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Theresa May is heading to Salisbury to for briefing

Theresa May today visited the scene of the Salisbury poison plot for the first time, as the military cordoned off part of another village near the city.

The armed forces and emergency services swooped on Alderholt this morning, closing off a road in the area where Wiltshire Police Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was taken to hospital following the nerve agent attack, is believed to live. 

The Prime Minister will speak to emergency services, members of the public and local businesses, and will also receive a briefing from Public Health England.

It came as Home Secretary Amber Rudd was chairing a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee in London to discuss the latest situation.

Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the scene of the poison plot in Salisbury this afternoon

Mrs May speaks to Wiltshire Police Temporary Chief Constable Kier Pritchard (left) today

Mrs May speaks to Wiltshire Police Temporary Chief Constable Kier Pritchard (left) today

An ambulance and fire engine in Alderholt, Wiltshire, this morning as the investigation widens

An ambulance and fire engine in Alderholt, Wiltshire, this morning as the investigation widens

The investigation has led to a series of locations around Salisbury being cordoned off

The investigation has led to a series of locations around Salisbury being cordoned off

Environment Secretary Michael Gove chaired a cross-governmental ministerial recovery group looking at support to provide the people of Salisbury after the plot.

Mrs May told reporters in Salisbury today: ‘We do hold Russia culpable for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act that’s taken place on the streets of what is such a remarkable city where people come and visit and enjoy.

‘I’ve come down here today also to say thank you to our emergency services, to our police, to our health services, to everybody at Porton Down and elsewhere, Public Health England, who’ve been working so hard and continue to work hard to investigate and to get to the bottom of those responsible. 

‘But also to ensure that the public are reassured. It’s been great to meet some tourists here in Salisbury, people coming to Salisbury, still enjoying this great city.’

A police officer works with his sniffer dog in Salisbury today following the poison plot

A police officer works with his sniffer dog in Salisbury today following the poison plot

A police officer stands outside The Mill pub in Salisbury today as the investigation continues

A police officer stands outside The Mill pub in Salisbury today as the investigation continues

Police stand today next to a tent over a bench where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found

Police stand today next to a tent over a bench where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found

The PM’s spokesman said subjects discussed included the clean-up of affected areas and the issue of compensation to businesses will be ‘looked at in the usual way’. 

Moscow has warned it will expel British diplomats ‘soon’ after the Prime Minister announced the biggest expulsion of Russian embassy staff since the Cold War.

Mrs May and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed developments in the case after reports of a lukewarm response from the French government, but Paris later insisted that there was ‘no other plausible explanation’ for the poisoning.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson confirmed the UK will submit a sample of the nerve agent to the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for it to test.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said expulsion of British diplomats would ‘definitely’ happen. The US threw its diplomatic weight behind the UK today, saying it ‘stands in solidarity with its closest ally’.

A police van is parked next to a tent covering the headstone of Sergei Skripal's son Alexandr

A police van is parked next to a tent covering the headstone of Sergei Skripal’s son Alexandr

A Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury city centre has been cordoned off by police as they investigate

A Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury city centre has been cordoned off by police as they investigate

 

A statement posted by the French Embassy after the call between the PM and Mr Macron said: ‘Since the start of the week, the UK has kept France closely informed of the information collected by the British investigators, and of the elements which show Russian responsibility in the attack.

What action has Theresa May announced against Russia?

The PM today unveiled the fleet of measures being taken against Russia yesterday

The PM today unveiled the fleet of measures being taken against Russia yesterday

Theresa May has announced a fleet of tough measures against Russia in the wake of the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. They include:

Expulsion of diplomats 

Britain will expel 23 Russian embassy staff who have been identified as ‘undeclared intelligence officers’ from the country within a week.

This is the biggest expulsion of diplomats since 1971 when Ted Heath kicked 90 Soviet staff out after the UK uncovered a large Communist spy ring.

All high-level contacts with Russia will also be suspended in protest. 

New and tougher anti-espionage laws will be brought forward to help degrade Russia’s capabilities in the UK. 

The World Cup: 

Ministers and the Royal Family will boycott the football World Cup in Russia this summer. 

Britain hopes that other allies  will also snub the sporting event . 

Tougher Sanctions: 

Theresa May also signaled that Russian oligarchs wanting to come into the UK and live the high life in London will face tough new checks and sanctions.

The Government will now back amendments to bring in a Magnitsky Law into the UK – which imposes sanctions on Russians found to be linked to corruption or human rights abuses. 

Private plane checks 

While checks on Russian nationals coming to the UK will be stepped up.

This will include increased checks on private flights and extra customs checks.

The UK will also freeze Russian state assets. 

Cyber warfare? 

Mrs May suggested there will be covert action that would not be announced – an apparent hint at cyber attacks.

But this is unlikely to ever be confirmed by the Government officially. 

‘France shares the assessment of the United Kingdom that there is no other plausible explanation and expresses once again its solidarity regarding its ally.’

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘President Macron said that France completely shares the UK’s assessment that there is no plausible explanation other than that Russia was responsible for the attack and he once again expressed his full support for the UK as a close and strong ally.’

Mr Johnson said the UK’s response means Russia’s intelligence capabilities in the country had been ‘basically eviscerated’ for decades.

The Foreign Secretary claimed Russian President Vladimir Putin wanted to send a message to any defecting Russians that ‘you’re going to die’.

Announcing sanctions in the House of Commons, the PM said the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia amounted to ‘an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom’.

Mrs May announced the suspension of high-level contacts with Russia, including a boycott of this summer’s World Cup by Government ministers and members of the royal family.

She said Russian state assets will be frozen ‘wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents’.

Some 23 Russian diplomats identified as undeclared intelligence officers have been given a week to leave the UK, in the largest mass expulsion since 31 were ordered out in 1985 following the defection of double agent Oleg Gordievsky.

Jeremy Corbyn drew criticism for his stance on the Salisbury incident after his spokesman said the history of the use of information from UK intelligence agencies is ‘problematic’ and refused to say that the Labour leader accepted the Russian state was at fault.

The spokesman’s comments prompted Labour backbencher John Woodcock to table an Early Day Motion ‘unequivocally’ accepting the ‘Russian state’s culpability’ for the attack, and supporting ‘fully’ the statement made by Mrs May in the Commons.

Meanwhile new footage has emerged of Sergei Skripal’s BMW being driven towards the centre of Salisbury on the day the double agent was poisoned. 

CCTV at the Devizes Inn pub in the city captured Skripal driving to the supermarket which has now been cordoned off by counter-terror police, who are desperately trying to piece together his movements.  

In the images, Skripal and his daughter Yulia are seen going towards the city centre at 1.35pm on March 4 in a maroon BMW 3-Series. The five-door car drives past the Devizes Inn pub followed by a red Ford Fiesta.

A man likely to be Mr Skripal is seen driving his BMW in Salisbury with his hand on the wheel

The BMW is driven towards the city centre of Salisbury

A man likely to be Mr Skripal is seen driving his BMW in Salisbury with his hand on the wheel

Sergei and Yulia Skripal left a trail of nerve agent in the restaurant after their poisoning

Sergei and Yulia Skripal left a trail of nerve agent in the restaurant after their poisoning

Detectives seized the CCTV from the pub on Tuesday night after earlier appealing for information about a crucial missing 40 minutes in the whereabouts of the former spy and his daughter in the car.

What is the Novichok nerve agent used against the Skripals?

The Novichok nerve agent used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is among the most deadly poisons ever created.

They were secretly developed by the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold war in the 1970s and 1980s.

Communist scientists developed the poison so it would not be able to be detected by Nato’s chemical detection equipment.

They come in the form of a ultra-fine powder, Novichok is up to eight times more potent than the deadly VX gas.

Victims who are poisoned by the powder suffer muscle spasms, breathing problems and then cardiac arrest.

There is a known antidote to the nerve agent –  atropine can block the poison.

But doctors find it very tricky to administer the antidote because the dose would have to be so high it could prove fatal for the person. 

Novichok poisons are highly dangerous to handle, requiring the expertise of skilled scientists in a sophisticated lab.

