An affront to the rules-based system
Daniel Pruce (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2018 - 12:00am

On Sunday 4 March, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on a public bench, in the busy centre of the British town of Salisbury, slipping out of consciousness.

They were taken to hospital by British emergency services, where they remain in a very serious condition. Investigations by world-leading experts at the Defence, Science and Technology laboratory at Porton Down, accredited by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), discovered that they had been exposed to a nerve agent. British Police Officer Nick Bailey was also exposed and remains in hospital in a serious condition.

Hundreds of other people have also been potentially exposed to this nerve agent in what was an indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom. We have deployed our military to secure and decontaminate numerous sites. The police continue an exhaustive, wide-scale investigation. Through those investigations, we have concluded that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with “Novichok,” a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. Novichok is not a weapon which can be manufactured by non-state actors. It is so dangerous that it requires the highest-grade state laboratories and expertise.

This attack has appalled the British public and the international community.

Prime Minister Theresa May, in her statement to the British Parliament, explained that the British Government had concluded that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible. There were only two plausible explanations, either this was a direct act by the Russian State against my country or, conceivably, the Russian government had lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others. Russia was asked to explain to the UK and to the OPCW how it came to lose control of its stockpile, on the understanding that if a satisfactory explanation was not forthcoming, then the conclusion would be that this was a case of state-sponsored attempted murder on British soil, using a banned weapon in breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention and international law.

No satisfactory explanation was received, and in a second statement to the Parliament, my Prime Minister went on to say that it was right to offer Russia the opportunity to provide an explanation, but their response “has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events. They have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent. No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom; no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law. Instead they have treated the use of a military grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”

The Prime Minister continued that ‘there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom. And as I set out on Monday it has taken place against the backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian State aggression across Europe and beyond. It must therefore be met with a full and robust response.”

The Prime Minister has laid out a list of measures which include immediate actions to dismantle the Russian espionage network in the UK, changes to UK laws to better protect the country from espionage activity, and changes to the UK’s bilateral relationship with Russia.

The UK is grateful for the wide support it has received from the international community and in a wide range of international organisations.

The attack in Salisbury was an affront to the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It was an affront to the rules based system on which we all depend.

We will continue to work with our partners across the world to ensure a robust international response. 

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(Daniel Pruce is the British Ambassador to the Philippines. Twitter @DanielPruce)

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