Theresa May ‘orders cyberwar’ on Russia’s spy network as she calls UN security meeting.
Theresa May has vowed to take on Russia’s spy network as she called an emergency UN security meeting amid reports Britain is preparing for cyberwarfare.
It comes after two Russians were charged with carrying out the Salisbury Novichok poisonings in a dramatic breakthrough in the major investigation.
Pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister made clear the attack was “not a rogue operation” and was “almost certainly” approved at a senior level of state.
Mrs May will update the UN Security Council today on the next steps after she briefed Donald Trump and delivered her statement in the Commons.
Whitehall sources told the Times newspaper that cyberwar will almost certainly play a part in the UK’s retaliation against Russia’s spy network.
Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — believed to be aliases — are accused of the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.
Police said they believe the pair flew into Gatwick two days before the attack, when they checked into an east London hotel. They then are said to have travelled to Salisbury to carry out a reconnaissance mission, and the attack itself the following day.
They used a specially adapted counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle to smear the nerve agent on the door of Mr Skripal’s home, officers said.
No charges have been brought over the death of Dawn Sturgess or the poisoning of Charlie Rowley. This is because police still have to establish how the perfume bottle reached the charity bin where Mr Rowley believes he found it.
The Russians flew back to Moscow out of Heathrow on the night of the poisoning. A series of CCTV images were released showing the men at both London airports, in Bow, and in Salisbury, as counterterrorism officers set out the most conclusive evidence so far of Russian involvement.
Although Mrs May did not explicitly blame the Kremlin for authorising the attempted assassination, senior Conservatives directly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of approving the operation.
Commons Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said there was “no doubt it was state ordered and President Putin bears responsibility for a war-like act”.
The charge d’affaires at Russia’s London embassy was summoned to the Foreign Office for a dressing-down by an official following Mrs May’s statement on Wednesday.
Britain called the meeting of the United Nations Security Council – of which Russia is a permanent member – for today.
Mrs May spoke by phone with US President Mr Trump on Tuesday night and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday. She is expected to speak to other leaders over the next few days as she seeks to forge an international alliance for further action.
The Prime Minister told MPs the UK would push for new sanctions against Russians responsible for cyber attacks, additional listings under the existing regime and promised to work with intelligence allies to “counter the threat posed by the GRU”.
Former GRU officer Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were left critically ill after being exposed to the military grade nerve agent Novichok in March.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu also confirmed that officers have now linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury four months later.
In the second incident, Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent used in Salisbury.
Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.
Mr Basu said: “We do not believe Dawn and Charlie were deliberately targeted, but became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”
The charges relate to the first incident, but Mr Basu said officers continue to liaise with the CPS regarding the poisoning of Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess.
Police also released an image of a counterfeit perfume bottle after tests found it contained a “significant amount” of Novichok.
Mr Rowley told officers he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin on June 27.
Three days later he got some of the contents on himself, while Ms Sturgess applied some of the substance to her wrists.
Mr Basu said the manner in which the bottle and packaging was adapted makes it a “perfect cover” for smuggling the weapon into the country.
But he added: “We don’t yet know where the suspects disposed of the Novichok they used to attack the door, where Dawn and Charlie got the bottle that poisoned them, or if it is the same bottle used in both poisonings.”
Providing an in-depth update on the complex investigation, Mr Basu said the suspects spent two nights at a hotel in east London and made a suspected “reconnaissance” trip to Salisbury the day before the Skripals were poisoned.