West calls on Russia to explain nerve toxin attack

LONDON – Britain, the United States, Germany and France jointly called on Russia on Thursday to explain a military-grade nerve toxin attack in England on a former Russian double agent, which they said threatened Western security.

After the first known offensive use of such a weapon on European soil since World War II, Britain has pinned the blame on Moscow and given 23 Russians who it said were spies working under diplomatic cover at the London embassy a week to leave.

Moscow has denied any involvement in the poisoning. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused London of behaving in a “boorish” way and suggested this was partly because of problems Britain faces over its planned exit from the European Union next year.

Russia has refused Britain’s demands to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent first developed by the Soviet military, was used against Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, who were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre on March 4 in the southern English city of Salisbury.

“We call on Russia to address all questions related to the attack,” US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May said in their joint statement.

“It is an assault on UK sovereignty,” the leaders said. “It threatens the security of us all.”

While the statement signals a more coordinated response from Britain’s closest allies, it lacked any details about specific measures the West would take if Russia failed to comply.

The Western leaders said the use of the toxin was a clear breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention and international law.

They called on Russia to provide a complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.