13 days on and police still have no idea how Russian agent and his daughter were poisoned – as they reveal 131 local people came into contact with nerve agent and cordon off army base

Police appear no closer to knowing how a former Russian spy and his daughter were attacked 13 days ago as it was revealed 131 people in Salisbury may have been in contact with the deadly nerve agent.

Sergei Skripal could have been poisoned by the Novichok weapon after it was planted in his daughter’s suitcase in cosmetics or a gift before she left Moscow, it also emerged today.

Intelligence agencies are working on the theory that was hidden in Yulia Skripal’s luggage inside cosmetics or a gift and then opened in her father’s house in Salisbury around March

But detectives have still not said how and when Sergei and his daughter were poisoned and may not even know.

Wiltshire Police said last night that 131 people had not yet developed any symptoms but are being monitored via daily phone calls.

The nerve agent alert has also spread to Larkhill military base behind Stonehenge where experts in chemical protection suits towed away a car from outside houses belonging to Army officers.

Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia are at rock bottom after Theresa May blamed the Kremlin for the attack and announced a sanctions including the expulsion of 23 of its diplomats in London.

Russia said today its retaliation would be ‘well thought out’ and could ‘come at any minute’.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal left a trail of nerve agent in the restaurant after their poisoning and 131 people may have come into contact with it, it emerged today

Sergei and Yulia Skripal left a trail of nerve agent in the restaurant after their poisoning and 131 people may have come into contact with it, it emerged today

Skripal's maroon BMW is at the heart of the poison probe (pictured on CCTV) but sources have also said the nerve agent may have been smuggled into Britain in Yulia's suitcase

Skripal’s maroon BMW is at the heart of the poison probe (pictured on CCTV) but sources have also said the nerve agent may have been smuggled into Britain in Yulia’s suitcase

The nerve agent alert has also spread to Larkhill military base behind Stonehenge where experts in chemical protection suits towed away a car from outside houses belonging to Army officers

The nerve agent alert has also spread to Larkhill military base behind Stonehenge where experts in chemical protection suits towed away a car from outside houses belonging to Army officers

Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia are at rock bottom after Theresa May blamed the Putin's Kremlin for the attack. Mr Putin is at a hospital in St Petersburg on the campaign trail

Diplomatic relations between Britain and Russia are at rock bottom after Theresa May blamed the Putin’s Kremlin for the attack. Mr Putin is at a hospital in St Petersburg on the campaign trail

Detectives have still not said how Sergei and his daughter were poisoned - and may not even know - as they follow the poison trail (pictured)

Detectives have still not said how Sergei and his daughter were poisoned – and may not even know – as they follow the poison trail (pictured)

CCTV shows Skripal drive through Salisbury before poisoning
Graffiti sprayed on the pavement near the entrance to the Russian embassy and ambassador's residence in London yesterday

Graffiti sprayed on the pavement near the entrance to the Russian embassy and ambassador’s residence in London yesterday

Armed forces investigate nerve agent attack in Salisbury

Another report suggested they had been exposed to the substance in a shopping centre.

Russians living in UK beef up their security amid poisoning fears

A Russian resident at One Hyde Park has reportedly asked for a nuclear bunker-style air filtration system

A Russian resident at One Hyde Park has reportedly asked for a nuclear bunker-style air filtration system

Russians living in Britain have already increased their security after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal including air filtration systems usually found in nuclear bunkers.

Experts claim that clients have been asking for bodyguards and doctors to mind them around the clock in case they are attacked.

Others are having any food brought in checked for poison and are refusing to drink tap water.

Becky Fatemi, MD of Rokstone, a central London luxury estate agency said: ‘I’ve already had half a dozen of our Russian clients on the telephone to our Rokstone Concierge Service asking for information on bodyguards, extra security for their houses and dialling in for takeaway food.

One of my clients is also getting a special filter system connected to their air-conditioning system for their apartment in One Hyde Park.

‘They are stopping their usual food deliveries and getting random take-out food orders for safety, and are only drinking bottled water’.

By March 8, it was said detectives had moved away from the theory that the nerve agent was sprayed directly at Skripal, a source told MailOnline.

