Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tillerson Casts Poisoning as Sign of More Aggressive Russia

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tillerson Casts Poisoning as Sign of More Aggressive Russia

Article excerpt

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cast the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain as part of a "certain unleashing of activity" by Russia that the United States is struggling to understand. He warned that the poisoning would "certainly trigger a response."

Tillerson, echoing the British government's finger-pointing toward Moscow, said he didn't yet know whether Russia's government knew of the attack with a military-grade nerve agent, but that one way or another, "it came from Russia." He said it was "almost beyond comprehension" why a state actor would deploy such a dangerous substance in a public place in a foreign country where others could be exposed.

"I cannot understand why anyone would take such an action. But this is a substance that is known to us and does not exist widely," Tillerson told reporters as he flew on government aircraft from Nigeria to Washington. "It is only in the hands of a very, very limited number of parties."

British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Novichock, the nerve agent used March 4 against ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, was developed by the Soviet Union near the end of the Cold War.

Skripal, 66, was a Russian military intelligence officer before flipping to the British side in the 1990s, going to jail in Russia in 2006 and being freed in an exchange of spies in 2010.

May said on Monday that 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.

As she addressed the House of Commons, the British leader stopped short of announcing retaliatory actions, saying she would return to Parliament on Wednesday with a plan for specific action.

May strongly signaled that the already frosty relations between Britain and Russia were headed toward lows perhaps not seen since the Cold War. Lawmakers in Parliament called for sanctions and condemnations of Russia from the United Nations, European Union and United States. …

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