Novichok poisoning incident, Salisbury (United Kingdom)

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Publication Date 2018
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Two Russian citizens - Sergei and Yulia Skripal - were found seriously ill on 4 March 2018 in a park in Salisbury (United Kingdom) in what appeared to be deliberate poisoning incident. A number of people were also treated as a result and a public health warning was issued for those who visited the same locations where the two individuals might have been poisoned to wash their clothes and possessions.

Investigators in the United Kingdom later stated the Novichok nerve agent was used against the Skripals and suggested a connection with potential interests in Russia. The situation eventually escalated into becoming a major diplomatic crisis between Russia and the United Kingdom.

Further information:

Following the discovery by specialists of the presence of a nerve agent, the incident became subject to an attempted murder inquiry. The use of Novichok was confirmed by the UK's Prime Minister on 12 March. The Russian connection followed the understanding that the country had previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so. This added to Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations.

Russian authorities strongly dismissed the accusations on 13 March and media reports in the country deemed the theory as a pretext for boycott of the 2018 Football World Cup. Media outlets in Russia further linked the incident as an attempt to stimulate Russophobia, a way to justify existing economic sanctions and a pretext to influence forthcoming elections in the country.

The UK sought to dismantle the Russian espionage network in its territory and decided to expel a number of Russian diplomats who had been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. The country also suspended all planned high level bilateral contacts with Russia. On 17 March, Russian authorities announced they would expel the same number of UK diplomats and close a number of UK representations and organisations.

NATO expressed deep concern following the use of the nerve agent on Alliance territory and expressed solidarity with the United Kingdom. The organisation also offered support in the investigation and urged Russia to fully disclose the Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). On 15 March, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement on the attack. The European Union issued a statement on this incident on 19 March and later decided to recall its Ambassador to Russia. This was also addressed by the European Council later in the month. The UK's Prime Minister stated on 26 March that 18 countries had announced their intention to expel Russian intelligence officers.

Investigators from the OPCW arrived in the UK on 19 March to begin their investigation into the nerve agent. Russia called a meeting of the OPCW on 4 April and submitted a set of questions to the Technical Secretariat, seeking to prove the fabrication of the incident. On 11 April, the OPCW sent to the authorities in the United Kingdom a report featuring the results of its investigation, which confirm the findings of the UK relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury.

Russia called a meeting of the Security Council of the United Nations to discuss the issue on 5 April. G7 foreign ministers' issued a statement on the Salisbury attack on the 17 April.

Sergei Skripal moved to the United Kingdom following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. He had been a former Colonel in Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate (Glavnoye razvedyvatel'noye upravleniye, or GRU) who had spied for the UK. His daughter, Yulia Skripal, lived in Russia and was visiting her father in the UK at the time of the attack.

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Related Links
Commentary and Analysis, 24.03.18: The West's New Front-Line State
EU vs DISINFO: Disinformation Review, 22.03.18: Behind the Smokescreen: Who are the Actors Spreading Disinformation on Ex-Spy Poisoning?
Institute for Government, 14.03.18: The attack on Sergei Skripal – let's have a public inquiry
The Conversation: Tag: Skripal attack
Wikipedia: Sergei Skripal
Chatham House: Expert Comment, 27.03.18: The Skripal Attack Is a Test for the UK (et al)
EU vs DISINFO: Disinformation Review, 15.03.18: Skripal and the disinformation swamp
LSE European Institute: Europpblog, 16.03.18: No easy options: How the UK could put pressure on Russia over the Skripal attack
ECFR: Commentary, 16.03.18: Five reasons to support Theresa May’s response to Russia
ECFR: Commentary, 16.03.18: UK treads a lonely path on Russia crisis
Euro|topics, March 2018: Is expulsion of Russian diplomats the right way?
Euro|topics, March 2018: Was Moscow really behind the Skripal poisoning?

BBC News: Tag: Russian spy poisoning 2018
The Guardian: Tag: Sergei Skripal
Sputnik International, 12.03.18: Putin on Skripal Case: UK Should Sort It Out Itself, Then We Will Talk
Deutche Welle: Tag: Sergei Skripal
EurActiv: Tag: Sergei Skripal
Politico, 26.03.18: US, EU expel dozens of Russians in response to Salisbury attack

European Council: Conclusions on the Salisbury attack, 22 March 2018
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW): Incident in Salisbury UK
UK Representation at the OPCW: Statement from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on the Salisbury attack, 4 April 2018
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 19.03.18: Statement by the Foreign Affairs Council on the Salisbury attack
Russia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Press Release, 23.03.18: Foreign Ministry statement
Russia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Press Release, 13.03.18: On summoning the UK Ambassador to the Russian Foreign Ministry
US: Department of State: Remarks, 12.03.18: Attributing Responsibility for the Nerve Agent Attack in the U.K.
UK Government: PM Commons Statement on Salisbury incident response, 14 March 2018
NATO: News, 27.03.18: Statement by NATO Secretary General on further decisions following the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury
Germany: Federal Foreign Office: Press Release, 26.03.18: Germany expels four Russian diplomats in response to poison attack
France Embassy in the United Kingdom: Paris continues to press Russia for answers on Skripal case
UK Government: Salisbury attack: Joint statement from the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom
Russia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Briefings, 15.03.18: UK’s accusations against Russia over the Skripal case (scroll down)
Russia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Press Release, 17.03.18: Press release on summoning UK Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow to the Russian Foreign Ministry
UN: News, 05.04.18: As Security Council debates Salisbury chemical attack, Russia calls accusation absurd; UK stands by charge

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