The alleged Novichok poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is likely to have been the work of Russian state involvement, Dominic Raab has said.
In a clear indication that the UK Government suspects Moscow’s involvement, the Foreign Secretary said it is “very difficult to come up with a plausible alternative explanation” other than Russian influence, given the country's alleged historical use of the chemical weapon.
Novichok, which means newcomer in Russian, was developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s as a new kind of chemical weapon which would be harder to detect, more potent than existing nerve agents, and exempt from the Chemical Weapons Treaty.
The UK and Germany, where opposition leader Mr Navalny is being treated, are both calling for an explanation from Russia following talks between Mr Raab and the German Foreign Minister.
Speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the Foreign Secretary said: "I think it’s very difficult to come up with a plausible alternative explanation based on Russia’s track record of using it – Salisbury – based on the difficulty of getting hold of, let alone deploying Novichok as it’s such a dangerous substance.
“As I said, the case to answer is there for Russia and we need, I think, through the OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), an investigation, and Russia needs to co-operate fully.
“What’s clear also is that it can’t just say ‘This is a domestic issue, it is just our internal affairs’.
“The use of chemical weapons in this kind of context is pure gangsterism and Russia does have responsibility never to use it as a government, and second of all to make sure no-one else can use it within its territory.”
Germany has also begun vocally putting pressure on Russia over the incident, warning Moscow that a failure to produce an explanation could jeopardise the planned German-Russian gas pipeline project.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag: "I hope the Russians won’t force us to change our position regarding the Nord Stream 2 pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea."
Cover image: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Picture: PA).