The Latest: UK under pressure over nerve agent intelligence

April 04, 2018 - 9:12 am

MOSCOW (AP) — The latest on the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter (all times local):

4 p.m.

The British government is under pressure to reveal more details of its intelligence on the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning, after the country's defense research lab said it has not been able to pinpoint the precise source of the poison.

The chief executive of the Porton Down laboratory, Gary Aitkenhead, says scientists there have identified the substance used on Sergei and Yulia Skripal as a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok. But he said Tuesday that "it's not our job to say where that was actually manufactured."

The British government says it relied on a combination of scientific analysis and other intelligence to conclude that the nerve agent came from Russia. Russia denies responsibility, and has seized on Aitkenhead's remarks to support its case.

Britain is standing by its assessment, but the Foreign Office on Wednesday deleted a tweet from last month saying Porton Down scientists had identified the substance as "made in Russia."

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3:30 p.m.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says it is expelling one Hungarian diplomat after Hungary joined other Western nations in kicking out Russian diplomats.

The United States and many European countries last week expelled a total of over 150 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with Britain, which accuses Russia of being behind the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter last month.

Hungary said last week that it was expelling one Russian diplomat who was carrying out intelligence activities.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that it has summoned the Hungarian ambassador to Moscow and informed him of Russia's decision to expel one diplomat from the Hungarian embassy.

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3:15 p.m.

Britain is rejecting any possibility of having a joint investigation involving Russia into the nerve agent attack in England's Salisbury last month.

The British envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the executive council of the watchdog on Wednesday that there is no requirement in the body's convention that would force a victim "to engage the likely perpetrator in a joint investigation."

Acting U.K. Permanent Representative John Foggo said that "to do so would be perverse."

Russia had called for a special meeting of the OPCW's executive council on Wednesday to access developments in the March 4 nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

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1:50 p.m.

The British delegation at an international meeting says Russia is asking for a joint probe into last month's Salisbury nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and dismissed the offer as "perverse."

During a special meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the British delegation called the offer for a UK-Russian investigation "a diversionary tactic, and yet more disinformation designed to evade the questions the Russian authorities must answer."

The special council meeting in The Hague was requested by Russia a month after the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

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1:15 p.m.

Russia's Ambassador to the Czech Republic says his country is set to propose a solution to the crisis over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy at an emergency meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Talking to reporters at the Russian embassy in Prague, Alexander Zmeyevskiy says Russia will propose "a civilized solution to the problem" but declined to give any details.

The closed-door meeting of the OPCW started Wednesday morning.

Zmeyevskiy also says his country is not blaming the Czech Republic for being involved in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

Russian officials previously suggested the nerve agent used for the attack may have originated in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Slovakia. Acting Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called it a lie.

The Czechs expelled three Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain.

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12:30 p.m.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is holding an emergency meeting at Russia's request on last month's nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.

Russia has said that it will push Britain to provide evidence they might have in their hands about the attack in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 which left former double agent Sergei Skripal in critical condition. His daughter, Yulia, is recovering.

The OPCW said the closed-door meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, started in the morning. The Russian delegation plans to brief the media late Wednesday.

Britain's Foreign Office said the move by Moscow to call for the meeting was a "diversionary tactic, intended to undermine the work of the OPCW in reaching a conclusion" about the nerve agent attack.

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11 a.m.

Russia's spymaster says the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain was staged by U.K. and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, the top KGB successor agency, said the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a "grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and U.S. intelligence agencies."

Speaking Wednesday at an international security conference organized by the Russian Defense Ministry, Naryshkin said the poisoning was the latest U.S. effort to undermine Russia and was akin to its practices during the Cold War.

Britain has blamed Russia for the nerve agent attack, an accusation that Russia has vehemently denied. Consequently, relations between the West and Russia are at their lowest ebb since the Cold War.

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