19 | MAY | 2019
Britain wants 'proportionate' response to Russia after spy poisoning
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium – Photo: Francois Lenoir/REUTERS

Britain wants 'proportionate' response to Russia after spy poisoning

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Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a “long-term response” by the West to the security threat from Russia

Britain is looking for a “proportionate way” to respond to the threat posed by Russia, a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said on Tuesday, after a retired Russian army official said the poisoning of a former spy could start a new world war.

“We need to respond in a proportionate way to this aggressive behavior from Russia and that’s what we’re doing,” the spokesman said when asked if there was a real risk of triggering a war.

Evgeny Buzhinsky, a retired Lieutenant General, was quoted in British newspapers on Tuesday as saying the fallout of the attack could trigger “the last war in the history of mankind.”

Last week, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for a “long-term response” by the West to the security threat from Russia as NATO followed member states in expelling Russian diplomats over the poisoning of a double agent in England.

In the most sweeping such action against Moscow since the height of the Cold War, the United States and European Union members plan to expel scores of Russian diplomats in action against the Kremlin for the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter which they have blamed on Russia.

Russia, which denies any part in the March 4 attack on the Skripals, says the West’s action is a “provocative gesture” and has said it will respond.

The coordinated action among Western allies is seen as a huge diplomatic coup for May whose country is preparing to exit the EU bloc and may have had doubts about how much support she could count on.

Last Tuesday, the U.S.-led NATO alliance followed suit announcing it was expelling seven diplomats from Russia’s mission at alliance headquarters in Brussels and blocking the appointment of three others, thus cutting the size of the mission to 20 people from 30.

EU member Ireland and Moldova on Tuesday joined the list of those countries expelling Russian diplomats over the Skripal poisoning.

The list includes 22 European countries including Britain itself which led the way by expelling 23 diplomats.

Russia has not disclosed yet what retaliatory steps it will take. Last Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin was in the Siberian city of Kemerovo at the scene of a shopping mall fire which claimed many lives. He made no comment on the Skripal affair.

Skripal’s poisoning, which Britain says was caused by use of the Soviet-era military-grade nerve agent Novichok, is the first known offensive use of a nerve toxin in Europe since World War Two.

The attack on the 66-year-old Skripal and Yulia Skripal, his 33-year-old daughter, took place in the English cathedral city of Salisbury where he had been living since being swapped in a spy exchange deal in 2010.

They were found on March 4 unconscious on a public bench in the city and a British court says they may have suffered permanent brain damage in the attack.

The Kremlin has accused Britain of whipping up an anti-Russia campaign and sought to cast doubt on the British analysis that Moscow was responsible.

Therefore, Russia expelled 59 diplomats from 23 countries by Friday and said it reserved the right to take action against four other nations in a worsening standoff with the West.

A day earlier, Moscow ordered the expulsion of 60 U.S. diplomats and the closing of the U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia’s second city, in retaliation for the biggest ejection of diplomats since the Cold War.

During the course of Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry summoned senior embassy officials from Australia, Albania, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the Netherlands, Croatia, Ukraine, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada and the Czech Republic.

Four other countries — Belgium, Hungary, Georgia, and Montenegro announced that they too were expelling Russian diplomats over the Skripal affair, and Moscow reserved the right to take retaliatory action against them too, it said.


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