UK to face Russia at UN after spies revealed as Salisbury Novichok assassins
The Security Council will meet after the Prime Minister said March’s attack was carried out by Moscow spies and sanctioned at a ‘senior level’.
British and Russian officials will come face-to-face as the UN Security Council discusses the Salisbury Novichok attack hours after Theresa May said Moscow agents were behind the deadly poisoning.
Police and prosecutors announced on Wednesday they had enough evidence to charge the men, named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, over the poisoning in March.
The Prime Minister told MPs it was carried out by two Russian spies and sanctioned at a “senior level” by Vladimir Putin’s regime.
She told the Commons investigations have concluded that the two suspects are members of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, and it was not a “rogue operation”.
As a permanent member of the Security Council, Russia will be represented at Thursday’s meeting – called by Britain to update members on progress in the Salisbury investigation – alongside UK allies such as the US and France.
Australia on Thursday said it was in “lock step” with the UK on the importance of holding Russia to account over the “heinous” attack, although it is not currently a council member.
Mrs May did not explicitly blame the Kremlin for authorising the attempted assassination, although senior Conservatives directly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of approving the operation.
Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said there was “no doubt it was state ordered and President Putin bears responsibility for a war-like act”.
The charge d’affaires at Russia’s London embassy was summoned to the Foreign Office for a dressing-down by an official following Mrs May’s statement.
The PM told MPs the UK would push for new sanctions against Russians responsible for cyber attacks, additional listings under the existing regime and promised to work with intelligence allies to “counter the threat posed by the GRU”.
Former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were left critically ill after being exposed to the military grade nerve agent Novichok in March.
The alleged perpetrators were identified in a dramatic joint police and Crown Prosecution Service press conference.
Detectives believe it is likely the pair, thought to be aged around 40, travelled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov are not their real names.
Prosecutors deem it futile to apply to Russia for the extradition of the two men, but a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained and the authorities are also seeking the assistance of Interpol.
Detectives believe the front door of Mr Skripal’s Salisbury home was contaminated with Novichok on Sunday March 4.
#Salisbury: UK publishes suspects' names and photos, but shows no willingness to engage with Russia in order to establish the truth. Our offers of cooperation remain on the table. https://t.co/9pASx5T5O6 pic.twitter.com/9MPGBud34w— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) September 5, 2018
Mr Skripal, 67, and his daughter were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury city centre the same day and spent weeks critically ill in hospital.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu also confirmed officers have now linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury four months later.
In the second incident, Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent used in Salisbury.
Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.
In a statement, the Russian Embassy in the UK accused the British authorities of being unwilling to engage with them and called on the Government to “give up politicised public accusations”.