EU leaders back UK in Russian row over nerve agent attack


After meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels, the European Council released a statement condemning the attack “in the strongest possible terms.”

It said it “agrees with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible,” adding that “there is no plausible alternative explanation.”

“We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security,” the statement said.

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were both exposed to a nerve agent on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury and remain in a critical condition in hospital.
According to the United Kingdom, they were exposed to a Soviet-era nerve agent known as Novichok, a colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid described as one of the world’s most sophisticated and deadly chemical weapons.

Russia has furiously denied claims it was involved in the attack, sparking a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. On Thursday, Russia’s ambassador to the United Kingdom Alexander Yakovenko hinted at possible British involvement in the poisoning.

Speaking at the Russian Embassy in London on Thursday, Yakovenko questioned how British authorities could have so quickly determined the type of poison used in the attack.

“Could it mean that it’s highly likely that the British authorities already had this nerve agent in their chemical lab in Porton Down, which is the largest secret military facility in the UK that has been dealing with chemical weapons?” Yakovenko said.

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Police officer released from hospital

Technical experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical weapons have been in Salisbury this week, collecting samples for further analysis.

On Thursday, a British court ruled they could take blood samples from Sergei and Yulia Skripal to check against the analysis performed by Porton Down’s research laboratory.

“The precise effect of their exposure on their long-term health remains unclear, albeit medical tests indicate that their mental capacity might be compromised to an unknown and so far unascertained degree,” Judge David Williams wrote in his judgment allowing access to the Skripals.

Court documents quoted an unidentified doctor as saying the Skirpals were both heavily sedated and unable to communicate, and that it was not possible to assess to what extent either would be able to regain mental capacity.

UK's Johnson says it's 'overwhelmingly likely' Putin ordered nerve agent attack

A total of 21 people received medical attention after the incident, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was released from hospital Thursday, according to a statement from Wiltshire Police.

Bailey, who became critically ill after being exposed to the nerve agent, said in a statement that he’d been overwhelmed with messages of support from other officers and the public.

“I understand why there is attention on me, but all I have done is represent every police officer who goes out there every day and puts their life at risk,” he said.

‘Brazen and reckless attack’

Top government officials in Russia and the United Kingdom have been exchanging barbs for weeks over the poisoning and who should be held responsible.

Speaking to reporters as she arrived in Brussels Thursday, May said Russia had staged a “brazen and reckless attack” against her country.

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“It’s clear that the Russian threat does not respect borders and indeed the incident in Salisbury was part of a pattern of Russian aggression against Europe and its near neighbors,” she said.

But Russian President Putin said on Sunday claims Russia was behind the attack were “delirium and nonsense.”

Russian ambassador Yakovenko said the remarks were “unacceptable and totally irresponsible.”

The European Council said Thursday member states would have to coordinate on how to proceed following the attack, including what the consequences should be for Russia going forward.

“The use of chemical weapons, including the use of any toxic chemicals as weapons under any circumstances, is completely unacceptable, must be systematically and rigorously condemned and constitutes a security threat to us all,” the council’s statement said.



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