United Kingdom accuses Russian Federation of spying on Sergei and Yulia Skripal since 2013

Yulia Skripal is still battling nerve agent effects and says her poisoned spy dad Sergei Skripal is 'seriously ill' as she

Yulia Skripal is still battling nerve agent effects and says her poisoned spy dad Sergei Skripal is 'seriously ill' as she

The UK released the intelligence on Friday linking Russian Federation to the attack on the former double agent and his daughter.

Russian Federation had tested whether door handles could be used to deliver nerve agents and had targeted the email accounts of Sergei and Yulia Skripal since at least 2013, according to previously classified intelligence over the Salisbury attack that has been made public.

The Skripals were found slumped on a bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

Moscow has hit back by expelling Western diplomats, questioning how Britain knows that Russian Federation was responsible and suggesting it stemmed from a plot by British secret services.

He added: "During the 2000s, Russian Federation commenced a programme to test means of delivering chemical warfare agents and to train personnel from special units in the use of these weapons".

The door handle and email claims were made in a letter from Sir Mark Sedwill, the UK's national security adviser, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.

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"The codeword for the offensive chemical weapons programme (of which Novichoks were one part) was FOLIANT", he said.

The Soviet Union developed fourth-generation nerve agents known as Novichoks in the 1980s, Sedwill said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed the findings, and said "only Russia" could have been behind the attack.

He also questioned the authenticity of a statement issued by Ms Skripal through the Metropolitan Police saying she did not want to meet Russian officials.

"If someone was spying, why were the British services not complaining about that?"

Sir Mark said Russian Federation had a "proven record of conducting state-sponsored assassination" and that it was "highly likely" some defectors may be regarded as "legitimate targets".

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"This programme subsequently included investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles", the letter says.

Regarding the Skripals themselves, Sedwill claims that email accounts belonging to Yulia Skripal were targeted by Russian intelligence agents in 2013, "indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals".

After the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention without reporting its ongoing work on Novichoks, Sedwill said, adding that it was highly unlikely that any former Soviet republic besides Russia pursued such military research.

He said that Russian Federation had continued to produce and stockpile small quantities of Novichoks within the last decade.

The note demanded the withdrawal of one Georgian diplomat now serving in Moscow at the Swiss Embassy Interests Section, as Georgia and Russia have no diplomatic ties since the Russia-Georgia 2008 war and Switzerland has acted as a mediator.

Mr Lavrov said the report only confirmed the composition of the substance and that Britain's claim that it confirmed the United Kingdom position on the Skripal case was overstated.

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