Boris Johnson points finger at Vladimir Putin over ex-spy poisoning

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson

The gulf between Russia and Britain widened on Friday as they cranked up pressure over a nerve agent attack and a suspected murder in Britain that have deepened Western worries about alleged Russian meddling overseas.

British police said Friday 131 people were exposed to trace amounts of the military-grade nerve agent used in the assault.

Britain is expelling 23 Russian diplomats and taking other steps against Russian interests as the two nations' relations sink to a post-Cold War low.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said today it was "overwhelmingly likely" Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind the poisoning of an Russian ex-spy, in the most direct British accusation against the Russian leader to date. An autopsy showed he died from "compression to the neck", the police said in a statement, adding that there was no evidence he had been poisoned or to link his death to the attack on the Skripals. That's a great reason for launching this anti-Russia campaign, this anti-Russia attack.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, "were targeted specifically".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Reuters "we will, of course" expel British diplomats in retaliation.

The Russian Ambassador denied the UK's allegations, saying, "It is nothing but a fable, absolute nonsense".

The stand-off with Britain is being used by the Russian government and state media to boost support for President Vladimir Putin ahead of Sunday's presidential election.

Peskov says that the Kremlin is surprised by the British prime minister's accusations, saying that they "not only violate global law but also run against common sense".

There has been a huge outcry against the Russians and this has obviously been replicated in Parliament with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition trading blows on who is culpable for the attack.

Britain's foreign secretary accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering a nerve agent attack in Britain, ratcheting up tensions on Friday (Saturday NZ Time) in an increasingly global showdown over alleged Russian meddling overseas.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons also says it expects action soon in response to the British investigation.

Ms Bishop says Russian Federation was either behind a nerve gas attack on a former spy in the United Kingdom, or the country has lost control of its chemical weapons supply. Both fell ill and are thought to be in serious condition.

He also has appealed to national pride, pointing at Western sanctions against Russian Federation as a proof of efforts by the USA and its allies to isolate and weaken Russian Federation. "Most of these initiatives already have good results, we would definitely want them to be more significant", Lavrov said.

Many Russians remain sceptical that the state was involved in an attack on British soil and some analysts didn't rule out the involvement of ordinary criminals or rogue agents.

Russian Federation has demanded that Britain share samples collected by investigators.

Speaking during a visit to a west London military museum with the Polish foreign minister, Mr Johnson said the UK's "quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin".

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