Dr Vil Mirzayanov, former Chief of the Foreign Technical Counterintelligence Department at Russia’s premiere, was among the team of scientists who helped develop the agent.

In an article about the lethal weapon, he wrote: ‘They are extremely dangerous – most likely lethal – for people who would try to synthesise or manipulate them without the help of highly experienced scientists and engineers in special laboratory installations observing extreme safety measures.

‘Without exception, Novichok weapons cannot be used for any reason without specially trained military personnel under medical supervision.’

It is hoped this will help investigators establish the victims’ final movements in the hours before they were found critically ill on a bench amid claims a nerve agent could have been smeared on the car’s door handles. 

Some 35 people in addition to the Skripals and Wiltshire Police Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey have been treated in hospital after the incident. 

All have been assessed and discharged – apart from one, whose condition is still being monitored, police said on Tuesday. 

Last night, the White House came down firmly on Britain’s side as the diplomatic drama shifted to the UN Security Council.

A showdown gathering at the world body saw Britain call on the international chemical weapons watchdog to verify its findings that Moscow is behind the Salisbury incident.

The UK’s deputy UN ambassador, Jonathan Allen, told a special meeting of the Security Council that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had been asked to go over the British analysis of the attack.

In heated exchanges at the Security Council gathering, Russia strongly denied it was involved in the Salisbury incident, and the US offered Britain its full support.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said: ‘The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent. Dozens of civilians and first responders were also exposed.

‘If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used. This is a defining moment.’

The Russian permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said: ‘We demand that material proof be provided of the allegedly found Russian trace in this high-resonance event.

‘Without this, stating that there is incontrovertible truth is not something that we can take into account.’

Yulia, 33, and Sergei Skripal, 66, are both fighting for their lives following the poison plot

Yulia, 33, and Sergei Skripal, 66, are both fighting for their lives following the poison plot

Investigators at The Mill pub in Salisbury yesterday after the incident nearby on March 4

Investigators at The Mill pub in Salisbury yesterday after the incident nearby on March 4

The Mill pub in Salisbury is among the areas of Salisbury being investigated by detectives

The Mill pub in Salisbury is among the areas of Salisbury being investigated by detectives

Announcing sanctions in the House of Commons, the PM said the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia amounted to ‘an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom’.

Timeline of Sergei Skripal’s poisoning

Sunday, March 4th – 4.15pm: Wiltshire Police find a man and woman unconscious on a bench at the The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury and cordon off the area

Monday, 5th – 11am: Salisbury District Hospital, where the pair were taken, declares a major incident and its A&E department is closed.

8pm: Police officers are first seen outside Mr Skripal’s home in Salisbury

10pm: Police close a Zizzi restaurant near the shopping centre.

Tuesday, 6th –  11.30am: Police also cordon off the Bishop’s Mill pub in Salisbury, where Mr Skripal and his daughter may have gone after leaving Zizzi.

9pm: Firefighters in Hazmat suits are sent to an ambulance base in Amesbury, eight miles away from the scene where they were found.

Wednesday, 7th – 3:30pm: Cordon around Mr Skripal’s house is extended to the top of the cul-de-sac.

Thursday, 8th – 2pm: Police were revealed to have cordoned off the graves of Mr Skripal’s wife and son in Salisbury.

2pm: Police also extend the cordon around Mr Skripal’s home from 50 yards to 150 yards and around the corner.

7.30pm: Police in protective gear go to Ashley Wood Recovery in Salisbury to examine a maroon BMW-3 series, the same car driven by the former spy.

Friday, 9th –10am: Military convoy of 180 troops arrives in Salisbury, including chemical weapons experts, to join the investigation.

3pm: Detectives in Hazmat suits descend on Salisbury cemetery and removed items from Mrs Skripal and her son’s grave. 

Sunday, 11th – The army remove police cars and ambulances thought to have been contaminated.

Monday, 12th – Army close off village of Winterslow and Sainsbury’s car park in Salisbury to remove vehicles.  

Mrs May announced the suspension of high-level contacts with Russia, including a boycott of this summer’s World Cup by Government ministers and members of the royal family.

