Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former Russian military intelligence officer, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok, which was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s. The father and daughter sat outside a shopping center on a bench where they were poisoned. British Prime Minister Theresa May said that it was “highly likely” Russia was behind the attack, and gave the Kremlin a deadline by which to provide a “credible response” to the UK’s findings.
The pair “were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” May said. “Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the nerve agent, Novichok, “came from Russia” and will “certainly trigger a response.” He did not speculate if the Russian government ordered the attack, but said the Kremlin is increasingly “aggressive” and seems to be behind a “certain unleashing of activity that we don’t fully understand.”
White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, refused to blame Russia for the nerve gas attack.
Immediately after the condemnation by Tillerson, Trump fired him.
Tillerson, who spoke Monday by phone with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, said he’s become “extremely concerned” about Russia, noting that he spent most of the first year of the Trump administration trying to solve problems and narrow differences with the Kremlin. He said after a year of trying, “we didn’t get very far.”
“Instead, what we’ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive,” Tillerson added.
The comments mirrored those of Johnson, who said Tuesday that conversations with the U.S. highlighted that the use of a nerve agent was part of a pattern of behavior by Russia.
The case has similarities to the killing of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive tea in London in 2006. A British inquiry concluded that his death was the work of the Russian state and had probably been authorized by Russian President Vladimir Putin.