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Trump demands answers as Russia ignores Britain's spy deadline

AFP  |  London 

US demanded an explanation from over the of a former in Britain as London's deadline for answers expired, with threatening retribution if it is punished for the Cold War intrigue.

has slammed the accusations that it was behind the attempted murder of a double agent, defying the midnight yesterday ultimatum set by Britain to explain how a Soviet-designed nerve-agent found its way onto British streets.

The attempted assassination of and his daughter in the English city of on March 4 sparked a deepening diplomatic row that pits against Britain and its allies the United States, NATO and the

British Theresa May, who will outline London's response to the escalating crisis on Wednesday, has pointed the finger at Moscow, which she said was "highly likely" to be responsible.

In a phone call with May yesterday, said must "provide unambiguous answers" to explain what is believed to be the first nerve agent attack in since World War II.

The two leaders "agreed on the need for consequences for those who use these heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms", the said.

In Moscow, insisted "Russia is not guilty", saying it was ready to cooperate with Britain but complaining that its request for samples of the nerve agent had been rejected.

The said it had formally demanded Britain allow a joint investigation, saying "without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London".

In the first sign of the practical implications of the growing diplomatic crisis, Russia threatened to bar all British media from working in Russia if British authorities banned the Kremlin-backed broadcaster.

British regulator Ofcom has warned it could review RT's licence if Russia were found to have been responsible for the attack on Skripal, who came to Britain in a 2010 swap.

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain in critical condition in hospital after being found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in the southwestern city of

The believes a "Novichok" Russian nerve agent was used and on Monday May called on explain whether the attempted murder was a state-sponsored attack, or whether it had "lost control" of the substance.

She demanded Moscow disclose details of the development of the nerve agents programme to the (OPCW).

But addressing the OPCW, Russian accused British officials of launching "vicious attacks" against Moscow and "fomenting hysteria".

Pharmacology experts said Novichok, a broad category of more than 100 nerve agents developed by the during the late stages of the Cold War, was "more dangerous and sophisticated" than sarin or VX.

May will gather her today morning "to discuss the response from Russia", and will then give a statement to MPs, her said.

The has said that her government was considering a British version of the US "Magnitsky Act", which was adopted in 2012 to punish Russian officials accused of human rights violations.

attempted to rally support yesterday by calling his counterparts and vowing that if Russia was responsible, "this would be further reckless behaviour which threatens the international community and requires an international response".

Vice said the EU was united in "unwavering" solidarity, while German said she was taking the British accusation "extremely seriously" and French said the attack was "unacceptable".

NATO said the incident was "of great concern" amid reports that Britain was consulting NATO allies about possibly invoking its Article 5 principle of common defence.

Vil Mirzayanov, a who worked on the programme and now lives in the United States, said the nerve agent's effects were "brutal".

"These people are gone - the man and his daughter. Even if they survive they will not recover," the 83-year-old told newspaper.

A was also taken ill, and police revealed yesterday that 35 people were assessed at the time, all but one of whom were swiftly released. That person is being monitored as an outpatient.

The case has prompted comparisons with the 2006 of former and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, which a British public inquiry blamed on Russia.

In a further twist, former senior Russian Nikolai Glushkov, linked to late Kremlin opponent Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in in unexplained circumstances, British and Russian media reported.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, March 14 2018. 10:35 IST