UK Eyes Next Move After Claim of Russian Nerve Agent Stockpile – Bloomberg

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s government will consider further action against Russia this week after it accused Moscow of stockpiling Novichok, the nerve agent used to poison a former spy and his daughter in western England.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will brief his European counterparts in Brussels on Monday, after rejecting a Russian suggestion that a British laboratory may have been the source of the substance that has left double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia fighting for their lives.

“We actually had evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok,” Johnson said on BBC TV’s “Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday. “We will discuss at the National Security Council this week what further measures, if any, we may want to take.”

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia’s ambassador to the European Union, said on the same program that his country has “no stockpiles whatsoever” of nerve agents. He said Porton Down, a U.K. military facility, has conducted research on chemical weapons eight miles (13 kilometers) from Salisbury, the city in western England where the victims were found poisoned on March 4. Asked if that meant he was blaming Britain, he said he didn’t have “any evidence of anything having being used.”

Nerve Agent

May told parliament last week that the Skripals, who remain in critical condition, were poisoned with a weapons-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group. She accused the Kremlin of “unlawful use of force” against the U.K. and ordered the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats over the first use of a nerve agent on European soil since World War II.

The Foreign Ministry in Moscow retaliated on Saturday by expelling the same number of British envoys. It also ordered the closing of the British consulate in St. Petersburg and told the British Council to end its activities in Russia.

Security Council

Johnson, who said on Friday that it is “overwhelmingly likely” Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the chemical attack, said the Kremlin’s “denial, obfuscation and delay” over the case is “exactly the tactics that we’ve come to expect from Russia over the last few years.”

Putin, who celebrated his re-election on Sunday night, told reporters it was “unthinkable” that Russia was involved. “It’s complete nonsense to imagine that anyone in Russia could resort to such tricks ahead of the presidential elections and World Cup,” he said.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague will arrive in Britain on Monday, and samples will be shared with them for independent testing, Johnson said.

Novichok, the Russian Nerve Agent Spooking Britain: QuickTake

The foreign secretary said he’d been struck by the support from around the world for Britain’s position, which he contrasted with the reaction to the 2006 murder in London of Russian former security-service officer Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210. While other countries had been willing then to accept that “rogue elements” were responsible, they blame the Kremlin this time, he said.

‘Disruptive’ Behavior

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