Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Boris Says Putin Ordered Spy Hit; 'HIS DECISION TO DIRECT THE USE OF NERVE AGENT' NATO WARNS KREMLIN: WE STAND TOGETHER Moscow Prepares to Expel Envoys as It Ridicules 'Gavin the Wench'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Boris Says Putin Ordered Spy Hit; 'HIS DECISION TO DIRECT THE USE OF NERVE AGENT' NATO WARNS KREMLIN: WE STAND TOGETHER Moscow Prepares to Expel Envoys as It Ridicules 'Gavin the Wench'

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil, Joe Murphy and Will Stewart in Moscow

BORIS JOHNSON today said it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Vladimir Putin ordered the Salisbury attack.

Stepping up the accusations against the Kremlin, the Foreign Secretary put the Russian president in the frame for the use of a nerve agent to poison the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month.

Visiting the Battle of Britain Bunker museum in Uxbridge with his Polish counterpart, Mr Johnson said: "Our quarrel is with Putin's Kremlin, and with his decision and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War. That is why we are at odds with Russia."

His words went further than those of Theresa May, who has laid the blame for the attack on Russia but not directly on Mr Putin. They are, however, in line with the findings of the inquiry into the murder of the dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, using radioactive Polonium 210, which Continued on Page 4 Continued from Page 1 concluded that the killing was "probably" approved by Mr Putin.

Mr Johnson also warned Russia that the "world is losing patience" amid a backlash over the use of the Novichok nerve agent. Nato said the Kremlin had miscalculated the resolve of the West.

Moscow, however, taunted Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, who yesterday told Russia to "go away and shut up". Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, suggested the MP "lacks education" and Major-General Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman at Russia's defence ministry, said: "The market wench talk that British defence secretary Gavin Williamson resorted to reflects his extreme intellectual impotency. It proves the deficiency of London's accusations thrown at Russia in the past but also the inadequacy of the accusers."

Mr Lavrov also confirmed that Moscow would expel British diplomats in retaliation for Mrs May's move on Wednesday. She ordered 23 Russian envoys suspected of spying to pack their bags fol-lowing the conclusion that Russia was behind the poisoning of Mr Skripal who was convicted of spying for MI6 in 2006 and his daughter Yulia, 33. The Kremlin denies involvement.

Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, who was briefed by Britain's national security adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill, in Brussels, said: "Russia has underestimated the resolve and unity of Nato allies. The Nato allies express strong political support for the UK. We have no reason to doubt the findings and assessments made by the British government." The UK and Poland are stepping up the battle against Russian "disinformation" and will also work with nations on Russia's borders to defend their institutions.

In Uxbridge, Mr Johnson signed a memorandum of understanding with the Polish foreign minister, Jacek Czaputowicz. …

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