Sunday, June 17, 2018
Politics

Russia demands access to British probe of nerve agent attack, vows to retaliate for any sanctions

MOSCOW - Russia vowed Tuesday to retaliate for any British sanctions imposed in response to a suspected chemical attack on British soil and demanded access to samples of a nerve agent that British investigators say was linked to Moscow in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also said Russia does not intend to comply with British Prime Minister Theresa Mayís demand Monday for an official explanation of how a nerve agent identified as Novichok, which was developed by the former Soviet Union, allegedly came to be used in the poisoning attack in southern England.

Lavrov insisted that Russian experts should be able to examine the British evidence but again denied Russian involvement in last weekís attack.

The Foreign Ministry later said Russia would retaliate for any sanctions imposed by London in response to the attack. "Any threats will not remain unanswered," the ministry said in a statement. "The British side should be aware of that."

Read More: Theresa May says Ďhighly likelyí Russia is responsible for spyís poisoning

The ministry said it presented the British ambassador with "a strong protest over the unfounded accusations leveled at Russia by British authorities" and stressed that "Moscow would not respond to Londonís ultimatum until the Russian side is provided with samples of the chemical substance."

British authorities say a deadly nerve agent was used to poison former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the city of Salisbury, about 88 miles southwest of London. Both remain comatose.

May said use of the chemical, which is believed to be unique to Russia, made Moscowís complicity "highly likely."

According to the Interfax news agency, Lavrov denied that Russia had anything to do with Skripalís poisoning and reiterated Moscowís willingness to cooperate if information related to the nature of the chemical agent was shared with Russia.

Lavrov said Britain has an obligation to share forensic data under the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Russia also summoned the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, following the allegations, Interfax reported.

"Before delivering ultimatums to report to the British government within 24 hours," Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow, "it is better to comply with your own obligations under international law - in this case the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons."

Russiaís representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Alexander Shulgin, told a meeting of the groupís executive board Tuesday that Londonís allegations of Russian involvement were unfounded and unacceptable. Interfax reported. He called on Britain to turn over samples to the organization for independent laboratory analysis.

Earlier on Tuesday, Russiaís Foreign Ministry and pro-Kremlin lawmakers derided Britain amid a deepening showdown.

May said Russia either engaged in a direct attack against Britain or lost control of the nerve agent it developed. Britain will not tolerate such a "brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil," she warned.

The British leader stopped short of announcing retaliatory actions, saying she would give Russia a chance to respond to her governmentís findings and would return to Parliament on Wednesday with a plan for specific action.

But in her remarks, May described a "reckless" and "indiscriminate" attack against the 66-year-old Skripal and his daughter Yulia, 33. A police officer also remains hospitalized.

On the Russian Foreign Ministryís verified Twitter account, the posts carried a characteristically flippant and sarcastic tone. It launched a hashtag, #HighlyLikelyRussia, and portrayed Mayís ultimatum as part of broader anti-Russian hysteria plaguing Western discourse.

"Sincere thanks to Mrs. May for #HighlyLikelyRussia," a tweet read.

The post included a video of recent intense snowfall in Britain, mockingly suggesting that Russia was to blame for the weather. The video concludes with an image of a penguin, and signs off with "at least penguin enjoys it."

Other Foreign Ministry accounts, such as one belonging to Russiaís embassy in South Africa, struck similar notes.

Meanwhile, Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Federation Council, Russiaís upper chamber of parliament, wrote on Facebook that Mayís accusations were "despicable and unacceptable."

"For Britain, the Queen of Courts, this is a complete degradation," Kosachev wrote. "The accused has to provide the proof, not the court or the prosecutor, without being given access either to the evidence or the trial itself."

Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, asserted that the British allegations were part of a planned effort to meddle in Sundayís Russian presidential election.

"It is during this period that these events unfold in order to try to discredit Russia in the eyes (of) the international community, in order to create this unfavorable background in the conduct of the election campaign," he said, according to Interfax. Citing "this interference in our elections," he added: "The form chosen is the most cynical, when the health of citizens is put at risk. . . . Once again I want to say that Britain is responsible for this."

His counterpart in the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, echoed his words.

"In Russia, a very important political campaign is underway on preparing for the presidential election," Matvienko said. "This is another fake aimed at whipping up another round of the Russophobic campaign."

While most of the reactions have so far avoided the topic of Novichok, the nerve agent identified by May in the poisoning of the Skripals, other members of Russiaís Federation Council addressed the accusations head-on.

Council member Igor Morozov, a veteran of the Russian security services, told the RIA Novosti news agency that "Russia has not only stopped producing nerve agents, including Novichok, but also completely destroyed all of its stockpiles."

However, he also said it would be "dangerous but possible" to secretly produce Novichok, although that would require special facilities and technicians.

Last year, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced the destruction of Russiaís final batch of declared chemical weapons. However, Russian scientists who blew the whistle on Novichokís existence in 1992 claimed at the time that the nerve agent was designed specifically to skirt chemical weapons conventions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking to reporters en route back to Washington from a trip to Africa, said the nerve agent "clearly came from Russia," and he warned of consequences. Hours after Tillerson backed the British accusation, the White House announced Tuesday that he would be replaced as secretary of state by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Comments
Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

Erosion of immigrant protections began with Trump inaugural

The Trump administrationís move to separate immigrant parents from their children on the U.S.-Mexico border has grabbed attention around the world, drawn scorn from human-rights organizations and overtaken the immigration debate in Congress.Itís also...
Updated: 1 hour ago
GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

GOP lawmakers decry family separations as WH defends policy

WASHINGTON ó Congressional Republicans distanced themselves Thursday from the Trump administrationís aggressive policy of separating children from their parents at the southern border even as the White House cited the Bible in defending its "zero tol...
Published: 06/14/18
Sarah Sanders and  Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Sarah Sanders and Raj Shah are planning to step down, per CBS report

Press secretary Sarah Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are considering stepping down, according to a CBS report. Sanders promptly responded in a Tweet saying, "I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." Does @CBSNews k...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

Fed raises key rate and sees possible acceleration in hikes

WASHINGTON ó The Federal Reserve has raised its benchmark interest rate for the second time this year and signaled that it may step up its pace of rate increases because of solid economic growth and rising inflation. The Fed now foresees four rate hi...
Published: 06/13/18
Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister hits $1 million mark in first bid for election

TAMPA ó Law enforcement officers never want to be outgunned. Neither do political candidates.Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister need not worry.The Republican candidate has amassed what appears to be a record-sized war chest of just more than $1 mil...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

Romano: It ainít voter suppression if you bother to show up

So the Supreme Court is in favor of voter suppression.Or is it election integrity?I suppose your interpretation depends on your party affiliation.Liberals seem convinced that an Ohio voting law upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday is a devious plot ...
Published: 06/12/18
Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

Trumpís tougher Cuba policy having little impact on Tampa area

TAMPA ó June 16 will mark a year since President Trump announced a tougher Cuba travel policy, but unlike in much of the nation, the changes donít seem to have hurt local bookings to the island.The number of people traveling between Tampa and Havana ...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

Trump, Kim Jong Un arrive in Singapore for historic summit

SINGAPORE - President Donald Trump arrived here Sunday night ahead of a potentially historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first meeting between the leaders of two countries that have been sworn enemies for almost seven decades.Air...
Published: 06/11/18
Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year while serving in the White House, filings show

Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump made at least $82 million in outside income last year while serving in the White House, filings show

Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the presidentís daughter and son-in-law, brought in at least $82 millionvin outside income while serving as senior White House advisers during 2017, according to new financial disclosure forms released Monday.Ivanka Tr...
Published: 06/11/18