They were then instead said to be focusing more on the possibility that poison was added to his food or drink at some point before he collapsed.

This pointed the finger at The Mill pub in Salisbury and the Italian restaurant Zizzi as potential locations as to where they were poisoned.

But these theories were short-lived, with witnesses claiming they saw the chef prepare the risotto they shared at the Italian restaurant.

The notion their drinks were spiked at The Mill were also quickly debunked, seemingly putting investigators back to square one.

The following day, on March 9, Skripal’s cul-de-saq in Salisbury had been completely sealed off as police worked on the thesis that the nerve agent was posted through his letterbox.

Again, this came and went, and nearly 200 troops, including Royal Marines and chemical weapons experts, were drafted in to investigate the attack.

The quaint city had now unexpectedly found itself at the centre of the international incident, as investigators began to suspect the Kremlin of being behind the attempted assassination.

While Scotland Yard insisted ‘the public should not be alarmed’ and public health officials claim the incident poses a ‘low risk’ to residents, they were not wholly convinced, with locals complaining of being ‘kept in the dark’.

On March 10, Amber Rudd came out of the Cobra meeting to say police had obtained 200 pieces of evidence and identified 240 witnesses – suggesting they were no nearer any conclusions.

Police cordon tape surrounds the grave of Alexander Skripal, son of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, in the cemetery in Salisbury

Police cordon tape surrounds the grave of Alexander Skripal, son of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, in the cemetery in Salisbury

A blue tent covers Sergei Skripal's son's grave at the cemetery in Salisbury this morning

A blue tent covers Sergei Skripal’s son’s grave at the cemetery in Salisbury this morning

Investigators at Salisbury Cemetery where they dug up the grave of Sergei Skripal's wife. During this exercise, it was thought a bouquet of flowers were laced with the toxin, causing the former spy to be rendered unconscious

Investigators at Salisbury Cemetery where they dug up the grave of Sergei Skripal’s wife. During this exercise, it was thought a bouquet of flowers were laced with the toxin, causing the former spy to be rendered unconscious

A police officer carries a box outside Sergei Skripal's house in Salisbury. On March 9, Skripal's cul-de-saq in Salisbury was sealed off as police worked on the thesis that the nerve agent was posted through his letterbox

A police officer carries a box outside Sergei Skripal’s house in Salisbury. On March 9, Skripal’s cul-de-saq in Salisbury was sealed off as police worked on the thesis that the nerve agent was posted through his letterbox

Aerial footage shows police outside former spy Skripal’s home

Officers dug up Skripal’s wife’s grave as they scoured the city for clues.

During this exercise, it was thought a bouquet of flowers were laced with the toxin, causing the former spy to be rendered unconscious.

The cordon carried on extending a week after the attack, with cars, vans, parking ticket machines and belongings being seized from as far away as eight miles from Salisbury.

By this time, Theresa May had blamed Russia for the attack and identified the nerve agent used as the deadly Novichok.

But how the substance came into contact with the Skripals was still up in the air.

Moscow has launched a scathing assault on Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (poictured) accusing him of talking like a 'market wench' and suffering 'intellectual impotency' while preparing Britain for war with Russia

Moscow has launched a scathing assault on Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson (poictured) accusing him of talking like a ‘market wench’ and suffering ‘intellectual impotency’ while preparing Britain for war with Russia

Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (left), speaking in Kazakhstan, said Mr Williamson may 'lack education'

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov (left), speaking in Kazakhstan, said Mr Williamson may ‘lack education’

A day of political mudslinging ensued on March 12 as British-Russian relations plummeted to its lowest point since the Cold War.

On March 13, another leak from the investigation thrust Skripal’s maroon BMW into the heart of the probe.

It was initially thought the poison was somehow introduced to the car’s ventilation system, and that when the former double agent and his daughter travelled along inside it, they were contaminated.

But later that night, another theory was suggested – that the Novichok was smeared on the car’s door handles.

With no answers forthcoming from Scotland Yard, Theresa May banned 23 Russian diplomats from the UK and The Kremlin promised retaliation.

