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- UK Foreign secretary calls Russia a “malign force” following the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy on UK soil
- Boris Johnson accuses Putin’s regime of undermining the entire international order.
- He says the case of Sergei Skripal has “echoes” of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko.
- He promises to “bring Russia to heel” and says UK may boycott the World Cup in Russia.
LONDON – Boris Johnson has called Russia a “malign” force and promised that it will be “brought to heel” following the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, who is in her 30s, were found collapsed on a bench at a shopping centre in Salisbury, south England, on Sunday. Both are in critical condition at a nearby hospital.
The foreign secretary promised a “robust” response to the suspected poisoning, including possible sanctions and the UK government boycotting the World Cup in Russia.
“I can reassure the House that should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility then her majesty’s government will respond appropriately and robustly,” Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons.
On the UK’s involvement in the upcoming World Cup, he added that “It will be very difficult to see whether UK representation at that event can go ahead.”
A spokesperson for the foreign secretary told BI that he had only been referring to officials rather than the team itself.
The UK foreign secretary told MPs that the Skripal case had “echoes” of the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 and said the UK would act if a link is found to Moscow in this case.
In a forthright attack on Russia, Johnson accused the regime led by President Putin of undermining Western democracy.
“Russia is in many respects a malign and disruptive force,” Johnson told MPs as he described the alleged poisoning of Skripal as a potential “act of war.”
He added: “I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent lives on our soil will go unpunished.”
He accused Russia of undermining the international order.
“This house has profound differences with Russia,” he said.
“By annexing Crimea in 2014 and igniting the flames of conflict… and by threatening western democracies including interfering in their elections…
“Russia has challenged fundamental basis of international order.”
Earlier on Tuesday Mark Rowley, Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, confirmed that the country’s counterterrorism officers were working with Wiltshire Police to establish exactly what happened.
He told the BBC’s “Today” radio programme on Tuesday: “It’s a very unusual case and the critical thing is to get to the bottom of what’s causing his illness as quickly as possible.
“If you look back at other cases like [Alexander] Litvinenko, if necessary we will bring that investigation into the counterterrorism network.”
A spokesperson for prime minister Theresa May said she would not be commenting on the case while police were investigating.
“All relevant departments including number 10 are being kept up to date on developments,” they said.
“This is an ongoing investigation. I’m not going to comment on an ongoing investigation. These are operational matters for the police. The police need to be able to get on with their work.”