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HALA GORANI TONIGHT
British PM: "Highly Likely" Russia Behind Nerve Agent Attack. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 12, 2018 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HALA GORANI, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Welcome, everyone. I'm Hala Gorani. Breaking news here in the United Kingdom about that nerve agent attack on a
former Russian spy and his daughter last week in Salisbury in England.
We're hearing from the British Prime Minister Theresa May. She is Parliament as we speak and she has told the Commons it is highly likely
Russia is behind the attack.
A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman calls the prime minister's speech a circus show in the British parliament. Mrs. May, though, is demanding
answers from Moscow. Listen to what she said just minutes ago in London.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN: I'm sure the whole house will want -
It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. This is part of
a group of nerve agents known as Novichok.
Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world- leading experts of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down.
Our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so, Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored
assassinations and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations, the Government has concluded that it
is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GORANI: And there you heard from the Prime Minister Theresa May, her exact words, that this is a nerve agent "of a type developed by Russia", that
it's been used before by Russia.
We've heard reaction from Russia and Moscow in the last several days and again in the last several minutes. We'll get to that in a moment. But
they have vehemently denied having anything to do with it.
Phil Black is in Salisbury where this attack against Sergei Skripal and his daughter took place, leaving as well one police officer seriously injured.
So, Theresa May essentially is saying it's highly likely this is Russia, which won't surprise many observers, Phil.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It won't surprise observers. It won't surprise people here. But at the same time, putting in some context what
Theresa May has just said, she's described a scenario that I think to many people here would have been unthinkable just a week ago that a short
distance from where I'm standing, a military-grade chemical, a nerve agent was used in such a way to potentially risk harm to potentially hundreds of
people, who are going about their lives here, a nerve agent that, as you say, was developed in Russia.
So, for the people here, although they have been thinking about this for week now and they have been digesting this slowly, they had to come to
terms with the fact that there was a turned Russian spy living among, then the knowledge that it was a nerve agent. Now, the British Government is
saying decisively that they believe it's highly likely that it was Russia.
It's a lot to consider in a very, very unlikely environment. The people that we've been speaking to over the last week or so now, while expressing
their surprise, their shock, they describe themselves as significantly rattled by this to a deep degree, not panicking, but just rattled to think
that something like this could take place in a town and city that is known for being quiet and gentile and peaceful.
GORANI: All right. Phil Black is in Salisbury. I lost Phil's audio there, but then I started hearing him again just seconds ago. So, I'm not
sure. Is his audio - it's is back up.
Phil, sorry, we lost your - the sound coming from Salisbury for just a few seconds. But, I mean, I want to put this in context. We're talking here
about military grade chemical weapons used in a city of 40,000 people, potentially exposing hundreds of people.
I mean, this is almost you could call this - first of all, it's obviously - almost you could call this chemical warfare.
All right. We've lost Phil again, but Sam Kiley can join me for Moscow. Sam, can you hear me?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I can, Hala.
GORANI: Yes. So, Russia is obviously saying we had nothing to do with it. It's even calling what happened in the Commons today a circus show.
KILEY: Yes. Maria Zakharova, who is the spokeswoman, always a colorful talker, said - this is a spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. "This is a circus show in the British Parliament. The conclusion is obvious. This is another information and political campaign based on
provocation. Before composing new fairy tales, let someone in the kingdom tell you about the previous ones about Litvinenko, Berezovsky".
[14:05:00] And she goes on to suggest that these other deaths in the United Kingdom that, in the past, have certainly, in the case of Litvinenko, been
attributed directly to the Kremlin. Actually have something more sinister and British about them.
But, Hala, I think also, it's worth noting that the British Prime Minister has given the Kremlin to come up with a response to Theresa May's statement
in Parliament by Wednesday or suffer some as undisclosed retribution.
But the terms being used in parliament, the British Prime Minister saying that Russia is responsible for the unlawful use of force by Russia against
the United Kingdom.
Tom Tugendhat, a parliamentarian, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee calling on already for support from NATO, from the European Union.
There is an anticipation of buzz. And talking to parliamentarians behind the scenes, a real sense that they want something very substantial to be
done by the United Kingdom for what is starting to be talked off and, again, Tom Tugendhat's words, if not an act of war, a war-like act is the
terms he used.
Those are views shared on both sides of the House of Commons, both Labour and the Tories that I've spoken to, and certainly, there is a sort of
growing swell of opinion that something must be done.
