France, Germany, Britain and the US have condemned a chemical attack on a Russian former double agent in the UK, blaming Moscow for the attack. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the incident must have "consequences."
The leaders of France, Germany, the US and the UK jointly demanded "complete disclosure" from Russia on the Novichok nerve agent used in the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal, saying there is "no plausible alternative" to Moscow's involvement.
"This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War," they said in a statement on Thursday. The attack constituted "an assault on UK sovereignty" that threatened "the security of us all."
On March 4, Skripal, a 66-year-old former military intelligence agent who betrayed several Russian agents to British intelligence, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, were targeted in the attack. Both remain unconscious in intensive care.
Nick Bailey, the first police officer on the scene, is also in stable but critical condition. Up to 21 other people were treated for exposure, according to police.
The joint statement called on Moscow to provide information on its nerve poison to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), especially after Russia claimed it destroyed all of its chemical weapons stockpiles last year. In an article for Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said London is working to give the OPCW "the opportunity to confirm our analysis independently."
The UK deployed military personnel to the streets of Salisbury to remove potentially contaminated vehicles
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday said he backed a "proportionate" response from British authorities, adding that the incident must have "consequences."
"The attack in Salisbury has taken place against a backdrop of reckless behavior by Russia over many years," said Stoltenberg. "I fully support that there is a need for a response because it has to have consequences when we see actions like we have seen in Salisbury."
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The NATO chief noted that the UK had not invoked Article 5, the transatlantic alliance's collective defense clause. It has only been invoked once in the alliance's history, by the US in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Stoltenberg is expected to meet with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson to further discuss the attack on British soil.
The UK on Wednesday announced a range of measures against Russia, including expelling 23 diplomats.
Moscow said it would retaliate soon. British actions "go way beyond the framework of basic decency," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Thursday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the UK of taking a position that is "absolutely irresponsible," saying "these are all signs of a provocation against our country."
However, Tom Tugendhat, a British MP and chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the House of Commons, told DW that Russia's actions were "warlike."
"Had [this chemical] been opened on the London Underground, for example, it would have killed hundreds of people. And to use it next to a children's playground, where, had the children been there, it would have killed 30 or 40 children," said Tugendhat.
"This is a completely unacceptable, warlike act by a violent, deranged regime that is weakening and lashing out. This is a corrupt dictatorship that has to stop."
ls,dj/kms (Reuters, AFP, dpa)