Boris Johnson threatens sanctions before any evidence of Russian links to ex-spy’s illness (VIDEO)
Boris Johnson vowed to respond “robustly” if evidence emerges of Russian involvement in the illness of former double-agent Sergei Skripal. The foreign secretary did not rule out imposing new sanctions against Moscow.
Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a shopping center bench in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Sunday.
UK counter-terror police are currently racing to work out which, if any, “unknown substance” harmed the pair, who remain in a critical but stable condition. At least one of the emergency service workers remains in hospital after dealing with the incident.
Despite stressing that it was “wrong to prejudge the investigation,” Johnson, who was several minutes late to the session, warned that if MPs’ "suspicions (about Salisbury) prove to be well-founded, then it may very well be that we are forced to look again at our sanctions regime and other measures that we may seek to put in place."
“I am not now pointing fingers,” Johnson added, “because we cannot point fingers, I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on UK soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished.”
Continuing the foreign secretary even threatened to withdraw from the Russia 2018 World Cup, stating: "I think it will be difficult to see how UK representation at the World Cup can go ahead in the normal way.”
Breaking: Boris Johnson says UK involvement at World Cup in Russia may not 'go ahead in the normal way' if Russia link proven in ex-spy case.— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) March 6, 2018
In response, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Johnson’s comments on the Skripal case were "wild.” While the Russian embassy in the UK has denied that any national special services were involved in the incident, stating that the case was “demonizing” the country.
“The situation that is developing around the hospitalization of [Sergei] Skripal and his companion on March 4, as described by the British media, causes serious concern,” the embassy’s press secretary said in a statement.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We don’t possess any information about what could have been the cause [of Skripal’s illness], and what this could be connected to.” He added that Russia had no contact with the UK over the incident, but that “Moscow is always open to cooperation.”
In his address, Johnson reminded MPs of the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko, who died in London 12 years ago. However, the wife of the late former-KGB agent, Marina Litvinenko, was skeptical about the comparison, telling The Telegraph: "It looks similar to what happened to my husband but we need more information. We need to know the substance. Was it radioactive? We don't have enough information about what definitely happened.
"I cannot say I am worried but it is really strange, but I need to know what has happened and why. Logically, it is very strange to do this before a presidential election. It is really difficult to know who might be behind this. The only thing I can say is, if this is a poisoning… nothing has changed since my husband died."
Following Johnson's statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May was briefed on the investigation at the National Security Council, according to her spokesperson. "At a meeting of the National Security Council this afternoon, the prime minister and senior ministers were updated on the ongoing investigation in Salisbury," the spokesperson told reporters.
Skripal worked as a double agent for the UK intelligence agency MI6 and was jailed in Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain, having passed on the names of undercover Russian intelligence agents. Russia released four spies in exchange for 10 Russian agents.
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