“I’m afraid the evidence is overwhelming that it is Russia,” Johnson told the BBC. “There’s something in the kind of smug, sarcastic response that we’ve heard from the Russians that indicates their fundamental guilt.”
On Wednesday, May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and the suspension of bilateral talks. May claimed Russia was “culpable” for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, which amounted to “unlawful use of force against the UK.”
“They want to simultaneously deny it, and at the same time to glory in it,” he added.
Johnson claims the reason Russia “chose this nerve agent” – Novichok – was to show people in its agencies who may be thinking of defecting or “supporting another way of life” that “Russia will take revenge. That is fundamentally what this is about.”
The foreign secretary went on to claim it is obvious Russia has illegally retained stocks of Soviet chemical weapons.
“At a time when Russia is going in the wrong direction, becoming more repressive, when Vladimir Putin’s regime becomes more corrupt, it’s more important than ever for him that he jams down the lid on potential dissent, on political defectors,” Johnson said.
“This is a way of saying ‘Look at what happens to people who stand up to our regime.’”
Russia has repeatedly asked for a sample of the toxin which was used to poison Skripal and his daughter. It has denied any involvement in the incident.
Johnson has now announced that Britain will hand over to the the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), of which both Russia and the UK are members.
Russia will adopt retaliatory measures “in the near future” in response to the actions of the UK, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday. “We expect to adopt retaliatory measures in response to the imposition of relevant unfriendly moves and measures by the United Kingdom against the Russian Federation,” Zakharova told a briefing.
The spokeswoman said that the UK had refused to cooperate with Russia “in fulfillment of its duties as a signatory of the Chemical Weapons Convention” and as a member of the OPCW.
“I would like to inform you that several diplomatic notes have been sent to the Foreign Office via the Russian embassy in the United Kingdom. They sought to launch an active dialogue with the officials in London… We received meaningless formal replies,” Zakharova said, clarifying that a total of four such notes had been sent.
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