EU offers supports to U.K. in tensions with Russia over poisoning of ex-spy

EU offers supports to U.K. in tensions with Russia over poisoning of ex-spy
From CBC - March 13, 2018

The European Union offeredBritain "solidarity" after London accused Russia of anerve-agent attack on British soil, but held off any threat ofnew sanctions as Prime Minister Theresa May considers her ownresponse.

Coming a year before Britain quits the EU, and after fouryears of fractious internal debates in Brussels on existingpenalties against Moscow over the Ukraine crisis, the case posesa test for pledges of post-Brexit security co-operation.

Asked whether the EU might be ready to impose sanctions onRussia if, as May alleged on Monday, it agreed that it was"highly likely" that Moscow was behind the attack on a formerRussian double agent, a senior member of the executive EuropeanCommission told reporters that London could count on Brussels.

Skripal, 66, and his daughterYulia, 33, remain in critical condition following the March 4 attack.Theywere found collapsedon a public bench in Salisbury.Skripallived in the town,140 kilometressouthwest of London.

On Monday, May said British officials had identified the substance as being part of the Novichok group of nerve agents, which were developed by the Soviet military during the 1970s and 1980s.

She told the British House of Commons that if Moscow cannot deliver a "credible response" to events in Salisbury, "we willconclude that this action amounts to anunlawful use of forceby the Russia state against the United Kingdom," leading to speculationthe U.K. could soon expel senior Russian diplomats.

"We are very much concerned with the situation, also thefindings the U.K. has so far," Valdis Dombrovskis,commissionvice-president overseeing the euro, said Monday. "Of course the U.K. cancount on EU solidarity in this regard."

A former prime minister of ex-Soviet Latvia, Dombrovskis didnot elaborate.

Two senior EU diplomats told Reuters that Brussels wouldwait until Britain itself has taken a view on how to respondbefore making any policy moves of its own. EU foreign ministersare due to debate Russia policy on Monday.

"Provided the U.K. government is able to provide more specificinformation,then we can decide what steps to take," one said.

The EU's foreign affairs service has yet to respond torequests for comment, although an ally of German ChancellorAngela Merkel said there should be a joint Western responseif Russia fails to co-operate with the British inquiry.

France's member of the EU executive, Economics CommissionerPierre Moscovici, was cautious in his response when asked aboutthe possibility of new sanctions. "Of course we pay a lot ofattention to that," he said of the British inquiry.

'We stand with you'

Commission deputy head Frans Timmermans told the EuropeanParliament on Monday that the EU stood by Britain. He tweeted: "Iwant to express my strong feelings of solidarity with theBritish people and the British government. We stand with you."

'It came from Russia,' Tillerson says


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