Another day of tit-for-tat rhetoric was thrown around the Westminster and Moscow before a theory entered from left-field – Yulia Skripal was the real target.

Sergei Skripal’s niece speculated Yulia had angered her boyfriend’s mother – a highly-ranked Russian security official – after saying she wanted to start a family.

But police appeared to still be focussing on the car.

A missing 40 minutes, from 1pm and 1.40pm on the day of the poisoning became the heartbeat of the investigation, with police desperately asking for information.

CCTV footage obtained by the Mail showed the BMW travelling towards the supermarket in the city.

The exact details of the movements of Sergei and his daughter are still being determined, but after visiting Sainsbury’s, they went to The Mill pub in The Maltings.

At 2.20pm, they arrived at Italian restaurant Zizzi where they dined before leaving at 3.35pm.

Between the restaurant and a park bench where they were found, there was a possible CCTV sighting on Market Walk at 3.47pm.

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said they remained in a critical condition in hospital, days after they were found slumped on the bench in the Wiltshire city at 4.15pm.

Neither he nor the Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley have been able to shed any light on the mystery.

The armed forces and emergency services swooped on Alderholt in Dorset this morning

The armed forces and emergency services swooped on Alderholt in Dorset this morning

Two large Army low loaders and a crane escorted by police arrived in the village this morning, and were believed to have taken DS Bailey's vehicle awa t of the Salisbury probe

Two large Army low loaders and a crane escorted by police arrived in the village this morning, and were believed to have taken DS Bailey’s vehicle awa t of the Salisbury probe

The armed forces closed off a road in the area where Wiltshire Police Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey - who was taken to hospital following the nerve agent attack - is believed to live

The armed forces closed off a road in the area where Wiltshire Police Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey – who was taken to hospital following the nerve agent attack – is believed to live

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said the activity is related to the Salisbury probe

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said the activity is related to the Salisbury probe

Military deployed to aid Salisbury poisoning investigation

And as the investigation knocks on the door of its second week and the suitcase has become the latest theory , the public are no clearer as to how the Skripals were poisoned.

The cordon following the Salisbury nerve agent attack yesterday spread to the street of the police officer who responded to the attack amid fears he took traces of it home.

The armed forces and emergency services swooped on the Dorset village of Alderholt this morning – closing off a road where Wiltshire Police Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was taken to hospital following the nerve agent attack, lives.

One police source told MailOnline: ‘I understand the investigation is concerned about cross contamination at DS Bailey’s address, which suggests he’d gone home.’

Two large Army low loaders and a crane escorted by police arrived in the village yesterday, and were believed to have taken DS Bailey’s vehicle away.

Moscow has launched an extraordinary verbal attack on Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson accusing him of talking like a ‘market wench’ who suffers ‘intellectual impotency’ after he told the Kremlin to ‘go away and shut up’.

The attack highlights the depth of the breakdown in relations between Moscow and London over the Salisbury nerve agent scandal as the Kremlin prepares its tit-for-tat expulsion of British diplomats.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov hit back as part of a concerted Moscow attack on Mr Williamson, who was also branded a ‘disgrace’ to Britain and accused of acting as if he was still going through puberty.

Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking in Kazakhstan, said this morning that Mr Williamson may ‘lack education’.

In his first major speech, Mr Williamson said yesterday 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.’

He warned Vladimir Putin any retaliatory action would only escalate tensions as he warned the UK-Russia relationship was now ‘exceptionally chilly’.

It came as Theresa May visited the scene of the poison plot for the first time yesterday, receiving flowers from well-wishers as she condemned the ‘despicable’ act. Downing Street also confirmed she met privately with DS Bailey during her trip to the hospital.

The Prime Minister met members of the emergency services and military at Salisbury’s Guildhall, including PC Way and PC Collins from Wiltshire Police.

The two officers were first to respond to the emergency call. PC Collins told the Prime Minister they had believed the incident was ‘a routine call’.

Mrs May remarked: ‘You had no idea what you were dealing with. Thank you – what you did was what police do day in and day out. A routine call and you don’t know what’s there. You did a great job.’

