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May backs move to snub World Cup in Russia over ‘spy poisoning’

The comments come after a former colonel in Russian military intelligence and his daughter were taken to hospital

Prime Minister Theresa May has backed moves to snub the World Cup in Russia — if Kremlin links are proven in the Salisbury contamination scare.

Mrs May told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions that the Government would “look at whether ministers and other dignitaries should attend” the tournament after a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were taken to hospital with “suspected exposure to an unknown substance”.

The Prime Minister’s comments came after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told MPs it would be “very difficult to imagine that UK representation” at the World Cup could “go ahead in the normal way” this summer.

Mr Skripal was convicted in 2006 of passing state secrets to MI6 before being given refuge in the UK as part of a spy swap.

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Salisbury incident

The former colonel in Russian military intelligence, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison, was among four convicts who were given pardons and one of two sent to Britain in 2010 in a deal that was said at the time to be the largest exchange since the Cold War.

He was found along with his daughter on a bench in The Maltings, Salisbury after police were called by a concerned member of the public at around 4.15pm on Sunday.

Labour MP Toby Perkins, raising the matter during Prime Minister’s Questions, said: “Is it the policy of the Government that England should pull out of the World Cup? If not, what on earth was the Foreign Secretary on about yesterday?”

Mrs May said: “The point the Foreign Secretary was making yesterday was that depending on what comes out in relation to the investigation, into the attack on the two individuals that took place in Salisbury, that it might be appropriate for the Government to look at whether ministers and other dignitaries should attend the World Cup in Russia.”

The Russian embassy has said it is “completely untrue” to suggest the country’s special services were involved and has also criticised Mr Johnson for speaking “in such a manner as if the investigation was already over”.

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