And she said Russian state assets will be frozen ‘wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents’.

Russia’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs branded Mrs May’s statement as ‘an unprecedentedly crude provocation that undermines the foundations of a normal interstate dialogue between our countries’. 

Asked if the UK should be embarrassed it had allowed ‘bad people’ to park money in London, Security Minister Ben Wallace told BBC2’s Newsnight: ‘I think we all collectively in the body politic have to take responsibility for that.

‘We have allowed the City of London’s reputation as a centre for world finance to be exploited by some pretty nasty individuals who have used illicit money flows from around the world to come here, either to harbour it, or to clean it, or to just move it around, or invest it.’ 

Meanwhile Australia has said it is weighing up joining the UK in taking action against Russia over the Salisbury spy poisoning.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the country is ‘considering its responses in support of the United Kingdom’ over the Salisbury incident. 

Mr Turnbull and Ms Bishop said Mrs May had made ‘a compelling case’ on the Russian state’s responsibility for the attack and the country ‘stands with the UK in solidarity and supports, in the strongest terms, Prime Minister May’s response.’

Their statement said: ‘The Australian Government also supports the UK Government’s right to take retaliatory measures, including its decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats and to call for an emergency session of the UN Security Council.

‘Australia is considering its responses in support of the United Kingdom, in close consultation with the UK Government and other partners.’

Australia already has a range of sanctions in place against Russia, some of which were applied after the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in 2014.

International support grows for Britain following nerve agent attack

A number of Britain’s most powerful allies have pledged their support as pressure mounts on Russia in the wake of the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

US: Despite an initially lukewarm response from President Donald Trump and the sacking of secretary of state Rex Tillerson who condemned Russia’s alleged actions, the White House has now said America ‘stands in solidarity’ with the UK, agreeing that Russia was responsible for the attack.

In a statement released yesterday, the US said: ‘This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behaviour 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.’

Mr Tillerson was fired on Tuesday, the day after branding Russia’s actions ‘outrageous’, adding: ‘Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.’

CANADA: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced yesterday that he had spoken with Theresa May offering her Canada’s support.

He told reporters: ‘The attack is despicable and it is unacceptable that there would be chemical weapons used against citizens of the United Kingdom.’

He added: ‘Russia’s likely involvement is absolutely unacceptable and needs to be condemned in the strongest terms.’

AUSTRALIA : Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and foreign minister Julie Bishop announced in a joint statement their support for the UK’s decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the attack.

They even said that Australia was itself considering joining the UK in taking action against Russia, stating: ‘Australia is considering its responses in support of the United Kingdom, in close consultation with the UK Government and other partners.’

GERMANY : Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the attack and promised Theresa May her support in a phone call.

New German foreign minister Heiko Maas said yesterday it is ‘disappointing that Russia so far doesn’t appear to be prepared’ to help clear up the case.

He said that Germany would consult closely with London, adding ‘and we can fully and completely understand that Britain had to react to this’.

France: Britain’s closest neighbour has been cautious about laying the blame for the attack at Russia’s door, but said yesterday it would consult with the UK to coordinate a response and expressed its confidence in Britain’s investigation.

EUROPEAN UNION: European Council president Donald Tusk has announced he will be putting the poisoning on the agenda of next week’s EU meeting.

He tweeted: ‘I express my full solidarity with PM Theresa May in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow. I’m ready to put the issue on next week’s #EUCO agenda.’

‘For real friends, this should be obvious: At a time of fake news spreading, meddling in our elections, and attacks on people on our soil with nerve agent, the response must not be transatlantic bickering but transatlantic unity.’

NORTH ATLANTIC TREATY ORGANIZATION (Nato) : The North Atlantic Council announced its strong support of the UK in a statement released yesterday.

It said: ‘Allies expressed deep concern at the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory since Nato’s foundation.

‘Allies expressed solidarity with the UK, offered their support in the conduct of the ongoing investigation, and called on Russia to address the UK’s questions including providing full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

‘Allies agreed that the attack was a clear breach of international norms and agreements.’



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