And speaking in Salisbury about a joint statement issued by the leaders of France, Germany, the US and the UK which called on Russia to address ‘all questions’ related to the nerve agent attack, Prime Minister Theresa May: ‘This happened in the UK, but it could have happened anywhere and we are taking a united stance against it.’

She added: ‘First of all there is a police investigation involving hundreds of officers being undergone into this particular act that took place here on the streets of Salisbury.

‘I’ve been down here today thanking all the emergency services for the work that they have been doing here, meeting the local community, hearing about the impact on the local community and seeing what a great city it is to come and visit.

 The investigation is said to be 'concerned about cross contamination at DS Bailey's address'

 The investigation is said to be ‘concerned about cross contamination at DS Bailey’s address’

An ambulance and fire engine in Alderholt, Dorset, this morning as the investigation widens

An ambulance and fire engine in Alderholt, Dorset, this morning as the investigation widens

Area in Dorset cordoned off following Salisbury spy investigation
Army remove contaminated car from Salisbury hospital

A statement posted by the French Embassy after the call between the PM and Mr Macron said: ‘Since the start of the week, the UK has kept France closely informed of the information collected by the British investigators, and of the elements which show Russian responsibility in the attack.

What action has Theresa May announced against Russia?

The PM unveiled the fleet of measures being taken against Russia yesterday

The PM unveiled the fleet of measures being taken against Russia yesterday

Theresa May has announced a fleet of tough measures against Russia in the wake of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. They include:

Expulsion of diplomats 

Britain will expel 23 Russian embassy staff who have been identified as ‘undeclared intelligence officers’ from the country within a week.

This is the biggest expulsion of diplomats since 1971 when Ted Heath kicked 90 Soviet staff out after the UK uncovered a large Communist spy ring.

All high-level contacts with Russia will also be suspended in protest.

New and tougher anti-espionage laws will be brought forward to help degrade Russia’s capabilities in the UK.

The World Cup: 

Ministers and the Royal Family will boycott the football World Cup in Russia this summer.

Britain hopes that other allies  will also snub the sporting event . 

Tougher Sanctions: 

Theresa May also signaled that Russian oligarchs wanting to come into the UK and live the high life in London will face tough new checks and sanctions.

The Government will now back amendments to bring in a Magnitsky Law into the UK – which imposes sanctions on Russians found to be linked to corruption or human rights abuses.

Private plane checks 

While checks on Russian nationals coming to the UK will be stepped up.

This will include increased checks on private flights and extra customs checks.

The UK will also freeze Russian state assets.

Cyber warfare? 

Mrs May suggested there will be covert action that would not be announced – an apparent hint at cyber attacks.

But this is unlikely to ever be confirmed by the Government officially.

‘France shares the assessment of the United Kingdom that there is no other plausible explanation and expresses once again its solidarity regarding its ally.’

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘President Macron said that France completely shares the UK’s assessment that there is no plausible explanation other than that Russia was responsible for the attack and he once again expressed his full support for the UK as a close and strong 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’.

Some 23 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.

Jeremy 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.

Meanwhile new footage has emerged of Sergei Skripal’s BMW being driven towards the centre of Salisbury on the day the double agent was poisoned.

CCTV at the Devizes Inn pub in the city captured Skripal driving to the supermarket which has now been cordoned off by counter-terror police, who are desperately trying to piece together his movements.

In the images, Skripal and his daughter Yulia are seen going towards the city centre at 1.35pm on March 4 in a maroon BMW 3-Series. The five-door car drives past the Devizes Inn pub followed by a red Ford Fiesta.

‘Evidence points towards Russia’: Corbyn on Salisbury poisoning
A man likely to be Mr Skripal is seen driving his BMW in Salisbury with his hand on the wheel
The BMW is driven towards the city centre of Salisbury

A man likely to be Mr Skripal is seen driving his BMW in Salisbury with his hand on the wheel

Detectives seized the CCTV from the pub on Tuesday night after earlier appealing for information about a crucial missing 40 minutes in the whereabouts of the former spy and his daughter in the car.

What is the Novichok nerve agent used against the Skripals?

The Novichok nerve agent used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is among the most deadly poisons ever created.

