By Catherine Doolan
Prime Minister Theresa May, in an address to the UK Parliament on March 5th, stated that it is highly likely that Moscow is responsible for the recent attack in Southern England on a Russian ex-spy. On March 4th, there was a nerve agent attack in Salisbury on ex-spy Sergei V. Skripal, a former intelligence informant for the UK, and his daughter, Yulia. The two victims are in critical condition.
May told the House of Commons that, “It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.” London concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against the two She explained that the poisoning was either, “a direct act of the Russian state against our country,” or that Moscow was negligent in handling its nerve agent, which resulted in someone else obtaining it, as per. She threatened retaliatory action against Russia for the attack.
In support of the United Kingdom, a joint statement from French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Prime Minister May was released on March 8th. According to Fox News, the statement read that, “This sue of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.”
The statement deemed the attack a direct assault on UK sovereignty and a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The four world leaders called upon Russia to respect international law and live up to the standards of being a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Backlash from the attack strained British-Russian diplomatic relations. Britain recently expelled 23 Russian diplomats from the country and also suspended high-level contracts with Moscow. The British Royal Family and other government officials will not be in attendance at the 2018 FIFA World Cup games to be held in Russia this summer. The Washington Post reports that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signaled that 23 British diplomats will be asked to leave his country.
The Kremlin rejected all accusations of being involved in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, reminded reporters that Skripal worked for the British government and the attack occurred on British soil, which shows that the incident “has nothing to do with Russia, let alone the Russian leadership.”
Peskov explained that President Putin will make any further decisions in the best interests of Russia and its people.
The recent attack garnered interest in Novichok, which was the nerve agent used against the victims. According to LiveScience, Novichok means “newcomer” in Russian and was a class of nerve agents created by the Soviet government in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Novichok was made specifically to avoid being considered a prohibited chemical by the Chemical Weapons Treaty.
The Responding to Terrorism: A Medical Handbook, states that Novichok still works like other nerve agents despite possessing a different chemical structure to these preexisting nerve agents. It is composed of two non-toxic materials combined with an active nerve agent. However, it is five to eight times more potent than the more commonly known VX nerve agent, which results in greater damage to the human body. Within thirty seconds to two minutes of being inhaled, Novichok causes muscle spasms and seizures, resulting in eventual failure of the heart.