The big problem, of course, for the United Kingdom is that it can't alone. it can't act alone and very effectively in terms of economic sanctions and
it certainly could not act alone, and there is no suggestion yet at all, of any kind of military retribution, but there are some squeezes that might be
put on in terms perhaps of the lives of some of the oligarchs who are very close to Putin, who enjoy the luxuries that London has to offer, Hala.
GORANI: Sam Kiely in Moscow, thanks very much. And people are still wrapping their head around this. Military grade nerve agent used in a
city, in a fairly large city in England.
And Nick Paton Walsh joins me now from outside Parliament. And, Nick, Theresa May essentially saying you have till Wednesday, otherwise we might
respond in some way. How could the UK respond on its own to this?
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: On its own, it could potentially look at sanctions, economic sanctions that may affect
investments made by Russia's elite here in London. That will be complicated by the role of Britain's courts.
It could potentially expel diplomats. It could more stridently appeal to its NATO allies for solidarity on this or the EU for broader sanctions or
potentially the White House as well.
But it's interesting to hear the kind of detail we got, though, from Theresa May. Finally, mentioning the name of the nerve agent, which
they've said they've known since Wednesday precisely what it was.
Novichok is something that was actually, according to many western weapons experts, designed by the Soviet Union to get round the treaties that it
signed promising to have got rid of its chemical weapons.
It was supposed to be undetectable, supposed to become in two different parts that had to be put together in order to be active, making it easier
to transport. And, actually, most people barely knew about until the late 80s. And, in fact, one of the scientists who came forward and exposed its
existence was jailed briefly and then released in the 90s too.
So, this is, I think, why the British government feel that Moscow to blame behind this because they've identified it at Porton Down so specifically
and believe Russia are only the ones capable of producing it.
But the time table is very clear. They have until the end of tomorrow, end of Tuesday and now the Russian ambassador has been summoned here in London
and given basically what has to happen to account for the fact that this chemical weapon may have gone rogue, may have fallen in the hands of the
wrong individuals and, therefore, then let in the OPCW, UN weapons inspectors, to make that safe.
Remember Russia was absolutely vital in getting the Syrian regime to hand over its sarin and other chemical weapons stocks after the attacks in 2013,
preventing, some argue, some sort of US military response back then.
So, clearly, the UK is remembering that Russian role in Syria and thinking perhaps they can use that to pressure them to act here, but it requires
Moscow, days before a presidential election, effectively say, yes, we've lost control of one of our most deadly nerve agents.
So, that is a tall order frankly for the Kremlin that always likes to stand proud. So, the secondary option to that is, well, the UK are basically
saying we have no choice, but to believe you're behind this from the beginning and, therefore, that phrase, the unlawful use of force by a state
will be considered.
It's something the UK has to respond to on Wednesday. That's a very specific term used. It relates to articles under various UN treaties. And
I think many legal experts will be pouring over quite what sort of response it could potentially authorize in the weeks ahead.
[14:10:00] GORANI: Does any other country possess this capability?
WALSH: If it is Novichok, as far as we know, then no. But, of course, you're dealing with a world which is deliberately opaque, so it is entirely
possible that in the collapse of the Soviet Union possibly, elements of this stock fell into the wrong hands.
It is possible maybe that rogue elements within the Russian states have always had this, so decided to use it without the Kremlin's entire
knowledge. There are lots of other possibilities here.
You have to remember this isn't really, many argue, what Vladimir Putin needs literally days ahead of his presidential reelection. And that's not
in doubt. Bur presidential reelection for yet another term as the head of Russia's state. He doesn't need the focus. He doesn't need the potential
for more international sanctions that could damage the Russian economy, some might argue.
Others might say, that's exactly what he wants. He wants to show that Russia is strong and could easily taunt a former opponent back in sort of
the 1800s like the United Kingdom.
And the (INAUDIBLE) suggestion too that maybe there are elements around the Kremlin who seek to make it impossible for any baton to come through in the
west in Putin's next term. This is designed to promote a hard line response between the Russians and the West.
But, certainly, my God, that looks like it what it's going to do. This is a seminal moment for Russia's relationship frankly with Europe and possibly
the NATO alliance in its entirety. Hala?
GORANI: And Sam Kiely, still in Moscow - and if Nick could stand by there in London - Sam, Russia would say, why would we want a murder an ex spy who
was pardoned by the courts years ago and has been leading a quiet life in England?
KIELY: Yes, indeed. Russia would say that and can be anticipated to say that. But that is kind of not the point, obviously.
