London has given Moscow until the end of Tuesday to explain the use of a military-grade nerve agent for the poisoning in England of Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the United dStates has “full confidence” in Britain’s assessment that Russia was likely responsible.
“We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – must face appropriately serious consequences,” Tillerson said in a statement.
Theresa May’s statement on Monday implicating Russia was given short shrift by the Russian authorities. The Russian embassy in Washington described it as “another stance of fake news”.
“Baseless accusations of any imaginable sins apportioned to Russia continue multiplying,” said the spokesperson. “Yet another fake story was circulated on Monday. It claimed the presence of a Russian trace in the tragic events in the UK.”
“At present, however, there isn’t a single evidence to support the correctness of the British – and now the American – authorities’ conclusions,” he added.
The British prime minister told MPs on Monday it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind an attempted assassination of the former spy in southern England, adding that Britain would deem it an unlawful use of force on its territory if Russian authorities failed to provide a credible explanation by Tuesday evening.
In a statement to Parliament in Westminster, 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.”
She added that Britain was preparing to take “extensive measures” against Russia.
Retired military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped and unresponsive on a bench in Salisbury on 4 March. Tests later revealed they had been poisoned by a “military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” May said in her statement.
The pair remain in critical but stable condition.
Russia has denied any involvement in the attack, with Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissing the Prime Minister’s speech as “a circus show in the British parliament”.
She told the TASS news agency: “The conclusion is obvious: It’s another political information campaign, based on a provocation.”
Investigators have since cordoned off swathes of Salisbury town centre in an effort to trace the source of the toxic substance and ensure the area is safe.
At least 21 people, including officers that attended the scene, have been treated for exposure in hospital since the incident unfolded.__EuroNews