UK PM to urge EU to unite against long-term Russian threat (VIDEO)

Bags containing protective clothing are seen after Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) left  in Salisbury, Britain March 21, 2018. — Reuters pic
Bags containing protective clothing are seen after Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) left in Salisbury, Britain March 21, 2018. — Reuters pic

LONDON, March 22 — British Prime Minister Theresa May will urge EU leaders today to unite against a Russian threat that could last for “years to come”, following the nerve agent attack in Britain.

At a summit in Brussels, May will say that the attempt to kill former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in the city of Salisbury — which she has blamed on Moscow — could have happened anywhere.

“The challenge of Russia is one that will endure for years to come,” May will tell European Union leaders over dinner on Thursday night, her office said.

Despite tensions over Brexit, she will add: “As a European democracy the UK will stand shoulder to shoulder with the EU and with NATO to face these threats together. United we will succeed.”

The prime minister will set out the actions Britain has taken following the March 4 attack, including expelling 23 Russian diplomats believed to be undeclared spies.

It is understood that British officials have been pressing European allies to follow suit with their own expulsions.

“The incident in Salisbury has shown the threat that Russian networks pose to all our national security,” the prime minister’s spokesman said.

He added: “The Russian threat does not respect borders and as such all are at risk.”

However, Britain is not asking for any coordinated action at the summit, particularly as EU sources say that some states, including Greece, have been reluctant to put pressure on Moscow over the incident.

May will emphasise the need to work together in the long term “to uphold and protect the international rules-based order and to hold Russia to account”, her spokesman said.

Officials say the expulsion of diplomats and the suspension of high-level contacts with Russia was a robust but proportionate response to the Salisbury attack.

“We’re not looking for confrontation or regime change,” a senior government official told reporters in London.

But the official added: “Russia is a strategic enemy not a strategic partner.”

Britain believes it has identified the specific nerve agent used — part of the Soviet designed Novichok group — and where it was produced, sharing details with its intelligence partners.

The United States, Germany and France last week backed London’s conclusion that Moscow was to blame, and demanded answers.

However, EU foreign ministers earlier this week said only that they took the accusations against Moscow “extremely seriously”, and offered solidarity.

Russia has denied any involvement and responded with its own diplomatic expulsions. — AFP

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