Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 March 2018

May’s deadline passes with no action and Russian sabre-rattling

British Prime Minister had asked Moscow to come back with answers about the nerve agent attack in Salisbury

Police officers in forensics suits and protective masks work at the scene of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Police officers in forensics suits and protective masks work at the scene of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Russia ignored the midnight Tuesday ultimatum set for it by British Prime Minister Theresa May to answer questions about the poisoning in Salisbury of the former double agent Sergei Skripal. Instead, the country doubled down on its position and challenged the UK’s “groundless ultimatums” to provide information.

Mrs May’s government is expected to impose economic sanctions against Russians in Britain who are close to Vladimir Putin, expel some diplomats and also potentially close down the London-based television station Russia Today. Moscow said that “punitive” action against them “will meet with a response” and called the ultimatum a clear provocation.

Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Spokeswoman, said on Tuesday night: “Nobody gave Britain, a nuclear power, the right to threaten and intimidate and put forward groundless ultimatums and, in violation of the existing international legal norms, invent some 'time parameters for an answer'."


Read more:

Split between State and White House over reaction to UK nerve agent attack

Britain’s May says it’s ‘highly likely’ Russia poisoned Sergei Skripal

What is Novichok, the nerve agent believed to have been used against Sergei Skripal?

Salisbury: the medieval city at the centre of spy assassination bid


She threatened the operations of British media networks in Russia by saying that “not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they close Russia Today”.

According to the Daily Mail, other Russian officials warned: “Any threat to take punitive measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”

During Tuesday, Mrs May received messages of support from many foreign leaders: countries across Europe rallied behind Britain, and US President Donald Trump went further than his words of support for the United Kingdom on Monday night when he acknowledged that the Russians had questions to answer over the Salisbury attacks.

Downing Street’s account of the call between the two leaders said Mrs May “set out the conclusion reached by the UK government that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

“President Trump said the US was with the UK all the way, agreeing that the Russian government must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used.”

The foreign office told The National late on Tuesday night that there would be no immediate response from the British government as the deadline passed, and that a reaction would come on Wednesday.