Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said Russia does not intend to comply with British Prime Minister Theresa Mays demand Monday for an official explanation of how a nerve agent identified as Novichok, which was developed by the former Soviet Union, allegedly came to be used in the poisoning attack in southern England that targeted a former Russian spy and his adult daughter.
Lavrov insisted that Russian experts should be able to examine the British evidence but again denied Russian involvement in last weeks attack.
There has, however, been a history of Russian emigres dying in murky and sometimes not-so-murky circumstances in Britain.
And in the midst of the controversy over the chemical attack, British counterterrorism police said Tuesday they are investigating the unexplained death of another Russian national, Nikolai Glushkov, 68, in London. His body was found Monday, and police said they see no connection between the cases.
Glushkov had been an associate of the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who had fallen afoul of Russian President Vladimir Putin and lived in exile in Britain until his death by strangulation in 2013.
May spoke Tuesday afternoon with President Trump about the assault on the former spy, Sergei Skripal. She told him it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack, according to a statement released by the British Embassy.
Video: Trump says US will condemn Russia if found to be behind Skripal poisoning
Britains May gets EU support, cautious backing from Trump, in showdown with Russia
President Trump stated the United States stands in solidarity with its closest ally and is ready to provide any assistance the United Kingdom requests for its investigation, the White House stated. President Trump agreed with Prime Minister May that the government of the Russian Federation must provide unambiguous answers regarding how this chemical weapon, developed in Russia, came to be used in the United Kingdom.
Video: Theresa May: Skripal poisoning highly likely by Russia | Al Jazeera English
Were speaking with Theresa May today, and as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be, Trump said when asked about it by reporters outside the White House. It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have.
Britains immediate response will likely be to expel some Russian embassy staff, said Bond. "Getting rid of some identified intelligence officers in the Russian embassy. More importantly perhaps, we have a certain amount of financial leverage against those in [Russian President] Putins circle, who have property or other assets in the U.K." Other options being considered include boycotting the football World Cup in Russia this year and banning Kremlin state media, such as broadcaster Russia Today. Investigators said Skripal and his daughter, who arrived from Russia the day before, drove to a shopping center in Salisbury, where they had a drink at a pub and dinner at a restaurant. About a half hour later, emergency personnel were called to assist the two, who were found in "extremely serious condition" on a bench near the shopping center. The police officer who was first on the scene also remains hospitalized.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking en route to Washington from Africa on Monday evening, said the nerve agent clearly came from Russia, and he warned of consequences. Hours after Tillerson backed the British accusation, the White House announced Tuesday that he would be replaced as secretary of state by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
In Moscow, the Foreign Ministry said it presented the British ambassador with a strong protest over the unfounded accusations leveled at Russia by British authorities and stressed that Moscow would not respond to Londons ultimatum until the Russian side is provided with samples of the chemical substance.
And it promised that Russia would retaliate if sanctions are imposed. Any threats will not remain unanswered, the ministry said in a statement. The British side should be aware of that.
Trumps endorsement of Britains tough line, made during a phone call with May, came on the heels of messages of solidarity from Frances President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They gave the British prime minister additional hope of marshaling Western backing for her government as it heads towards a showdown with Putin.
May said the use of Novichok, which is believed to be unique to Russia, pointed to Moscows complicity in the poisoning of Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter in Salisbury, about 90 miles southwest of London. Both remain comatose.
Denying it had played any part in the attack, which left the 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia fighting for their lives, Russia said it would ignore the ultimatum until London handed over samples of the nerve agent used and complied with international obligations for joint investigations of such incidents.
Moscow to London: Let us examine nerve agent used in spy poisoning
In Moscow, Lavrov denied that Russia had anything to do with Skripals poisoning and reiterated Moscows willingness to cooperate if information related to the nature of the chemical agent was shared with Russia.
[What a brave Russian scientist told me about the Novichok nerve agent]
Video: UK gives Russia until end of Tuesday to explain spy poisoning
Lavrov said Britain has an obligation to share forensic data under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Russian spy: Embassy warns UK against punitive measures
Before delivering ultimatums to report to the British government within 24 hours, Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow, it is better to comply with your own obligations under international law — in this case, the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Russias representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Alexander Shulgin, told a meeting of the groups executive board Tuesday that Londons allegations of Russian involvement were unfounded and unacceptable, the Interfax news agency reported. He called on Britain to turn over samples to the organization for independent laboratory analysis.
