Leaders of the US, France, Germany and Canada have said they have “full confidence” in the UK’s conclusion that the two Salisbury poisoning suspects were members of Russia’s GRU intelligence service.
The nations issued a joint statement on Thursday afternoon, in which they also said the operation was “almost certainly” approved at a senior level of the Moscow government.
The statement sees Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump “reiterate our outrage at the use of a chemical nerve agent, known as Novichok”.
It says: “We welcome the progress made in the investigation into the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and take note of the attempted murder charges brought yesterday against two suspects.
“We commend the work of the UK police and all those involved in this investigation.
“We also note the UK’s analysis, independently verified by the OPCW, that the exact same chemical nerve agent was used in the poisoning of Dawn Sturgess and Charles Rowley as was used in the poisoning of the Skripals.
“We urge Russia to provide full disclosure of its Novichok programme to the OPCW.
“And we encourage those with information about the attack in Salisbury on March 4, as well as the further poisoning in Amesbury, to come forward to the UK authorities.
“We have full confidence in the British assessment that the two suspects were officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU, and that this operation was almost certainly approved at a senior government level.
“We have already taken action together to disrupt the activities of the GRU through the largest ever collective expulsion of undeclared intelligence officers.”
Referring to May’s Commons speech on Wednesday – which saw the prime minister name the suspects and state they are part of the GRU – the statement concludes: “Yesterday’s announcement further strengthens our intent to continue to disrupt together the hostile activities of foreign intelligence networks on our territories, uphold the prohibition of chemical weapons, protect our citizens and defend ourselves from all forms of malign state activity directed against us and our societies.”
Addressing a United Nations security council meeting, the UK’s UN ambassador also gave an update.
Karen Pierce told the meeting that the UK continues to “hold out hope that we will once again enjoy a strong partnership” with Russia.
“We have fought alongside Russian troops in the second world war,” she said. “But we will respond robustly when our security is threatened, when the lives of our citizens are endangered, and when the norms and rules of international law, and the international system, are flouted in such a brazen and reckless manner.
“We stand with our partners and allies. We are determined to continue to disrupt together, the hostile activities of of foreign intelligence networks on our territories.
“We will uphold the prohibition of chemical weapons. We will protect our citizens.
“And we will defend ourselves from all forms of malign state activity directed against us and our societies.”
In response, Russian UN ambassador Vasily Nebenzya continued to deny Russia’s involvement in the poisoning: “Half a year later, it is still not clear why Russia would want to poison the Skripals and why they would do it in such a strange sophisticated and illogical way.
“We were told a gel was applied to the door handle and now Theresa may has said the suspects brought with them a perfume bottle. There are lots of such inconsistencies.
“The only one that has gained from this is the Nina Ricci company which has received a lot of free advertising.”
“London needs this story for one purpose - to release a disgusting anti-Russian hysteria,” he claimed. “The number of issues with the British evidence is off the charts.”
After the five leaders’ statement was released, May tweeted:
Prosecutors will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of the two men, but a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained.
Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned by military-grade nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury in March.
Three months later Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, from nearby Amesbury, were hospitalised after coming into contact with Novichok found in a perfume bottle picked up by Rowley.
Sturgess later died and a murder inquiry was launched.
Earlier today, security minister Ben Wallace insisted Vladimir Putin is ultimately responsible for the attack.
Speaking on Radio 4′s Today programme, he said: “It is his government that controls, funds and directs the military intelligence – that’s the GRU – via his minister of defence.
“The GRU is, without doubt, not rogue, it is led, linked to both the senior members of the Russian general staff and the defence minister and, through that, into the Kremlin and the president’s office.”