Growing diplomatic dispute between UK and Russia - What's Your Point?

Russia announced Saturday it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further retaliatory measures in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

 Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain will consider further retaliatory steps in the coming days alongside its allies.

This week's panel: Jessica Colon - Republican strategist, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Marcus Davis - host of "Sunday Morning Live", Bill King - businessman, columnist and former Kemah Mayor, and David Balat – health care executive  join Greg Groogan to discuss the diplomatic dispute.

LONDON (AP) - Key developments in the nerve-agent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia:

2010 - Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer jailed for spying for Britain, is released and flown to the U.K. as part of a swap with Russian agents caught in the United States. He settles in Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London.

March 3, 2018 - Yulia Skripal arrives at Heathrow Airport from Russia to visit her father in England.

March 4, 9:15 a.m. - Sergei Skripal's burgundy BMW is seen in suburban Salisbury, near a cemetery, where his wife and son are commemorated.

March 4, 1:30 p.m. - The BMW is seen driving toward central Salisbury.

March 4, 1:40 p.m. - The BMW is parked at a lot in central Salisbury.

March 4, afternoon - Sergei and Yulia Skripal visit the Bishops Mill pub.

March 4, 2:20 p.m.-3:35 p.m. - Sergei and Yulia Skripal have lunch at the Zizzi restaurant.

March 4, 4:15 p.m. - Emergency services are called by a passer-by concerned about a man and a woman in Salisbury city center. Officers find the Skripals unconscious on a bench. They are taken to Salisbury District Hospital, where they remain in critical condition.

March 5 - Police say two people in Salisbury are being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance. The force does not identify them but the BBC reports the man is Sergei Skripal.

March 6 - Counterterrorism detectives take charge of the investigation. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tells lawmakers it is too early to say who was responsible but calls Russia "a malign and disruptive force."

March 7 - Police announce that the Skripals were likely poisoned with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt. They disclose that a police officer who responded to the incident is in serious condition in a hospital.

March 9 - About 180 troops trained in chemical warfare and decontamination are deployed to Salisbury to help with the police investigation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says Moscow might be willing to assist with the investigation but expresses resentment at suggestions the Kremlin was behind the attack.

March 11 - Public health officials tell people who visited the Zizzi restaurant or Bishops Mill pub in Salisbury on the day of the attack or the next day to wash their clothes as a precaution.

March 12 - Prime Minister Theresa May tells the House of Commons that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. She says it's highly likely it came from Russia, and gives Moscow until midnight March 13 to provide an explanation or face "extensive" retaliatory measures.

March 13 - Russia says it won't respond to Britain's deadline unless it is given samples of the nerve agent. Lavrov says allegations of Russian involvement are "nonsense."

March 14 - May announces in the House of Commons that Russia is "culpable" of the Skripals' attempted murder. She says Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats, suspend high-level contacts with Moscow and take new measures against "hostile state activity."

March 17 - Russia announces it is expelling 23 British diplomats, shutting the British consulate in St. Petersburg and closing cultural organization the British Council.

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia announced Saturday it is expelling 23 British diplomats and threatened further retaliatory measures in a growing diplomatic dispute over a nerve agent attack on a former spy in Britain.

Britain's government said the move was expected, and that it doesn't change their conviction that Russia was behind the poisoning of ex-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury. Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain will consider further retaliatory steps in the coming days alongside its allies.

The Russian Foreign Ministry ordered the 23 diplomats to leave within a week. It also said it is ordering the closure in Russia of the British Council, a government-backed organization for cultural and scientific cooperation, and is ending an agreement to reopen the British consulate in St. Petersburg.

The announcement followed Britain's order this week for 23 Russian diplomats to leave the U.K. because Russia was not cooperating in the case of the Skripals, who were found March 4 poisoned by a nerve agent that British officials say was developed in Russia. They remain in critical condition and a policeman who visited their home is in serious condition.

Britain's foreign secretary accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the poisoning of the Skripals. Putin's spokesman denounced the claim.

Britain's Foreign Office said Saturday that "Russia's response doesn't change the facts of the matter - the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable."

The British Council said it was "profoundly disappointed" at its pending closure. The organization has been operating in Russia since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

"It is our view that when political or diplomatic relations become difficult, cultural relations and educational opportunities are vital to maintain on-going dialogue between people and institutions," it said.

The Russian statement said the government could take further measures if Britain makes any more "unfriendly" moves.

Britain's National Security Council will meet early next week to consider the next steps, May said.

Western powers see the nerve-agent attack as the latest sign of alleged Russian meddling abroad. The tensions threaten to overshadow Putin's expected re-election Sunday for another six-year presidential term.

The poisoning has plunged Britain and Russia into a war of recrimination and blame.

British Ambassador Laurie Bristow, who was summoned the Foreign Ministry in Moscow on Saturday to be informed of the moves, said the poisoning was an attack on "the international rules-based system on which all countries, including Russia, depend for their safety and security."

"This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack in the United Kingdom, the attempted murder of two people, using a chemical weapon developed in Russia and not declared by Russia at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as Russia was and is obliged to do under the Chemical Weapons Convention," he added.

But Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev blamed Britain for the escalating tensions.

"We have not raised any tensions in our relations, it was the decision by the British side without evidence," he told The Associated Press.

