Russian spy: May under pressure to take firm action

 In U.S.
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Media captionPresident Vladimir Putin is asked whether Russia had a hand in the Skripal poisoning

Theresa May is facing mounting pressure to take decisive action against whoever was behind the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Ex-national security advisor Lord Ricketts said “firm action” was needed once responsibility was confirmed.

Asked whether Russia was to blame, President Vladimir Putin told the BBC: “Get to the bottom of things there, then we’ll discuss this.”

Sergei and Yulia Skripal remain in a critical but stable condition.

The 66-year-old retired military intelligence officer and his daughter, 33, were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on 4 March.

Det Sgt Nick Bailey, who fell ill attending the pair, remains seriously ill in hospital but has been talking to his family.

Police activity continued on Monday afternoon, with officers – some wearing hazardous materials suits- removing a white van from the village of Winterslow, about six miles from Salisbury.

A Sainsbury’s car park in Salisbury was also sealed off by police.

Earlier, Mrs May chaired a National Security Council meeting, held to discuss the latest information with ministers and intelligence and military chiefs.

She is due to update MPs in the Commons on the investigation shortly.

Foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme evidence was mounting against Russia and he “would be surprised if she did not point the finger at the Kremlin”.

Mr Skripal was convicted by the Russian government of passing secrets to MI6 in 2004, but given refuge in the UK in 2010 as part of a “spy swap”.

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Media captionSteve Cooper was in the pub where traces of a nerve agent have been found

Lord Ricketts told Today he had “little doubt that this had come from Russia”.

“The really difficult judgement is who authorised it and why – was it some sort of rogue element or was it centrally authorised? I suppose that does have some impact on the kind of reactions that we need,” he said.

However, Dmitry Peskov, press secretary to President Putin, said: “This incident happened on British soil and it doesn’t have anything to do with the Russian Federation whatsoever, let alone the president.”

Putin declines to discuss Salisbury

By Steve Rosenberg, BBC Moscow correspondent

Vladimir Putin was on the campaign trail today in southern Russia. He visited a grain centre in Krasnodar.

There, I asked him: “Is Russia behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal?”

“We’re dealing here with agriculture,” he told me, “to create conditions for the lives of our people. And you talk to me about some tragedies. First, get to the bottom of what happened there and then we’ll discuss this.”

These are President Putin’s first public comments on events in Salisbury.

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