British Security Minister Ben Wallace has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “ultimate” responsibility for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent in England in March.
London has accused two members of Russia’s military intelligence service of using Novichok to try to kill former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the southwestern city of Salisbury.
Asked if Putin had responsibility, Wallace said: “Ultimately he does in so far as he is the president of the Russian Federation and it is his government that controls, funds and directs the military intelligence, the GRU, via his ministry of defence.”
He told BBC radio on Thursday: “I don’t think anyone can ever say that Mr Putin isn’t in control of his state…. And the GRU is without doubt not rogue.”
Theresa May also confirmed Russia’s military intelligence involvement on Wednesday but she did not accuse Putin directly.
British prosecutors issued arrest warrants on Wednesday for Alexander Petrov and Russian Boshirov, charging them with conspiracy to murder.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia were poisoned with the military-grade nerve agent – developed by the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and ’80s – in March but survived after spending weeks in hospital.
They said they would not formally demand their extradition, as Russia does not extradite its citizens, but have obtained a European Arrest Warrant for the pair.
Britain will present its evidence at a UN Security Council meeting on Thursday, a spokesman for Theresa May told reporters.
“We have called for a security council meeting to take place on Thursday so we can update the council on the progress of the Salisbury investigation,” he said.
The meeting is due to take place around 1530 GMT, he added.
The US ambassador to London, Woody Johnson, and the Australian government have also offered their support for Britain’s stance against Russia.
Wallace said his government would seek to “maintain the pressure” on Russia “to say that the behaviour we’ve seen is totally unacceptable”.
Options include “more sanctions”, however he noted that Russia would be there and would likely use its veto on any statement that might arise.
Doubts and questions
Russia has questioned the charges.
“The names published by the media, like their photographs, mean nothing to us,” Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, told TASS news agency.
“The Russian side has numerous questions for London.”
Zakharova demanded British authorities work with Moscow on the case.
“Once again we call on the British side to move away from public accusations and informational manipulations towards practical collaboration of law enforcement agencies,” she said.