United Kingdom on high alert against Russian cyber-attack threat

19 March, 2018, 13:23 | Author: Yolanda Murray
  • SOMERSET LIVE

"The lives of many citizens were threatened by this reckless and illegal act", European Union foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels, where they were briefed by Johnson on the latest developments surrounding the March 4 poisoning in Salisbury that left Sergei Skripal and his daughter in critical condition.

"We destroyed all our chemical weapons under the supervision of worldwide organisations, and we did it first, unlike some of our partners who promised to do it, but unfortunately did not keep their promises", Putin said.

Johnson also said he had been heartened by strong expressions of support from the United States and other allies - although it remains unclear whether there will be a coordinated global response to the Novichok attack.

In the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats from London since the Cold War, Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday gave 23 Russians who she said were spies working under diplomatic cover a week to leave London.

Sergei Skripal, 66 and Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Boris Johnson said: "We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russian Federation has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok".

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London and its allies have blamed Moscow for the attack which left the Skripals in critical condition after exposure to a nerve agent.

Independent inspectors will arrive in the United Kingdom on Monday to test the substance used in the attack, but the results will take at least two weeks.

Johnson called the accusation "satirical", adding it was "not the response of a country that really believes itself to be innocent".

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny had boycotted the presidential election and advised other Russians to do the same. Results from more than half of precincts showed Putin winning over 75 percent of the vote, with Communist candidate Pavel Grudinin and ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky trailing far behind with about 13 and 6 percent, respectively.

The sanctions prompted a swift threat of retaliation from the Russian government, which said a response was already being prepared.

Johnson accused the Russians of "smug sarcasm and denial" in response to the accusations, and said the worldwide community was behind Britain.

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He said these could include "defending ourselves against cyber-attack, (and) looking at any economic measures that could be taken against Russians who corruptly obtained their wealth".

Putin said that Moscow would cooperate with the U.K.in an investigation of the poisonings, calling them a "tragedy".

UK-Russia relations have been fractious ever since the assassination of another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006.

File image of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"We said it right away", he said. "And this will continue, because this is our foreign policy: very aggressive and very unpleasant".

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