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Spy poisoning: Russian FM threatens to retaliate against Britain, Mattis calls Moscow 'strategic competitor'

War of words continue over spy poisoning.

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Spy poisoning: Russian FM threatens to retaliate against Britain, Mattis calls Moscow 'strategic competitor'
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 Russia's foreign minister threatened today to retaliate against Britain for "anti-Russian measures", with the two countries at loggerheads over the poisoning of a spy in southern England.

Speaking after a meeting with Japanese counterpart Taro Kono, Lavrov said: "If the British government continues taking some anti-Russian measures, we will hit back under the principle of reciprocity." Lavrov urged the British government to "respond calmly" over the March 4 attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who remain in critical condition. Britain says only Russia had the capability, motive and intent to be behind the attack, which used the nerve agent Novichok reportedly developed by the former Soviet Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed this as "nonsense". Britain reacted by expelling 23 Russian diplomats and their families -- around 80 people in total -- and has also cut off high-level contacts. A spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May said London was "actively considering" other measures. Yesterday, the head of the OPCW chemical watchdog said it would take two to three weeks to complete laboratory analysis of samples taken from the poisoning. The affair has poisoned Russia's already shaky relations with many Western countries.

The EU has expressed its solidarity with Britain and leaders at a summit later this week will agree to "coordinate on the consequences" for Russia, according to a draft statement seen by AFP. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis suggested yesterday that Moscow's suspected involvement shows Russia has "chosen to be a strategic competitor." However, President Donald Trump skipped the issue when congratulating Putin on his re-election and proposed a summit in the "not-too-distant future." Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe voiced "outrage" over the attack in a call to May, according to her office. Skripal, 66, a former Russian officer who sold secrets to Britain and moved there in a 2010 spy swap, remains in a coma along with his 33-year-old daughter after they were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury.

Mattis calls Russia 'strategic competitor' 

Russia's suspected involvement in the poisoning of a former double agent and his daughter in Britain shows Moscow has "chosen to be a strategic competitor," US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis suggested today. "We've always been willing to cooperate with Russia where possible," Mattis told reporters when asked if he saw scope for improved relations with Russia following President Vladimir Putin's re-election. "Unfortunately they have chosen to be a strategic competitor of late from what happened in the United Kingdom," he added, in an apparent reference to the March 4 attack in Salisbury. Mattis also called Russia out over its annexation of Crimea and military involvement in eastern Ukraine. "The list goes on," Mattis said.

Russia is facing huge pressure from Britain and its allies to explain how its former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned on British soil with a nerve agent that Britain says is Soviet-designed.
The crisis has resulted in tit-for-tat diplomat expulsions from London and Moscow. Mattis said that while the US is open to better relations: "We want stability, we want peace, at the same time we will defend our democratic institutions and our members of the NATO alliance. We stand united." Presidents Donald Trump and Putin spoke by phone, just two days after the Russian leader secured a fourth term in the Kremlin.

The pair did not discuss the nerve agent attack in Britain, according to the Kremlin and White House. "I don't believe that was discussed in today's call," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said. When asked if he was surprised by the Russian election results, Mattis responded: "Not in the least."

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