Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

Updated Mar 13, 2018 at 05:17PM EDT by Matt.

Added Mar 13, 2018 at 03:34PM EDT by Matt.

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Overview

The Poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal is ongoing international controversy in which former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent in England. British Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was "highly likely" that the Russian government was behind the attack. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.

Background

In 2004, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who had been working as a double agent for the British government, was arrested in Moscow, Russia. Six years later, he was released as part of a prisoner exchange between Russia and England.[1]

On March 4th, 2018, Sergei, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench in Wiltshire, England.[2] Authorities at the time announced the cause of their condition was an unknown substance. Officials in hazmat suits cleaned the area, which was cordoned off.


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Development

Two days later, the BBC identified the victim as Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, convicted in Russia of spying for the British.[3] The substance used was later identified as a "nerve agent"

On March 6th, the police also released closed circuit television (CCTV) footage of a couple walking near where Sergei and Yulia were found. The local police have asked people in the community to come forward with information.[4]



On March 11th, health officials urged people who visited the Mill pub, near the location of the poisoning, on March 4th to wash clothes or store those that cannot be washed in sealed bags, as well as wipe down any electronics.[5] Several days later, on March 12th, the nerve agent was identified as a rare poison known as Novichok, a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia.[6]

British Response

On March 8th, Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, alleged that this incident was attempted murder and was likely ordered by the Russian government. He said, "We are beginning to see, not only a very strong pattern, but a very strong centre to that pattern – and that centre appears very strongly to be the Kremlin." He added that President Vladimir Putin wanted to "make sure that those who betray him know there is a cost to betrayal."

Four days later, English Prime Minister Theresa May said that the Russian government's involvement was "highly likely." She said, "Either this was a direct action 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."

May went on to give the Russian government an ultimatum: If the Kremlin does not provide a "credible explanation" for how the nerve agent came to be on British soil, then they would responded to this "unlawful use of force."[10]



Russian Response

Throughout the investigation, the Russian government has denied any involvement. On March 6th, Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, "We see this tragic situation but we don't have information on what could have led to this, what he was engaged in."[7]

On March 12th, 2018, BBC journalist Steve Rosenberg asked Putin about Russian involvement in the attempted murder. Putin responded, "You should first get things clear yourselves on the spot and after that we will discuss this with you."[8] The exchange was posted to Twitter that day [9](shown below), where it received more than 2,900 retweets and 5,400 likes in 24 hours.




In a series of tweets, the Russian Embassy announced that it would not be responding to the British ultimatum until the chemicals were sent to Russia and a joint investigation could take place. The tweets allege that "the actions of the UK authorities are a clear provocation."[14] The account also stated that "The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia."[15] They also warned the British government that "Any threat to take “punitive” measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that."[16]


Russian Embassy, UK o @RussianEmbassy 2/7 It was stated that the actions of the UK authorities are a clear provocation and that the Russian Federation was not involved in the incident that took place in Salisbury on 4 March, 2018 PROVDCATIDN Russian Embassy, UK --.... @RussianEmbassy 5/7 Without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London. The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia. AKE WS NE Russian Embassy, UK ,@RussianEmbassy " RUSSIAN EMASSY 6/7 Any threat to take "punitive" measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction

U.S. Response

On March 12th, 2018, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement on the incident.[17] He said, "There is never a justification for this type of attack – the attempted murder of a private citizen on the soil of a sovereign nation – and we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behavior. From Ukraine to Syria – and now the UK – Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.

We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – must face appropriately serious consequences. We stand in solidarity with our Allies in the United Kingdom and will continue to coordinate closely our responses."

The following day, he was ousted as Secretary of State, which led some to believe that the two incidents were connected.[18]

On March 13th, United States President Donald Trump announced that he was "with the UK all the way." He continued,[19] "the Russian government must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used."

Online Reaction

Twitter published several Moments pages about the incident.[11][12][13]

On March 12th, 2018, Redditor [20] Drama79 posted a thread about May's ultimatum in the /r/worldnews subreddit. The post received more than 15,000 points (93% upvoted) and 2,700 comments in one day.

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