Ties between the two countries deteriorate rapidly in the 10 days since Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury, southwest England.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the House of Commons on her government's reaction to the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, in London, March 14, 2018.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May addresses the House of Commons on her government's reaction to the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, in London, March 14, 2018. (Reuters)

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin for a deterioration of relations between Moscow and London as she announced retaliatory measures after the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain.

"Many of us looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope. We wanted a better relationship and it is tragic that President Putin has chosen to act in this way," May told parliament.

British experts say Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent from a broad category known as Novichok, which was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The case has drawn parallels with the 2006 death by radiation poisoning of former Russian agent and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, which Britain blamed on Moscow.

Russia denies any involvement in the attack on Skripal and his daughter, who have been critical in hospital since they were found unconscious on March 4 on a bench in the city of Salisbury.

TRT World's Sarah Morice reports.

US stands with UK

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Wednesday the United States believes Russia is responsible for a chemical attack in Britain on a former Russia double agent and his daughter, and the UN Security Council should take action.

"The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent," Haley told a Security Council meeting.

TRT World's Harry Horton has more.

List of measures announced by May

- Britain will expel 23 Russian diplomats who it says have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers. "They have just one week to leave," May said. "This will be the single biggest expulsion for over thirty years and it reflects the fact that this is not the first time that the Russian State has acted against our country."

- Britain "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."

- Britain will develop new laws to harden its defences against all forms of "hostile state activity" including being able to detain those suspected of hostile state activity at Britain's borders. Currently, this power is only used in relation to those suspected of terrorism.

- No British ministers or members of the royal family will attend this year's football World Cup. Britain will suspend all planned high level bilateral contacts between the UK and the Russian Federation.

- All capabilities of UK law enforcement will be brought to bear against "serious criminals and corrupt elites," May says, adding that there is there is "no place" for them or their money in Britain.

- Britain will "fundamentally degrade" Russian intelligence capability in the UK for years to come and prevent them from rebuilding it.

- Britain will start to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK who could be engaged in activity that threatens Britain and its allies. "We will increase checks on private flights, customs and freight," May said.

- Britain's interior minister will consider whether new counter-espionage powers are needed to clamp down on hostile activities of foreign agents in Britain.

- Britain will seek to strengthen its power to impose sanctions in response to the violations of human rights. "In doing so, we will play our part in an international effort to punish those responsible for the sorts of abuses suffered by Sergei Magnitsky," May said.

- May said "it is tragic that President Putin has chosen to act in this way," adding that she has no disagreement with Russian people or Russian citizens living in Britain in a law-abiding away. 

TRT World's Sarah Morice reports from London.

May also referred to the future of TV network Russia Today and said it was not a matter for her but for the independent regulator Ofcom.

Ofcom warned on Tuesday that it could strip Russia Today (RT) of its UK licence.

Britain's ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow,  had earlier attended a meeting at Russia's Foreign Ministry where the poisoning was discussed, the diplomat said.

"I discussed with colleagues the recent incident in Salisbury and Russia's response to the requests that we made earlier this week. 

Russian embassy condemns UK moves 

Russia's embassy in London condemned the series of punitive measures announced by May as "hostile action."

"We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted. All the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain," the embassy said in a statement.

TRT World's Julia Lyubova reports on Moscow's reaction.

Russia's Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, on Wednesday repeated Moscow's denial that it had anything to do with the poisoning and called for proof of its involvement.

"We demand that material proof be provided of allegedly found Russian trace," Nebenzia said at a UN Security Council meeting on the poisoning.

EU to discuss Russia incident

European Union leaders will discuss the poisoning of the former Russian double agent in Britain, the chairman of EU leaders Donald Tusk said on Wednesday.

"I express my full solidarity with Prime Minister Theresa May in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow," Tusk told a news conference in Helsinki.

"I'm ready to put the issue on next week's European Council agenda," he said.

France's and Germany's foreign ministers on Wednesday said they stand by their British ally after the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in northwestern England.

New German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin "can completely understand" why Britain took action over the poisoning, and insisted Russia "actively take part" in explaining its circumstances.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies