Russia link to ex-spy attack in UK would be 'very serious': Germany

Russia link to ex-spy attack in UK would be 'very serious': Germany

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during the 11th Annual International Institute for Na
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel speaks during an event on Jan 31, 2018. (Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen)

BERLIN: German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Tuesday (Mar 13) that any Russian connection to the poisoning in Britain of a former double agent would be a "very serious matter".

"We stand in solidarity on this issue with our British friends and are in close contact with the British government," Gabriel said in a statement after speaking with his counterpart Boris Johnson.

"It is clear: The perpetrators must be brought to justice. If it should be confirmed that Russia is behind it, it would be a very serious matter."

On his last day in office before Chancellor Angela Merkel is sworn in for a fourth term with a new government on Wednesday, Gabriel said Berlin was "very worried" by the attack on Mar 4 using "banned chemical weapons".

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday said it was "highly likely" Moscow had attempted to assassinate Sergei Skripal, accusations furiously denied by the Kremlin.

The former double agent and his daughter remain in critical condition after the brazen nerve agent attack on a street in the southern English city of Salisbury.

The incident could ratchet up tensions between Moscow and Berlin, one of the strongest backers of European Union sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine.

Merkel said this week there could be no easing of sanctions until there is genuine progress in halting the fighting in eastern Ukraine, where a four-year conflict between government troops and Russia-backed fighters has killed more than 10,000 people.

Robust Russian backing for the regime in war-ravaged Syria, President Vladimir Putin's claim Russia was developing new "invincible" weapons and suspicion Russian hackers are waging attacks on the German government's IT network have all led to calls for Berlin to take a tougher stance toward Moscow.

Source: AFP/ad