London, March 15 (IANS) The alleged poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain which has been pinned on Russia was the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War II and there is “no plausible alternative explanation” than Russian culpability, said the leaders of France, Germany, Britain and the US in a joint statement on Thursday.
Former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in critical condition after they were targeted by a substance believed to be a Novichok nerve agent developed by Russia, an attack that Britain and France said was undoubtedly carried out under Russia’s orders, the BBC reported.
“It is an assault on UK sovereignty and any such use by a State party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law,” read the statement, which was signed by French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump.
Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the wake of the incident. May on Thursday visited the site of the attack in Wiltshire. “We do hold Russia culpable for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act,” she said.
Moscow denied any involvement in the attack and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that his country will also expel UK diplomats “soon” in reprisal.
The police officer who found Skripal and his daughter was also hospitalized and dozens of others who were in the area in the southern English city of Salisbury were urged by British authorities to wash the clothes they were wearing.
France, Germany and the US backed Britain’s previous statements that there was no other explanation for the presence of the nerve agent and highlighted that Moscow’s refusal to respond to May’s demands for an explanation were further proof of its responsibility.
In the declaration, the leaders urged Russia to answer all questions related to the attack and fully disclose any information regarding the Novichok series of nerve agents to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The leaders said the situation was particularly concerning due to a past actions by Russia, most likely referring to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian FSB officer who defected to Britain and was in 2006 poisoned with polonium, a highly radioactive substance.
“We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the UN Security Council to uphold international peace and security,” the joint statement said.
Meanwhile, the Russian Embassy called the decision to expel its 23 diplomats “unacceptable, unjustified and short-sighted”.
The Embassy has also suggested on its Twitter feed that the UK may have the capacity to manufacture the nerve agent used in Salisbury.