They were secretly developed by the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold war in the 1970s and 1980s.

Communist scientists developed the poison so it would not be able to be detected by Nato’s chemical detection equipment.

They come in the form of a ultra-fine powder, Novichok is up to eight times more potent than the deadly VX gas.

Victims who are poisoned by the powder suffer muscle spasms, breathing problems and then cardiac arrest.

There is a known antidote to the nerve agent –  atropine can block the poison.

But doctors find it very tricky to administer the antidote because the dose would have to be so high it could prove fatal for the person.

Novichok poisons are highly dangerous to handle, requiring the expertise of skilled scientists in a sophisticated lab.

Dr Vil Mirzayanov, former Chief of the Foreign Technical Counterintelligence Department at Russia’s premiere, was among the team of scientists who helped develop the agent.

In an article about the lethal weapon, he wrote: ‘They are extremely dangerous – most likely lethal – for people who would try to synthesise or manipulate them without the help of highly experienced scientists and engineers in special laboratory installations observing extreme safety measures.

‘Without exception, Novichok weapons cannot be used for any reason without specially trained military personnel under medical supervision.’

It is hoped this will help investigators establish the victims’ final movements in the hours before they were found critically ill on a bench amid claims a nerve agent could have been smeared on the car’s door handles.

Some 35 people in addition to the Skripals and Wiltshire Police Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey have been treated in hospital after the incident.

All have been assessed and discharged – apart from one, whose condition is still being monitored, police said on Tuesday.

Last night, the White House came down firmly on Britain’s side as the diplomatic drama shifted to the UN Security Council.

A showdown gathering at the world body saw Britain call on the international chemical weapons watchdog to verify its findings that Moscow is behind the Salisbury incident.

The UK’s deputy UN ambassador, Jonathan Allen, told a special meeting of the Security Council that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had been asked to go over the British analysis of the attack.

In heated exchanges at the Security Council gathering, Russia strongly denied it was involved in the Salisbury incident, and the US offered Britain its full support.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: ‘The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent. Dozens of civilians and first responders were also exposed.

‘If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. This is a defining moment.’

The Russian permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said: ‘We demand that material proof be provided of the allegedly found Russian trace in this high-resonance event.

‘Without this, stating that there is incontrovertible truth is not something that we can take into account.’

Forensics arrive at home of Russian businessman found dead
Yulia, 33, and Sergei Skripal, 66, are both fighting for their lives following the poison plot

Yulia, 33, and Sergei Skripal, 66, are both fighting for their lives following the poison plot

Investigators at The Mill pub in Salisbury yesterday after the incident nearby on March 4

Investigators at The Mill pub in Salisbury yesterday after the incident nearby on March 4

The Mill pub in Salisbury is among the areas of Salisbury being investigated by detectives

The Mill pub in Salisbury is among the areas of Salisbury being investigated by detectives

“Reckless, despicable and targeted attack”: Police on poisoning

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’.

Timeline of Sergei Skripal’s poisoning

Sunday, March 4th – 4.15pm: Wiltshire Police find a man and woman unconscious on a bench at the The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury and cordon off the area

Monday, 5th – 11am: Salisbury District Hospital, where the pair were taken, declares a major incident and its A&E department is closed.

8pm: Police officers are first seen outside Mr Skripal’s home in Salisbury

10pm: Police close a Zizzi restaurant near the shopping centre.

Tuesday, 6th –  11.30am: Police also cordon off the Bishop’s Mill pub in Salisbury, where Mr Skripal and his daughter may have gone after leaving Zizzi.

9pm: Firefighters in Hazmat suits are sent to an ambulance base in Amesbury, eight miles away from the scene where they were found.

Wednesday, 7th – 3:30pm: Cordon around Mr Skripal’s house is extended to the top of the cul-de-sac.

Thursday, 8th – 2pm: Police were revealed to have cordoned off the graves of Mr Skripal’s wife and son in Salisbury.

2pm: Police also extend the cordon around Mr Skripal’s home from 50 yards to 150 yards and around the corner.

7.30pm: Police in protective gear go to Ashley Wood Recovery in Salisbury to examine a maroon BMW-3 series, the same car driven by the former spy.

