Putin ultimately responsible for Salisbury attack: UK minister

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London, Sep 6 (IANS) British Security Minister Ben Wallace on Thursday said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “ultimately responsible” for the deadly Salisbury nerve agent attack as a result of his firm grip on the Russian state.

Wallace told the BBC that “ultimately, of course”, the Russian President was behind the poisoning. The Kremlin, which denies involvement, said it was “unacceptable” to make accusations against the leadership.

Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned with Novichok on March 4. Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey also fell ill after responding to the incident.

The UK named two men believed to be from Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, as the main suspects in the attack.

Wallace’s remarks are the furthest the British government has gone yet in attributing direct blame to Putin for the attempt by two Russian military intelligence officers to murder Sergei and his daughter, the Guardian reported.

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Britain was expected to seek to intensify diplomatic pressure on the Kremlin by laying out the case against Moscow at the UN Security Council, of which Russia is a member, on Thursday.

Police linked the attack to a separate Novichok poisoning on June 30, which led to the death of British woman Dawn Sturgess.

British Prime Minister Theresa May told the Commons on Wednesday that the suspects had entered the UK on Russian passports using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

She said the poisoning was “not a rogue operation” and was “almost certainly” approved at a senior level of the Russian state.

Wallace said that the UK must use the UN meeting to “maintain the pressure, to say the behaviour we have seen is totally unacceptable”.

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He said Putin’s government “controls, funds and directs the military intelligence”, adding that nobody could say the Russian leader was “not in control of his state”.

May also said Britain will push for the EU to agree to new sanctions against Russia. Ahead of the UN meeting, Australia said it was “in lock step with the UK on the importance of holding Russia to account” over the “dangerous and deliberate act”.

Police were asking the public for information about a suitcase seen in the CCTV image of the two suspects leaving Heathrow Airport on March 4.

In the image, Petrov can be seen pushing a hard dark-coloured wheelie suitcase with a green stripe of the size that can fit into hand luggage lockers. It does not appear that he arrived in the country with the suitcase, the BBC said.

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–IANS

soni/bg

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