British police: Former Russian spy poisoned by nerve agent on door of home

In this file photo, British Police Community Support Officers stand on duty outside a residential property in Salisbury which is believed to have been cordonned off in connection with the major incident which started at The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury. (AFP)
Updated 29 March 2018
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British police: Former Russian spy poisoned by nerve agent on door of home

LONDON: Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve toxin that had been left on the front door of their home in England, British counter-terrorism police said.
After the first known offensive use of a chemical weapon on European soil since World War Two, Britain blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the attempted assassination and the West has expelled around 130 Russian diplomats.
Russia has denied using Novichok, a nerve agent first developed by the Soviet military, to attack Skripal, and Moscow has said it suspects the British secret services are trying to frame Russia to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.
“We believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent from their front door,” said Dean Haydon, Britain’s’ senior national coordinator for counter-terrorism policing.
“Specialists have identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent, to date, as being on the front door of the address,” Scotland Yard said in a statement.
Skripal has been in a critical condition since being found unconscious on a public bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.
His daughter Yulia Skripal is no longer in a critical condition and is improving rapidly, the hospital treating the pair said on Thursday.
"I'm pleased to be able to report an improvement in the condition of Yulia Skripal. She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day," Christine Blanshard, Medical Director for Salisbury District Hospital said in a statement.
The attempted murder of Skripal, a 66-year-old former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to Britain’s MI6 spy service, has plunged Moscow’s relations with the West to a new post-Cold War low.
After Britain expelled 23 Russians it said were spies working under diplomatic cover, Russia followed by throwing out 23 British diplomats. The United States and other Western countries, including most member states of the European Union and NATO, expelled over 100 diplomats.
British lawmakers launched a new inquiry into money-laundering, sanctions and economic crime on Thursday, with a particular focus on properties bought with so-called “dirty money.”


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 26 June 2019
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.