LONDON: Britain pointed the finger at Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England — a charge that Moscow rejected as “unacceptable.”
The leaders of the United States, France, Germany and Canada later said they had “full confidence” in Britain’s assessment that officers from Russia’s military intelligence service were behind the Novichok attack that nearly killed Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.
British Security Minister Ben Wallace said that Putin was “ultimately” responsible for the poisoning in the southwestern city of Salisbury, prompting an angry response from Moscow.
“For us any sort of accusation regarding the Russian leadership is unacceptable,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.
Britain has previously accused Russia of orchestrating the attack, but Moscow denies any involvement and insists it is ready to cooperate in any investigation.
“Neither Russia’s top leadership nor those in the ranks below, nor any official representatives have anything to do with the events in Salisbury,” Peskov said.
London and its allies expelled dozens of Russian diplomats after the poisoning, prompting a tit-for-tat response from Moscow and plunging relations to a new low.
In a major new development, Prime Minister Theresa May announced Wednesday that police had issued international arrest warrants for the two suspects, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
She said they were members of Russian military intelligence and acted on orders from a “high level,” but Wallace went further when asked if Putin had any responsibility.
“Ultimately he does in so far as he is the president of the Russian Federation and it is his government that controls, funds and directs the military intelligence, the GRU, via his ministry of defense,” Wallace told BBC radio.