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Putin dismisses claims Russian Federation was involved in spy's poisoning as 'nonsense'

19 March 2018, 01:22 | Hattie Nash

The Labour leader was criticised for his comments about Russian donorsPA

The Labour leader was criticised for his comments about Russian donors

The Prime Minister said Russia's tit-for-tat reaction to her measures following the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal did not "change the facts" that she regarded the state responsible.

Diplomats say that, at a minimum, Russian Federation has lost control of chemical weapons in breach of the treaty, a charge at this stage much more easily sustainable than alleging direct responsibility for the attack.

Russia has opened its own criminal investigation into the attempted murder of Yulia, a Russian citizen, and also Nikolai Glushkov, a Russian exile Scotland Yard said died from "compression to the neck" at his home in New Malden, south-west London.

Boris Johnson, who was due to brief fellow European Union ministers in Brussels later on Monday, also won renewed support from the bloc, though diplomats cautioned there was no immediate prospect of fresh economic sanctions on Russian Federation over the attack.

Mr Johnson is travelling to Brussels to seek further support for Britain's stance, from both the European Union and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The team of independent investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrive in the United Kingdom on Monday from The Hague.

Officials from the world's chemical weapons watchdog will arrive in Britain today to investigate the samples used in the attack and the results should be known in about two weeks, Britain's foreign ministry said. The pair remain critically ill in the hospital. They were found slumped on a bench near a shopping centre in the centre of Salisbury, having visited a pub and a restaurant.

Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, who heads up the national counter-terror police network which is leading the Salisbury investigation, appealed for anyone with information about the "despicable" and "appalling" attack to come forward.

They have renewed their appeal for sightings of Mr Skripal's burgundy BMW 320D saloon vehicle, registration HD09 WAO, in Salisbury on the morning of 4 March.

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He suggested that would have been the only way for British authorities to identify the nerve agent so soon.

It comes after NHS England said Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, the police officer exposed to the Novichok agent in Salisbury, is no longer in a critical condition.

In his first comments on the incident, Putin referred to the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter as a "tragedy", but added that if the British claim that they were poisoned by the Soviet-designed nerve agent were true, the victims would have been killed instantly.

But, the Foreign Office dismissed the claim, saying it had "information indicating that within the last decade, Russian Federation has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination".

Britain and Russian Federation have each expelled 23 diplomats, broken off high-level contacts and taken other punitive steps in the escalating tit-for-tat dispute, which clouded the run-up to Sunday's presidential election in Russian Federation.

The ministry also declared it was closing the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg and the British Council in Russian Federation, in a step beyond the measures taken by Britain.

"We need to put pressure on Russian Federation to take part in a real enquiry about the attack", Belgium's Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters.

"We have said on different levels and occasions that Russian Federation has nothing to do with this story", he said.

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