A former British intelligence officer of the MI6 and his daughter were poisoned on March 4 by a Russian military-grade nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury, reported the Economist. The United Kingdom and the international community have promised to take strong action against those responsible for the brazen attack on British soil. Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, remain in critical condition, and around 21 other people have sought medical attention to fight the symptoms of the damaging chemical compounds.
According to the Economist, Skripal worked in Russian military intelligence and served as a spy for British intelligence for many years. In 2004, Russian authorities jailed Skripal but later released him in a spy swap in 2010, after which he settled in Salisbury with his daughter. According to espionage codes of behavior, Skripal should have been off-limits after the swap.
In her address to the House of Commons on March 12, Prime Minister Theresa May blamed Russia for the attack and demanded an explanation from Moscow. According to C-SPAN, May said that “there are only two possible explanations for what happened in Salisbury […] either [it]was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”
May then proceeded to list several international crimes that Russia has verifiably committed in modern history, including Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, its transgression into national airspaces of various European countries, and election meddling in various European nations and the United States.
In her promise to bring those responsible for the attack to justice, May stated in her address that “this attempted murder using a weapons-grade nerve agent in a British town was not just a crime against the Skripals. It was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk.”
According to the Telegraph, tensions between the United Kingdom and Russia have increased since the Salisbury attack, especially considering that the U.K. has been actively seeking support from the international community to bring justice.
As stated in Politico Europe, President Donald Trump and May discussed the issue over the phone on March 13, agreeing that it is imperative for Russian officials to “provide unambiguous answers” to the United Kingdom.
On March 14, after Moscow failed to meet the deadline imposed by the United Kingdom for explanation, May expelled 23 Russian diplomats. This tough measure further raised tensions to a level that, according to the New York Times, has “not [been]seen since the heights of the Cold War.”