, she would conclude that the attack was “an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.”

Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in a shopping centre in Salisbury, England, on March 4 after being poisoned with nerve agent. They remain in critical condition.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
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REUTERS/Christopher Furlong/Pool

Skripal is a double agent who passed Russian state secrets to British intelligence in the 1990s and early 2000s.

He was pardoned and sent to the UK as part of a spy swap in 2010, in which Russia released four agents to the US and the UK in exchange for 10 Russian agents in the US.

A spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry described May’s announcement as a “fairy tale,” according to a tweet by BBC Monitoring, which watches and translates foreign media.