British Prime Minister Theresa May at a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey in central London on March 12, 2018
Strengthened by the firm support of Washington, the British government on Tuesday finalized the measures against Russia if it does not explain before midnight the attempted murder of an ex-spy on the English soil.
The May May government will hold its usual weekly meeting, which will be dominated by the attempted assassination of Russian ex-Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury (south-west), which will be followed by a more restricted meeting of the Cobra security cabinet.
An unsatisfactory Russian response „would open a panoply of countermeasures, economic, financial, diplomatic, and then, obviously, much is said about the Magnitsky sanctions,“ Housing Minister Dominic Raab told BBC Radio on Tuesday.
By „Magnitsky sanctions“, Raab refers to the homonymous law of the United States, with no British equivalent, which punishes foreign officials implicated in human rights abuses and which was approved to punish those responsible for the death of the Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow jail, when investigating corruption in the Kremlin.
The Times newspaper, citing an unnamed government official, also spoke of the possibility of London launching a cyberattack, for example by spreading a virus on Russian strategic information systems.
A bank in front of the Maltings Mall in Salisbury, southern England, covered with a police tent for investigation, after the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are poisoned
There are also calls to withdraw the England team from the World Cup in Russia-2018, but for the moment the government has only mentioned the possibility that the dignitaries will not attend the event.
Russia, however, denies any involvement in the attack, and on Monday called the accusations „provocation“.
– A gas that is „a torture“ –
May estimated in Parliament that it is „very likely“ that Russia is after the attack, based on its history of liquidation of dissidents and former agents, and the nerve gas used to perpetrate it, the Novichok type, manufactured in Russian military laboratories from from the 1970s and more powerful than sarin or VX.
„There are only two plausible explanations about what happened in Salisbury on March 4: either it was a direct act of the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potential and catastrophically damaging nerve agent,“ May told the House. of the Commons.
The scientist who revealed the Russian chemical weapons program, Vil Mirzayanov, who now lives in the United States, said that suffering a Novichok gas attack is similar to being tortured.
„It is a real torture, it is impossible to imagine.“ Even in small doses, the pain can last for weeks.The horror is unimaginable, „he explained to the British newspaper Daily Mail about this gas that paralyzes and prevents breathing before killing.
„Even if they survive, they will not recover,“ the Russian scientist told the Daily Telegraph.
In addition to Skripal and his daughter, who are serious, a British policeman who treated them is hospitalized, but his condition is better.
– May, the Litvinenko case minister –
May received support from the United States and NATO.
Map of Salisbury and main information on the poisoning investigation of Sergei Skripal and his daughter
„We have total confidence in the UK investigation and in its assessment that Russia is the likely culprit in the nervous gas attack that occurred in Salisbury last week,“ said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
„We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – must face serious consequences,“ he added.
It so happens that May was Minister of the Interior when there was the murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, in 2006, a crime with a radioactive substance (polonium-210) committed with the consent of Putin, according to the conclusions of the official investigation .
Then the response was limited to the expulsion of several diplomats, the freezing of a few assets and the suspension of cooperation in intelligence.
It was a response labeled as lukewarm by many and cited now as one of the factors that would explain why Russia had dared to try again to assassinate an ex-agent, in this case one convicted of high treason for selling secrets to London and exchanged with the West in 2010 in exchange for Russian spies detained in the United States.
„The lesson was not learned,“ Litvinenko’s widow Marina complained on Sunday at the BBC.