Friday, 9th –10am: Military convoy of 180 troops arrives in Salisbury, including chemical weapons experts, to join the investigation.

3pm: Detectives in Hazmat suits descend on Salisbury cemetery and removed items from Mrs Skripal and her son’s grave.

Sunday, 11th – The army remove police cars and ambulances thought to have been contaminated.

Monday, 12th – Army close off village of Winterslow and Sainsbury’s car park in Salisbury to remove vehicles.

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.

And 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’.

Russia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs branded Mrs May’s statement as ‘an unprecedentedly crude provocation that undermines the foundations of a normal interstate dialogue between our countries’.

Asked if the UK should be embarrassed it had allowed ‘bad people’ to park money in London, Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC2’s Newsnight: ‘I think we all collectively in the body politic have to take responsibility for that.

‘We have allowed the City of London’s reputation as a centre for world finance to be exploited by some pretty nasty individuals who have used illicit money flows from around the world to come here, either to harbour it, or to clean it, or to just move it around, or invest it.’

Meanwhile Australia has said it is weighing up joining the UK in taking action against Russia over the Salisbury spy poisoning.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country is ‘considering its responses in support of the United Kingdom’ over the Salisbury incident.

Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop said Mrs May had made ‘a compelling case’ on the Russian state’s responsibility for the attack and the country ‘stands with the UK in solidarity and supports, in the strongest terms, Prime Minister May’s response.’

Their statement said: ‘The Australian Government also supports the UK Government’s right to take retaliatory measures, including its decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats and to call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

‘Australia is considering its responses in support of the United Kingdom, in close consultation with the UK Government and other partners.’

Australia already has a range of sanctions in place against Russia, some of which were applied after the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in 2014.

International support grows for Britain following nerve agent attack

A number of Britain’s most powerful allies have pledged their support as pressure mounts on Russia in the wake of the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

US: Despite an initially lukewarm response from President Donald Trump and the sacking of secretary of state Rex Tillerson who condemned Russia’s alleged actions, the White House has now said America ‘stands in solidarity’ with the UK, agreeing that Russia was responsible for the attack.

In a statement released yesterday, the US said: ‘This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behaviour in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes.’

Mr Tillerson was fired on Tuesday, the day after branding Russia’s actions ‘outrageous’, adding: ‘Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.’

CANADA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced yesterday that he had spoken with Theresa May offering her Canada’s support.

He told reporters: ‘The attack is despicable and it is unacceptable that there would be chemical weapons used against citizens of the United Kingdom.’

He added: ‘Russia’s likely involvement is absolutely unacceptable and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms.’

AUSTRALIA : Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and foreign minister Julie Bishop announced in a joint statement their support for the UK’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the attack.

They even said that Australia was itself considering joining the UK in taking action against Russia, stating: ‘Australia is considering its responses in support of the United Kingdom, in close consultation with the UK Government and other partners.’

GERMANY : Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the attack and promised Theresa May her support in a phone call.

New German foreign minister Heiko Maas said yesterday it is ‘disappointing that Russia so far doesn’t appear to be prepared’ to help clear up the case.

He said that Germany would consult closely with London, adding ‘and we can fully and completely understand that Britain had to react to this’.

France: Britain’s closest neighbour has been cautious about laying the blame for the attack at Russia’s door, but said yesterday it would consult with the UK to coordinate a response and expressed its confidence in Britain’s investigation.

EUROPEAN UNION: European Council president Donald Tusk has announced he will be putting the poisoning on the agenda of next week’s EU meeting.

He tweeted: ‘I express my full solidarity with PM Theresa May in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow. I’m ready to put the issue on next week’s #EUCO agenda.’

‘For real friends, this should be obvious: At a time of fake news spreading, meddling in our elections, and attacks on people on our soil with nerve agent, the response must not be transatlantic bickering but transatlantic unity.’

NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (Nato) : The North Atlantic Council announced its strong support of the UK in a statement released yesterday.

It said: ‘Allies expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since Nato’s foundation.

‘Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK’s questions including providing full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

‘Allies agreed that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements.

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