For the first time, world leaders have collectively blamed Russia as the instigator behind chemical attacks in the United Kingdom.
France, Germany, Canada and the United States of America have joined the United Kingdom in officially naming Russia as the alleged culprit behind two poisonings using the Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent earlier this year.
The move comes as the UK named two men believed to be from Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, as the main suspects earlier this week.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that the suspects had entered the UK on Russian passports using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
May said the poisoning was “not a rogue operation” and was “almost certainly” approved at a senior level of the Russian state.
As previously published by Russia Reports, Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia became violently ill after exposure to the poison in the English city of Salisbury in March. The poisoning provoked international condemnation and subsequent sanctions from the United Kingdom against Russia. Both Skripals were admitted to intensive care but survived the poisoning.
The incident flared up again in July after two Britons who lived nearby also became exposed to the nerve agent. Dawn Sturgess, 44, died from the poisoning.
The joint statement from the world leaders comes as the United Nations prepares to meet and discuss the attack. The message urges Russia to provide full disclosure about the poisoning.
For its part, Russia continues to deny any involvement. State media agency Tass reports that the Kremlin says it is not involved in the controversy at “any level”.
Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any claims against Russia officials were impermissible. “We have said more than once and can confirm officially once again that Russia has had nothing to do with the events in Salisbury. Russia is not involved in any way,” he said.
“Neither the highest Russian leaders, nor officials of lower ranks have ever had anything to do with the events in Salisbury. This is ruled out.”
The international community had previously penalized Russia for its believed involvement in the Novichok affair, but this marks the first time they have collectively named the Kremlin as responsible.
The US published new sanctions last month against Russia for its perceived involvement in the affair. This came on the back of a decision from the Trump government to expel 60 Russian intelligence officers and close the Russian Consulate in Seattle following the March attack.