UK Ambassador to Georgia on Salisbury Incident

Repost from the official facebook page of the British Embassy in Georgia.

On Sunday March 4, in Salisbury in England, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on a public bench, slipping out of consciousness, and were taken to hospital by emergency services, where they remain in a critical condition.

Investigations by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down have identified that they were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. This is part of a group of nerve agents known as ‘Novichok’.

A British police officer was also exposed to this nerve agent and remains in hospital in a serious condition. Hundreds of others were potentially exposed in this indiscriminate and reckless act. We have deployed our military to secure and decontaminate numerous sites.

Based on detailed investigations and on the knowledge that Russia has previously produced this nerve agent, combined with Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations, the British Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

We decided that there were only two plausible explanations. Either:

  • This was a direct act by the Russian state against the United Kingdom;
  • Or the Russian government had lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson summoned the Russian Ambassador and asked him to explain which of these two explanations was correct. Russia offered no explanation as to how this Russian-produced nerve agent came to be used in Salisbury against Mr Skripal and his daughter; and no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law.

We have therefore concluded that this amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom.

We have not jumped to conclusions. We have carried out a thorough, careful investigation, which continues. We have asked the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to independently verify the nerve agent used. We have offered Russia the chance to explain. But Russia has refused.

I know that our friends in Georgia will not be surprised by these developments. This unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK is part of an established pattern of Russian state aggression deployed against Georgia and in other parts of Europe, including Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May set out to Parliament the full range of measures that we will take in response to the Kremlin’s decisions. These include:

  • The expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers.
  • The development of more targeted powers to detain people we suspect of acting for Hostile States at the UK border.
  • Proposals for new counter-espionage powers and stronger powers to impose sanctions on those who violate human rights.
  • Freezing of Russian State assets wherever we have evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents.
  • Suspension of all planned high-level bilateral contacts with Russia.

While our response must be robust it must also remain true to our values – as a liberal democracy that believes in the rule of law. And in taking these measures we have been clear that we have no disagreement with the people of Russia. It is the reckless acts of their government which we oppose.

We are sincerely grateful for the firm support of our strategic partner Georgia and many other countries around the world. We have heard the attacks and threats Russia has made over the past few days. We know there will be more to come. This is how Russia has acted in every other case where it has been caught flouting international law: denial, distraction and threats.

But we will not let such threats deter us. We will stand firm, confident in our democracy and the rule of law. We will stand by the values which we share with the people of Georgia and the overwhelming majority of the international community.

Justin McKenzie Smith
British Ambassador to Georgia