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EU backs Britain in blaming Russia for spy attack, recalls envoy

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English News
English News
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -23 March 2018- European Union leaders backed Britain on Thursday in blaming Moscow over a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in England and recalled their envoy to Moscow in a symbolic protest.
The show of support from the EU, at a time when Britain is grappling with its departure from the bloc, will boost Prime Minister Theresa May, who has been asking other nations to match her decision to expel Russians over the attack.
In a joint summit statement, the leaders said the EU “agrees with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation”.
That marked a breakthrough for Britain, which had been seeking to persuade EU leaders to condemn Russia for the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and his daughter on March 4. It was the first known offensive use of a nerve toxin in Europe since World War Two.
After talks that ran into the early hours of Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised the prospect of further punitive measures in response to the attack in the southwestern city of Salisbury, saying the European Union would strive to act together on the matter.
“We are determined to react together, with the language we used here, but also possibly through additional measures,” Merkel said at the end of the first day of the summit.
May’s move to expel 23 “undeclared intelligence officials” was followed by similar measures from Moscow, including the closure of Britain’s cultural centre in St Petersburg.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said she was ready to expel Russian spies. Other Baltic states and Poland could do so too. The European Union will recall their envoy to Moscow, German diplomat Markus Ederer, for one month for consultations.
May, who used a dinner with EU leaders to call on all governments to confront Russia, welcomed the support.
“The threat that Russia poses respects no borders,” she told reporters. “This is about us standing together to uphold our values.”
In the early days after the attack, May won the support of French President Emmanuel Macron, Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump when they said they shared Britain’s assessment of Russian culpability.

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