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Russia should go away and shut up, says Defence Secretary

It is time for the whole country to unite behind the Prime Minister, Gavin Williamson said.

Russia should “go away and should shut up”, the Defence Secretary said as Britain prepares for retaliation from Moscow over its response to the Salisbury attack.

Gavin Williamson said relations with Russia were in an “exceptionally chilly” period and called for the whole country to unite behind Theresa May.

It comes as the Prime Minister visited Salisbury to speak to emergency services, members of the public and local businesses.

She will also receive a briefing from Public Health England.

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Theresa May with Wiltshire Chief Constable Kier Pritchard in Salisbury (Toby Melville/PA)

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was chairing a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee in London to discuss the latest situation.

And Environment Secretary Michael Gove led a cross-governmental ministerial recovery group looking at support which will go to the people and city of Salisbury in the aftermath of the incident.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov warned Moscow will expel British diplomats “soon” after Mrs May announced the biggest expulsion of Russian embassy staff since the Cold War.

During a visit to Bristol, Mr Williamson said: “It is absolutely atrocious and outrageous what Russia did in Salisbury. We have responded to that.

“Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up.”

Mr Williamson described Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s response as “disappointing”.

France publicly backed the PM’s assessment that Russia is culpable for the attack and said it stands in solidarity with the UK.

Mrs May and French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by telephone at 7.30am to discuss the latest developments in the case.

The talks came after reports of a lukewarm response from the French government but Paris later issued a statement saying there was “no other plausible explanation” for the poisoning.

Boris Johnson confirmed the UK will submit a sample of the nerve agent to the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for it to carry out its own tests.

The US threw its diplomatic weight behind the UK on Thursday, saying it “stands in solidarity with its closest ally”.

Mr Johnson said the UK’s response means Russia’s intelligence capabilities in the country had been “basically eviscerated” for decades.

The Foreign Secretary claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to send a message to any defecting Russians that “you’re going to die”.

Announcing sanctions in the House of Commons, the PM said the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia amounted to “an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.

Mrs May announced the suspension of high-level contacts with Russia, including a boycott of this summer’s World Cup by Government ministers and members of the royal family.

She said Russian state assets will be frozen “wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents”.

Twenty-three Russian diplomats identified as undeclared intelligence officers have been given a week to leave the UK, in the largest mass expulsion since 31 were ordered out in 1985 following the defection of double agent Oleg Gordievsky.

Mr Corbyn drew criticism for his stance on the Salisbury incident after his spokesman said the history of the use of information from UK intelligence agencies is “problematic” and refused to say that the Labour leader accepted the Russian state was at fault.

The spokesman’s comments prompted Labour backbencher John Woodcock to table an Early Day Motion “unequivocally” accepting the “Russian state’s culpability” for the attack, and supporting “fully” the statement made by Mrs May in the Commons.

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