Britain seeks support at UN in spy poisoning clash with Russia

Britain's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Jonathan Allen, speaks in the security council after the UK called for an urgent meeting to update council members on the investigation into the recent nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
Britain's Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, Jonathan Allen, speaks in the security council after the UK called for an urgent meeting to update council members on the investigation into the recent nerve agent attack in Salisbury.PHOTO: AFP
VIDEO: REUTERS
Nikki Haley (centre) walking into the UN Security Council meeting called by Britain over Russia.
Nikki Haley (centre) walking into the UN Security Council meeting called by Britain over Russia.PHOTO: AFP

UNITED NATIONS, United States (AFP) - Britain on Wednesday (March 14)  appealed for support from countries at the UN Security Council as it pressed Moscow to answer for a nerve gas attack on a former Russian spy in England. 

The council met in an emergency session at Britain’s request to discuss the March 4 attack in the city of Salisbury that left ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in critical condition. 

“Today I will be calling on my council colleagues to stand with us against such acts,” British Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen told reporters ahead of the meeting.  “This was a reckless and indiscriminate act that put at risk the lives of civilians.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts with Russia after Moscow did not respond to her demand for an explanation. 

Allen said that Russia’s failure to provide answers left the British government with “no choice but to conclude that this was a state-sponsored act.”

There was no plan for the council to adopt a statement.  Moscow has denied any involvement in the attack using the nerve agent Novichok, which was developed by the Soviet Union and later inherited by Russia. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier said the use of a nerve agent was “unacceptable” and called for a thorough investigation.

Russia’s ambassador repeated Moscow’s denial at the council meeting and suggested that the attack was a provocation aimed at tarnishing Russia’s image ahead of the World Cup and elections.

“Russia had nothing to do with this incident,” said Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. “We have nothing to fear, nothing to hide.”

The United States said on Wednesday that Russia was “responsible” for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England, and urged the UN Security Council to hold Moscow accountable.

“The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom, using a military-grade nerve agent,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the  meeting.

US President Donald Trump had pressed Russia to provide answers but did not suggest that Moscow had a hand in the attempted murder.

Haley said Russia “must account for its actions” as a permanent council member entrusted by the United Nations with upholding international peace and security.

“If we don’t take immediate, concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons use.”

Russia demanded that Britain hand over samples of the nerve agent for analysis in Moscow and suggested that if Britain was able to identify the chemical, it must also be able to produce it.

“We demand that material proof be provided of the allegedly found Russian trace,” said Nebenzia.