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UK, allies point finger at Russia in ex-spy poisoning

AFP  |  London 

Britain will hold new emergency talks today into the brazen of a Russian former double agent on its soil, after the US and backed in implicating in the assassination attempt.

As diplomatic tensions soar, has denied accusations of its involvement in the attack on Sergei and his daughter in on March 4.

British told parliament it was "highly likely" was behind the poisoning, giving until the end of Tuesday to answer the accusations, in comments that have stoked speculation Britain could call on its allies to mount a joint response.

Both the and issued statements in support of London, as concern mounts over the use of what May described as a military-grade developed by

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain in a critical condition in hospital after being found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury.

Emergency workers in biohazard suits have been deployed in the normally sleepy city, while some 500 people who may have come into minimal contact with the were urged to wash clothes and belongings as a precaution.

May told British lawmakers that had previously used the group of nerve agents, known as Novichok, had a history of state-sponsored assassinations and viewed defectors such as as legitimate targets.

"The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal," she said.

The added Britain had given Moscow until the end of Tuesday to disclose details of its development of the Novichok nerve agents programme to the

If there was "no credible response" it will conclude it was "an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK", she warned, and pledged to outline a "full range of measures" in response on Wednesday.

newspaper reported on Tuesday that Britain was consulting allies in about possibly invoking its Article 5 principle of common defence.

NATO said the incident was "of great concern" to the alliance.

"NATO is in touch with the UK authorities on this issue," he added in a statement issued by his office Monday.

Russian brushed aside questions about Moscow's involvement in the attack in Britain, telling the BBC: "First get to the bottom of it there and then we will discuss this."

Yesterday, Moscow rejected May's assertions, saying it was "a circus show" and an attempt to undermine trust ahead of its hosting of this summer's football

The prime minister's statement was part of "another information and political campaign based on provocation," said Russian in comments carried by agencies.

Meanwhile, French "offered his solidarity with the UK" in a phone call with May.

"They discussed the wide pattern of aggressive Russian behaviour and agreed that it would be important to continue to act in concert with allies to address it," Downing Street said.

Britain's will a meeting of the government's emergency at 11:30 am (local time) today for an update on the investigation, the said.

Skripal, an ex-who was jailed for selling Russian secrets to London, moved to Britain in a swap in 2010, settling in Salisbury.

Police are investigating the attack against him with the assistance of Britain's armed forces and its research laboratory at Porton Down.

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

"It causes a slowing of the heart and restriction of the airways, leading to death by asphyxiation," said Gary Stephens, a at Britain's

Britain had voiced its concerns about Russia still having such biological weapons during a 2008 meeting in of countries to discuss such threats, according to WikiLeaks cables reposted on Monday.

The reported that investigators now believe the nerve agent may have been deployed in powder form through the ventilation system of Skripal's car.

Other reports in the British media hinted at growing pressure on May for England to boycott this summer's in Russia.

"How can we go to Putin's now" read the headline of the

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

First Published: Tue, March 13 2018. 12:50 IST