Britain Says Likely That Russia's Putin Made Decision For Nerve Agent Attack

May announced a number of moves including the expulsion of 23 diplomats and the suspension of high-level contacts with RussiaMore

Geopolitical tensions are mounting since the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury earlier this month, in what Western powers see as the latest sign of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling overseas.

The Trump administration placed sanctions on Russian organisations and individuals on Thursday, including the FSB and GRU intelligence agencies as well as the Internet Research Agency, accusing them of staging cyber attacks on United States infrastructure.

Relations between Britain and Russian Federation have been strained since the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 in London in 2006, a killing which a British inquiry said was probably approved by Putin.

Russian foreign ministry summoned the United Kingdom ambassador to the country Laurie Bristow to inform him about Moscow's retaliation over Britain's decision to expel Russian diplomats.

Mr Lavrov had earlier said that Moscow had "stopped paying attention" to the poisoning claims, and called UK's refusal to work with Russian Federation a "violation of worldwide agreements".

Russia's move came after Britain's decision on Wednesday to expel 23 Russian diplomats over the nerve toxin attack in the English city of Salisbury that left a former Russian spy and his daughter critically ill in hospital. They remain in critical condition.

And she also warned more measures could follow, noting that the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance and the UN Security Council had discussed the attack.

Russia, which denies any involvement in the attack, called the measures announced by May "unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted" and warned Britain to expect retaliation. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said neither Russian Federation nor the Soviet Union had run a programme to develop Novichok.

Earlier this week, Britain announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and suspension of high-level contacts over the poisoning.

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"A final decision [on retaliatory measures] will, of course, be made by the president of the Russian Federation", presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to state-run Tass media.

On March 15, 2018, U.K blocked a Russia-initiated United Nations Security Council statement on the incident of poisoning. He said the chemical was too risky for anyone but a "high-level senior scientist" to handle and that even he - who worked for 30 years inside the secret military installation where Novichok was developed and gained extensive personal experience in handling the agent - would not know how to weaponize it.

In a rapid escalation of a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the U.K.'s problem was not with the Russian people but with the Russian leader.

Trump has frequently questioned a January 2017 finding by USA intelligence agencies that Russian Federation interfered in the 2016 campaign using hacking and propaganda in an effort eventually aimed at tilting the race in Trump's favor.

Sixty-six-year-old Sergei was a former Russian military intelligence colonel who had been a long-time asset of MI6, the British intelligence agency.

At home, the British government has been under pressure from members of parliament and media to show it is getting tough on Russian Federation, with some experts saying that despite the rhetoric the response did not go far enough to bother Putin.

Skripal moved to Salisbury after being jailed for passing Russian state secrets to British intelligence while working for the Russian government in the 1990s.

Confirming Labour's support for Mrs May's actions, Mr Corbyn said: "We agree with the Government's action in relation to Russian diplomats".

Johnson said the evidence of Russian guilt was "overwhelming" because only Moscow had access to the poison used and a motive for harming Skripal.

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