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Russia calls UK bluff as nerve agent attack deadline passes

dw.com logo dw.com 14/3/2018

Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal attends a hearing at the Moscow District Military Court in Moscow on August 9, 2006.
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent whose mysterious collapse in England sparked concerns of a possible poisoning by Moscow, has been living in Britain since a high-profile spy swap in 2010. Police were probing his exposure to an unknown substance, which left him unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury and saw media draw parallels to the case of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-spy who died of radioactive polonium poisoning in 2006.
 / AFP PHOTO / Kommersant Photo / Yuri SENATOROV / Russia OUT        (Photo credit should read YURI SENATOROV/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty Former Russian military intelligence colonel Sergei Skripal attends a hearing at the Moscow District Military Court in Moscow on August 9, 2006. Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent whose mysterious collapse in England sparked concerns of a possible poisoning by Moscow, has been living in Britain since a high-profile spy swap in 2010. Police were probing his exposure to an unknown substance, which left him unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury and saw media draw parallels to the case of Alexander Litvinenko, an ex-spy who died of radioactive polonium poisoning in 2006. / AFP PHOTO / Kommersant Photo / Yuri SENATOROV / Russia OUT (Photo credit should read YURI SENATOROV/AFP/Getty Images)  Russia has demanded the UK hand over evidence Moscow was involved in an attack on a former Russian spy. Russia's Foreign Ministry has criticized the UK's accusations, saying in a statement they were "openly provocative."

The midnight Tuesday deadline for Moscow to respond to London's ultimatum that it explain its suspected involvement in last week's nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy has passed without a response from Russia. 

A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in London said Moscow would not respond "until it receives samples of the chemical substance." The embassy has called for a joint investigation into the incident.

Related video: Timeline of Salisbury poisoning (Sky News)

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The spokesperson added that Russia was not involved in the attack in the English city of Salisbury, and said any punitive measures against Russia would "elicit a response."

Earlier, UK Prime Minister Theresa May said a "full range" of retaliatory measures would be considered if Moscow had not given a "credible response" by the end of Tuesday.

The measures under consideration reportedly include freezing the assets of Russian business leaders and officials, limiting access to London's financial center and the expulsion of diplomats.

PM Theresa May © PA PM Theresa May May is expected to outline her response in Parliament on Wednesday after a meeting of the National Security Council. London is reportedly also likely to call on Western allies for a coordinated response.

The EU and NATO have backed Britain after May said it was "highly likely" that Russia was behind the poisoning.

Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court. © Getty Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court. US President Donald Trump told May by telephone that Russia "must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the United Kingdom," the White House said.

"As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be," Trump told reporters later in the day.

Russia uses Iran base to bomb targets in Syria © AP Images Russia uses Iran base to bomb targets in Syria On Monday, May said it was highly likely Moscow was to blame for last week's poison attack on Russian-born double agent Sergei Skripal, a former officer with Russia's GRU military intelligence, and his daughter.

Scientists at the UK's military research laboratory at Porton Down have identified the poison used against Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury as Novichok, a Russian military nerve agent developed during the 1970s and 1980s.

Retaliatory measures

The Russian Foreign Ministry has criticized the UK's accusations, saying in a statement they were "openly provocative" and part of "yet another dirty attempt by British authorities to discredit Russia." Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said there was no proof the poison used against Skripal came from Russia.

In this image dated Friday March 9, 2018, and issued Saturday March 10, 2018, by Britain's Ministry of Defence, showing troops in protective gear as they work to remove a contaminated police car from the Accident and Emergency entrance at the District Hospital in Salisbury, England. Counter-terrorism police asked for military assistance to remove vehicles and objects from the scene in the city, much of which has been cordoned off over contamination fears of the nerve agent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. (Pete Brown/MoD via AP) © The Associated Press In this image dated Friday March 9, 2018, and issued Saturday March 10, 2018, by Britain's Ministry of Defence, showing troops in protective gear as they work to remove a contaminated police car from the Accident and Emergency entrance at the District Hospital in Salisbury, England. Counter-terrorism police asked for military assistance to remove vehicles and objects from the scene in the city, much of which has been cordoned off over contamination fears of the nerve agent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. (Pete Brown/MoD via AP) Britain's threats of retaliatory actions "will not be left without a response," the Foreign Ministry said. 

A ministry spokeswoman later added that Russia would not allow British media outlets to operate on its soil if the Russian state-owned channel RT license is canceled. Earlier, the UK broadcasting regulator warned that RT might have its British license revoked if London concludes Moscow was behind the attack.

"Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down Russia Today," said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, adding that "nobody should threaten a nuclear power.”

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