Kosachev, who heads the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of the Russian parliament, said "I believe sooner or later we will learn the truth and this truth will be definitely very unpleasant for the prime minister of the United Kingdom."

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied that Russia or the Soviet Union had ever developed Novichok, the class of nerve agent that Britain says was used to poison the Skripals.

But a Russian scientist disclosed details of a secret program to manufacture the military-grade nerve agents in the 1990s, and later published the formula.

Speaking on Russia-24 television, Zakharova on Saturday linked Britain's angry reaction to the war in Syria. She said Britain is taking a tough line because of frustration at recent advances of Russian-backed Syrian government forces against Western-backed rebels.

Russia argues it has turned the tide of the international fight against Islamic State extremists by lending military backing to Syria's government. With Russian help, Syrian forces have stepped up their offensive on rebel-held areas in recent days, leaving many dead.

The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Sweden on Saturday all rejected a suggestion by Zakharova that the nerve agent might have originated in their countries.

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom tweeted that she "forcefully reject(s) unacceptable and unfounded allegation" adding that "Russia should answer UK questions instead." Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky called it an "absurd accusation."

British police appealed Saturday for witnesses who can help investigators reconstruct the Skripals' movements in the crucial hours before they were found unconscious. It is still not clear how the Skripals came in contact with the nerve agent.

New tensions have also surfaced over the death Monday of a London-based Russian businessman, Nikolai Glushkov. British police said Friday that he died from compression to the neck and opened a murder investigation.

Russia also suspects foul play in Glushkov's death and opened its own inquiry Friday.

British police said there is no apparent link between the attack on Glushkov and the poisoning of the Skripals, but both have raised alarm in the West at a time when Russia is increasingly assertive on the global stage and is facing investigations over alleged interference in the Donald Trump's 2016 election as U.S. president.


Lawless contributed from London. Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.

LONDON (AP) - As British authorities investigate the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England, there is much mystery about how exactly the brazen attack was carried out. Here are some of the unanswered questions that British officials are chasing:


British Prime Minister Theresa May has declared that former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned March 4 in Salisbury with Novichok, a class of military-grade nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. They are both in critical condition.

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, an ex-commander of the British Army's chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear regiment, said Novichok was only ever manufactured at one site, a military laboratory at Shikhany in central Russia.

De Bretton-Gordon said there were rumors of a Novichok test in Uzbekistan in the 1980s but that any of the remaining nerve agent from that experiment would have lost its toxicity - and that the agent used to poison the Skripals was extremely toxic. He said it was "very unlikely" the Novichok used in Salisbury could have been lost or stolen in the years after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Russia's envoy at the international chemical weapons watchdog said Britain and the U.S. both had access to Novichok and that the nerve agent used to attack the Skripals could have come from either of their stockpiles.

De Bretton-Gordon dismissed that claim as "complete hogwash."

According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, there is no record of Novichok nerve agents having been declared by any nation that signed the Chemical Weapons convention.



It's unclear. Some British media, citing unnamed police sources, are reporting that Yulia Skripal unknowingly brought the Novichok nerve agent to Salisbury in her suitcase on a plane trip from Moscow, arriving in Britain the day before the attack.

Some scientists say it's feasible that the nerve agent could be made stable enough to travel and that various compounds could have been added to Novichok to make it a clear, colorless liquid resembling water, perfume or alcohol. The ingredients to make Novichok are relatively cheap and accessible, but mixing them together is extremely dangerous, which suggests the nerve agent was brought to the U.K. as a finished product.

"The moment you mix this stuff up, it presents a high risk to you - and if you were to spill it, you'd be in terrible danger," said Andrea Sella, a professor of inorganic chemistry at University College London.

He said nerve agents like Novichok are usually highly unstable and degrade quickly in the presence of moisture, but that if the agent was sealed in a tight container "it ought to be able to hang around."

De Bretton-Gordon said it was possible that the Novichok arrived in Salisbury in Yulia Skripal's suitcase, but said much could go wrong in such a scenario.

"I think there must be somebody behind it who has delivered it," he said.



It's thought the Skripals were exposed to Novichok at the elder Skripal's home in Salisbury. But officials are struggling to explain why there appears to have been a significant delay between when they were exposed to the deadly agent and when they got sick.

Yulia Skripal arrived in the U.K. on March 3 but it was not until the following day - after she and her father had eaten lunch and stopped at a pub - that they were found slumped over unconscious on a public bench. A police officer who then visited the Skripal residence was also later hospitalized for chemical poisoning. As of Friday he was still in serious condition.

"The fact that both the father and daughter came down with very similar symptoms at a similar time suggests that the contact with Novichok was fairly close for both of them," said Alastair Hay, a professor emeritus of environmental toxicology at the University of Leeds.

Sella said it seemed unusual that neither of the Skripals appeared to have noticed their exposure to Novichok since they did not seek medical attention.

"It seems like (the Novichok) was disguised incredibly cunningly, because if you suddenly realized there was this horrendous substance in something that you thought was innocuous, you would immediately raise the alarm," he said. "But to all appearances, they had no real concerns: they went to lunch and they went to a pub."


Jill Lawless in London and Michael Corder in The Hague contributed to this report.