Israel ‘vigorously’ condemns attempted murder of Russian double agent in the UK

Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats from London and Russia promised to retaliate soon

Israel condemned the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Britain on Thursday as a diplomatic spat between London and Moscow escalates over the attempted murder.

“Israel views with gravity the event which took place in Great Britain and condemns it vigorously. We hope that the international community will cooperate in order to avoid such further events,” the statement read.

While criticizing the attempted murder, the Israeli Foreign Ministry does not take a stance on the row between Britain and Russia over the responsibilities on the case.

Moscow warned on Thursday it was preparing to retaliate against the “irresponsible” expulsion of its diplomats from London, as Britain urged its allies to take a stand against Russia over the poisoning of a former spy.

The escalating international scandal is unfolding as former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in critical condition after exposure to the Soviet-designed chemical Novichok on March 4 in the British city of Salisbury.

Britain on Wednesday said it would expel 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts over the poisoning, which it has blamed on Russia.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Russia could be directly responsible or may have “lost control” of the nerve agent. She had given Moscow until midnight Tuesday to disclose details of the Novichok program to the international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov Thursday slammed Britain’s position as “absolutely irresponsible”.

He warned that retaliatory steps would soon follow and President Vladimir Putin would choose the option that “most suits Moscow’s interests.”

Russia would respond by kicking out British diplomats, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying at an event in Moscow, adding that it would happen “soon.”

Russia has rejected demands by Britain to explain how Novichok was used on British soil, accusing May of resorting to populism and using Russia as a scapegoat.

May’s statements that Moscow is behind the poisoning are “completely crazy accusations against Russia, our entire country, our people,” Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists Thursday.

Moscow has mostly shrugged off the measures announced by May, ridiculing the prospect of the termination of high-profile visits.

Zakharova further accused Britain of refusing to “grant access to Russian citizen (Yulia) Skripal” or to work with Moscow through the OPCW and give Russia access to the poisonous substance.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the BBC however that Britain is “entirely in conformity” with OPCW procedures and is sending a sample of the nerve agent to the watchdog for examination.

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