Britain says likely that Russia’s Putin made decision for nerve agent attack

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson addresses the media during a visit to a Battle of Britain bunker at RAF Northolt in Uxbridge, Britain, Mar. 16, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 16 March 2018

Britain says likely that Russia’s Putin made decision for nerve agent attack

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Friday that it was overwhelmingly likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself made the decision to use a military-grade nerve toxin to strike down a former Russian agent on English soil.
“We have nothing against the Russians themselves. There is to be no Russophobia as a result of what is happening,” Johnson told reporters at the Battle of Britain bunker from which World War Two fighter operations were controlled.
“Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision – and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision – to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe for the first time since the Second World War,” Johnson said.
Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who betrayed dozens of spies of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence service, and his daughter.
May said that it was tragic that Putin, who is likely to coast to a fourth term in a Sunday presidential election, had chosen to act in such a way.
Soon after Johnson’s comments were reported, the Kremlin said accusations that President Putin was involved in the nerve agent attack were shocking, TASS news agency reported.
“Any reference or mention of our president in this regard is a shocking and unforgivable breach of diplomatic rules of decent behavior,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the agency.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said previously on Friday Russia will expel British diplomats in response to London’s decision to expel 23 staff at the Russian embassy in London.
Asked by a Reuters reporter, at a summit on Syria in the Kazakh capital, if Russia planned to expel British diplomats, Lavrov replied: “We will, of course.” He did not give any further details.
Russia has denied any involvement, cast Britain as a post-colonial power unsettled by Brexit, and even suggested London fabricated the attack in an attempt to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.
Relations between Britain and Russia have been strained since the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 in London in 2006, a killing which a British inquiry said was probably approved by Putin.
The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing.


South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

Updated 19 October 2019

South Sudan opposition leader returns to meet with president

  • Riek Machar last met face-to-face with President Salva Kiir in September, when they discussed outstanding issues in a fragile peace deal
  • The civil war killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions

JUBA, South Sudan: South Sudan opposition leader Riek Machar returned to the country Saturday to meet with President Salva Kiir less than a month before their deadline to form a unity government after a five-year civil war.
Machar last met face-to-face with Kiir in September, when they discussed outstanding issues in a fragile peace deal. His two-day visit includes a meeting with the US ambassador to the United Nations, who arrives Sunday with a UN Security Council delegation.
The delegation is expected to encourage progress in the peace deal signed a year ago but fraught with delays.
Both Kiir and Machar will meet with the delegation Sunday, government spokesman Michael Makuei said.
The opposition has said Machar won’t return to South Sudan for good to form the government by the Nov. 12 deadline unless security arrangements are in place.
The US has said it will reevaluate its relationship with South Sudan if that deadline is missed.
The civil war killed almost 400,000 people and displaced millions.
Before Machar’s return a unified army of 41,500 opposition and government soldiers needs to be ready along with a 3,000-person VIP protection force.
But so far there are only 1,000 unified soldiers and security arrangements won’t meet the deadline, deputy opposition spokesman Manawa Peter Gatkuoth said.
The previous Machar-Kiir meeting focused on speeding up the screening and reunification of forces, but parties left the talks with differing views.
Deputy chairman for the opposition Henry Odwar called the meeting “lukewarm,” while Makuei called it “highly successful” and said everything was on track for next month’s deadline.