His British counterpart, Peter Wilson, said investigators had concluded that Russia was responsible based on a positive identification of the chemical agents, a history that links Novichok to Russia, Russias record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations and a British assessment that Russia considers some defectors to be legitimate targets for assassination.
This attempted murder, using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British city, was not just a crime against the Skripals. It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, which put the lives of innocent civilians at risk, Wilson said.
Russia, he said, had either engaged in a direct attack against Britain or lost control of the nerve agent it developed.
Her Downing Street office said she discussed the Salisbury incident with U.S. President Donald Trump, and that the U.S. was with the U.K. all the way in agreeing that Russia must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used.
May had given Russia one day to provide an explanation. She promised to return to Parliament on Wednesday with a plan for specific action.
in her remarks, May described a reckless and indiscriminate attack against Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33. A police officer also remains hospitalized.
Skripal and his daughter were attacked more than 10 years after he was arrested and charged with working undercover for Britains MI6. He was freed in 2010 and allowed to move to the U.K., benefiting from a prisoner swap. He is now a U.K. citizen; he and his daughter remain in critical condition after being poisoned in the historic city of Salisbury, England.
On the Russian Foreign Ministrys verified Twitter account, the posts carried a characteristically flippant and sarcastic tone. It launched a hashtag, #HighlyLikelyRussia, and portrayed Mays ultimatum as part of broader anti-Russian hysteria plaguing Western discourse.
Sincere thanks to Mrs. May for #HighlyLikelyRussia, a tweet read. The post included a video of recent intense snowfall in Britain, mockingly suggesting that Russia was to blame for the weather. The video concludes with an image of a penguin, and signs off with at least penguin enjoys it.
Reiterating British Prime Minister Theresa Mays statement that it was “highly likely” Russia was to blame for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, Johnson said, “the use of this nerve agent would represent the first use of nerve agents on the continent of Europe since the Second World War.”
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Federation Council, Russias upper chamber of parliament, wrote on Facebook that Mays accusations were despicable and unacceptable.
For Britain, the Queen of Courts, this is a complete degradation, Kosachev wrote. The accused has to provide the proof, not the court or the prosecutor, without being given access either to the evidence or the trial itself.
Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, asserted that the British allegations were part of a planned effort to interfere in Sundays Russian presidential election.
Russia rejects midnight ultimatum over UK nerve agent attack
It is during this period that these events unfold in order to try to discredit Russia in the eyes [of] the international community, in order to create this unfavorable background in the conduct of the election campaign, he said, according to Interfax. Citing this interference in our elections, he added: The form chosen is the most cynical, when the health of citizens is put at risk. . . . Once again I want to say that Britain is responsible for this.
His counterpart in the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko, echoed his words.
Kremlin threatens to expel all UK media if Britain shuts down Russian broadcaster
In Russia, a very important political campaign is underway on preparing for the presidential election, Matviyenko said. This is another fake aimed at whipping up another round of the Russophobic campaign.
Conspiracy theories rife in Russia over Sergei Skripal poisoning
While most of the reactions have so far avoided the topic of Novichok, the nerve agent, other members of Russias Federation Council addressed the accusations head-on.
Council member Igor Morozov, a veteran of the Russian security services, told the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia has not only stopped producing nerve agents, including Novichok, but also completely destroyed all of its stockpiles.
However, he also said it would be dangerous but possible to secretly produce Novichok, although that would require special facilities and technicians.
Last year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced the destruction of Russias final batch of declared chemical weapons. However, Russian scientists who blew the whistle on Novichoks existence in 1992 claimed at the time that the nerve agent was designed specifically to skirt chemical weapons conventions.
Russia must prove its hands are clean
The long, terrifying history of Russian dissidents being poisoned abroad
Even if a Russian hit on British soil is confirmed, what can London do about it?
Russia demands access to nerve agent
Putin says he wishes the Soviet Union had not collapsed. Many Russians agree.
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