U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley blamed Russia for a chemical attack carried out against a Russian ex-patriot living in England since 2010 and said that U.S. is standing in unity with its long-time ally, Great Britain.
“Let me make one thing clear from the start, the United States stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain. We believe that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military grade nerve agent,” Haley said yesterday at an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.
“If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. They could be used here in New York or in cities of any country that sits on this council,” she added.
Great Britain accuses Russia of poisoning 66-year-old Sergey Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia. The two were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury, a cathedral city in Wilshire, England, about ninety miles southwest of London on March 4. They have been hospitalized with their conditions described as critical since.
Authorities have determined that the Skripals are suffering from “exposure to a nerve agent.” That nerve agent has been identified as Novichok, a military grade substance developed in the Soviet Union during the 1970s.
A third victim, a British Detective that visited Skripal’s home at the outset of the investigation has also been hospitalized. His condition has been described as serious.
Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Britain in 2006. He was released in 2010 as part of a negotiated spy swap between the nations and had been living in Salisbury ever since. His daughter Yulia flew to England the day before the two were found.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a strongly-worded statement on Monday giving the Russian government two days to explain whether the attack was direct action by the Russian government or whether Russia had lost control of its stockpiles of chemical weapons.
“Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom,” she said.
Russia denied any involvement in the incident and said it would not respond officially unless given a sample of the suspected nerve agent to inspect.
May announced a series of retaliatory measures, meant to degrade Russian espionage networks in the U.K., including the expulsion of twenty-three Russian diplomats from England, the freezing of Russian assets and measures that could not “be shared publicly for reasons of National Security,” something understood to indicate cyber-warfare by observers.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement, called May’s announcement an “unprecedented, flagrant provocation that undermines the foundations of normal dialogue between our countries.”
“Obviously, by investigating this incident in a unilateral, non-transparent way, the British Government is again seeking to launch a groundless anti-Russian campaign. Needless to say, our response measures will not be long in coming,” they added.
The U.S. had previously avoided declarative statements about Russia’s involvement in Skirpal’s poisoning, but the White House has since issued more forceful statements about Russia’s involvement and the U.S. commitment to its ally.
“The United States stands in solidarity with its closest ally, the United Kingdom,” a White House statement read.
“This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes,” it continued.