UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday that “we must fight and win the broader battle against impunity for chemical weapons use” after Britain named two Russian military intelligence officers accused in the poisoning of five UK residents with the deadly nerve agent Novichok.
“While this incident was in Salisbury, who is to say it couldn’t have happened in Paris or Amsterdam or Addis?” Haley said at a briefing on the investigation findings.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned in March in Salisbury, England, along with a police officer who responded to the scene, Detective Nick Bailey. Three months later, Charlie Rowley of Amesbury, England, found a sealed, boxed bottle of perfume and gave it to his girlfriend Dawn Sturgess, who died after spraying the Novichok within on her wrists. The other four victims have been released from hospitals. Authorities say they have conclusively linked the two instances of the deadly nerve agent as coming from the same batch.
Theresa May told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the two suspects’ authentic Russian passports bore the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. They arrived in the UK the day before the Skripal attack.
“We were right to say in March that the Russian state was responsible. And now we have identified the individuals involved we can go even further,” May said. “…I can today tell the house that based on a body of intelligence the government has concluded the two individuals named by the police and CPS are officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU.”
“The GRU is a highly disciplined organization with a well established chain of command. So this was not a rogue operation,” she added. “It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.”
Haley said at the UN Security Council briefing that the Brits “are providing us with a master class on how to stop the spread of chemical weapons.”
“They are creating accountability for those who use chemical agents and providing vital support for the international norm against the use of these deadly, illegal weapons. The British government is pursuing accountability for this attack in the only way accountability can truly be accomplished: in accordance with the rule of law,” she said.
Haley said “no one should have any doubt” of Russia’s guilt after viewing the evidence from the British investigation. “It is actually amazing to see the clarity and the undeniability of the results.”
“Every one of us in this room and listening around the world should be chilled to the bone with the findings of this investigation,” she said.
“It now falls on us to do our part. Rather than accept responsibility for its actions, the Russian government has offered only denials and counteraccusations – anything to deflect attention and distract from its guilt. The Russian denials have followed a familiar script. From Crimea to MH17 to the Donbas to the killing of Litvinenko, the list goes on and on. And the song is always the same. Russia is somehow never behind these incidents. But no one’s buying it.”
Member states, Haley stressed, must help the UK track down the two wanted Russians.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters Thursday that the British are “good storytellers” and probably made a case based on stuff “from the internet.”
France, Germany, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement, as released by the State Department, on Thursday to “reiterate our outrage at the use of a chemical nerve agent.”
“We urge Russia to provide full disclosure of its Novichok programme to the OPCW. And we encourage those with information about the attack in Salisbury on 4 March, as well as the further poisoning in Amesbury, to come forward to the UK authorities,” the statement continued. “We have full confidence in the British assessment that the two suspects were officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU, and that this operation was almost certainly approved at a senior government level.”
The announcement “further strengthens our intent to continue to disrupt together the hostile activities of foreign intelligence networks on our territories, uphold the prohibition of chemical weapons, protect our citizens and defend ourselves from all forms of malign state activity directed against us and our societies.”