Pictured above is the moment Vladimir Putin smirked in response to a British journalist who had approached and asked him about Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal.
Last week the UK was shaken when it was revealed that former Russian spy Sergei Skripal had been poisoned using a deadly nerve gas. The military grade chemical attack has resulted in hundreds of people being hospitalised and undergoing extensive tests, while the police officer who first found the poisoned father and daughter is still in hospital under critical condition, although he has recently begun speaking again after days spent comatose. The nerve gas used is believed to remain potent for years, and experts have admitted that there is the low risk of British citizens continuing to experience symptoms from exposure long after this recent incident.
At Russia's National Grain Centre, I ask Vladimir Putin: "Is Russia behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal?" pic.twitter.com/5ve7U82Hwa— Steve Rosenberg (@BBCSteveR) 13 March 2018
Now the British Prime Minister Theresa May has issued an ultimatum to Russia: explain yourselves or face consequences. The nerve gas, she has revealed, is exclusively made by Russia and so the poisoning can only mean one of two possibilities. Either Russia does not have control of its own weapon manufacturing or it has intentionally authorised the killing of a former spy on UK soil. Some politicians have gone as far to describe it as an “act of war”, and overall the press has been positive in its reception of Theresa May’s “cool but firm” response to the poisoning.
Russia, however, has demanded proof. And when one BBC journalist challenged Putin directly the world leader could be seen smirking.
“Look, we're busy here with agriculture. As you can see the aim is to create good conditions for people's lives and you ask me about some tragedies.
“Get to the bottom of things there, then we'll discuss this.”
Here's the key passage from Theresa May's statement on the Salisbury attack on Russian Spy Sergei Skripal pic.twitter.com/UOOEMFjl7p— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) 12 March 2018
Sergei Skripal had previously leaked Russian secrets to MI5, and it is believed that he and his daughter were targeted to send a message to Russian agents who are considering fleeing to Western nations for safety. In particular it is believed that Yulia Skripal was targeted because she was vocally critical of Putin on Facebook. To date both father and daughter remain alive but in critical condition.
One Russian journalist took the opportunity to gloat over Sergei’s death last week, saying that any Russians seeking safety in the UK should reconsider since they would still be vulnerable to retaliation.
But many argue that this has crossed a line, and that the use of a deadly nerve gas and the resultant harm caused to police officers and health professionals who have risked their lives to treat Sergei and his daughter, represents a grave breach of international standards.