British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday that it’s “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in southern England earlier in March.
“The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Julia Skripal,” May said, an unusually direct accusation against Moscow.
May said she came to the conclusion based on an investigation of the chemical agent used in the attack in Salisbury and the knowledge that Russia has produced this agent before.
She also pointed out that the Kremlin has conducted “state-sponsored assassinations” before and considers defectors legitimate targets.
“Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country,” May said. “Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”
Russian authorities dismissed May’s assertion as a “provocation” and “nonsense,” even suggesting the attack on the Skripals may have been a false flag.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, a senior Russia lawmaker, said that the “secret services of Britain or some other countries might have staged the provocation with Skripal in order to smear Russia.”
May said that the Russian ambassador has been called to explain which of these possibilities is correct.
In response, May plans to cancel the visas for Russians linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin and impose sanctions on Moscow, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.
Russia claimed on Thursday that Skripal was actually a British spy working for MI6, the United Kingdom’s intelligence bureau.
He was actually a British spy, working for MI6 pic.twitter.com/PPAcE8a9vz
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) March 8, 2018
The ex-spy and his daughter survived the attempted murder but remain hospitalized.
—Updated at 2:39 p.m.