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Judith Gough

British Ambassador to Sweden

15th March 2018 Stockholm, Sweden

Update on UK response to the Salisbury Incident

On Monday the UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, addressed Parliament on the latest information from the investigation of the poisoning of Mr Skripal and his daughter on 4th March. She said that they were poisoned with Novichok: a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia. And that based on Russia’s capability, combined with their record of conducting state sponsored assassinations – including against former intelligence officers whom they regard as legitimate targets – the UK government concluded it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act.

Our Foreign Secretary then summoned the Russian Ambassador in London and demanded that within 24 hours Russia must explain to the UK and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons how Novichok ended up on the streets of Salisbury. There were only two plausible explanations. Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against the UK. Or the Russian government lost control of its Novichok stockpile, thus allowing it to get into the hands of others.

The 24 hour deadline has passed and the Kremlin’s response has demonstrated complete disdain for the seriousness of these events. They have provided no credible explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the UK and no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law.
Therefore, there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who remains in serious but stable condition.

This unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK has taken place against the backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian State aggression in Europe, including Crimea and Donbas, and beyond. Therefore it must be met with a full and robust response.

As announced by Prime Minister May this afternoon, the immediate actions by the UK Government include the following:

– under the Vienna Convention, the UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers

– we will suspend all planned high level bi-lateral contacts between the UK and the Russian Federation, including revoking the invitation to Foreign Minister Lavrov to visit London and confirming there will be no attendance by Ministers or Members of the Royal Family at this Summer’s World Cup in Russia

– we will develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against all forms of Hostile State Activity. And we will table a government amendment to the Sanctions Bill to strengthen our powers to impose sanctions in response to the violation of human rights – thus playing our part in the international effort to punish those responsible for the sorts of abuses suffered by Sergey Magnitsky

– we will make full use of existing powers to enhance our efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activity that threatens the security of the UK and of our allies – including by increasing checks on private flights, customs and freight

– and finally, we will freeze Russian State assets wherever we have the evidence that they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents.

There are more measures being taken that cannot be made public for reasons of National Security and other measures that we stand ready to deploy, should we face further Russian provocation.

It is also important to note that none of the actions we are taking are intended to prevent contacts between our populations. We have no disagreement with the people of Russia.

But we will not tolerate the threat to life of British people and others on British soil from the Russian government. Nor will we tolerate such a flagrant breach of Russia’s international obligations.

About Judith Gough

Judith Gough is the British Ambassador to Sweden. Before this, she was British Ambassador to Ukraine from 2015 to 2019 and previously Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at…

Judith Gough is the British Ambassador to Sweden. Before this, she was British Ambassador to Ukraine from 2015 to 2019 and previously Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the FCO.

Ms Gough joined the FCO in 2001 and has been engaged with this region for over 20 years and previously served as Her Majesty’s Ambassador in Tbilisi. Ms Gough has also served in the British Embassy in Seoul and, prior to joining the FCO, worked as a Consultant at Ernst and Young, in Emerging Markets and Financial Services.