The use of Novichok, as we saw with the polonium in the Litvinenko murder, is probably a deliberate in order that the trail of clues leads right back
to the Kremlin or at least to Russia because it sends a signal to others who may be tempted to sell Russian secrets now or in the future to their
rivals around the wells, that this is the consequences that you could possibly suffer.
And I'd like to pick up, Hala, on one thing that Nick just touched on there because I think it's very important indeed.
During the 1990s, Skripal was an agent working - a paid agent of Spanish intelligence and British intelligence. He himself was inside the Russian
The main effort in terms of espionage conducted against Russia and the collapsing Soviet Union as it followed through in the 1909s, an economic
collapse in Russia, was to try to track weapons of mass destruction of exactly this kind and, of course, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction,
nuclear weapons and know-how in case they began to leak out to get sold, end up on the international black market, in the hands of rogue states or
terrorists or wherever.
That was principally why Skripal would have been recruited by MI6, the people in charge of him would have focused very deeply on that and that
gives the Russians a little bit of wriggle room, if they want to say, well, you know, things leaked out in the 1990s, we don't know who did this, but
they've just done this to make us look bad.
That is an option still available to a Russian response between now and Wednesday that could sufficiently muddy the waters, if it was a Kremlin
plot or indeed be a statement of the truth that they have indeed lost control of small elements of this chemical weapons arsenal. But I think
it's very intriguing that it was - it all goes back to the roles of Skripal and British intelligence officers and indeed Spanish intelligence officers
who recruited him originally over that period when this sort of weapon was most in danger of getting into the wrong hands.
GORANI: Well, that was going to be my follow-up. I mean, if you are going to take someone out, murder them, assassinate them, why use the one weapon
that would be traced right back to you?
KIELY: Because you want to know who had done it. You send a signal, as the Russians did with Litvinenko. If they used a form of polonium that
pretty much only they could produce, that is leaving, not just handprints, but footprints and entire body prints all over the scene of the crime. And
it's deliberate, that kind of act.
We've seen intelligence agencies tend to do this when they want to send signals that goes back to the murder of Georgi Markov with the famous
umbrella jabbed in the leg with a poison when he was a dissident from the East Europe in the days of the Soviet bloc.
So, we've seen this before. It's not uncommon to use a sort of substance that sends up a red flag without ultimately provoking any catastrophic
[14:15:04] The problem now, of course, is that Theresa May has to come up with some kind of response that makes her and her government look tough in
the face of this use of unlawful force, as she put it, against the United Kingdom, something closer to an act of war.
GORANI: Sure. Perhaps, they're not expecting very severe repercussions. We'll see how that develops and on that front. Thanks very much. Sam
Kiley is in Moscow. Also, Nick Paton Walsh who is covering the story from parliament (INAUDIBLE) in London.
CNN intelligence and security analyst Bob Baer joins me on the line from Washington. He's also a former CIA officer.
Bob, when you hear the British prime minister say that military-grade chemical weapons were used on British soil in a city of 40,000 people, what
goes through your mind?
BOB BAER, CNN INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY ANALYST: I consider that an act of war. This stuff is so lethal and so many people potentially contaminated
in total indifference to life and two people - there is just no justification for this.
I mean, this was an act of war. And it makes me wonder what goes through the mind of Vladimir Putin that he would take this risk because, in this
business, a nerve agent - a military nerve agent are easily traced and definitely traced to Russia.
And as I've said over and over, there is no rogue intelligence agency in Russia. So, Vladimir Putin effectively has launched an attack on Britain.
It sounds dire, but I think it really is.
GORANI: Well, Sam Kiley, our reporter in Moscow is saying essentially that it might not be impossible that Russia wants - if it's behind this, wants
it to be known that they did this.
BAER: Oh, I think absolutely. I think Vladimir Putin has declared war on ex intelligence officers who defect to the West. He's declared war on
anybody from the inner circle going to the West and giving up secrets.
Litvinenko was one of those who was working against Putin and investigating his personal fortune. And he's made it very clear over the last 12 years
now that anybody that attacks his authority or goes after corruption among the oligarchs, and especially inside the Kremlin, is liable to be executed,
GORANI: Bob, it's also a question of not expecting repercussions, right? Because if it can be traced right back to the source, the UK on its own,
there's only so much this country can do. It also has a lot of Russian investment in its economy.
BAER: Well, if the Russians pulled out of London, out of London property, it would pretty much collapse. I mean, that may be an exaggeration, but
that's how important Russian money is.
And let's not forget, on Litvinenko, there were no repercussions essentially that affected Russia, just as there had been no repercussions
for Russia involved in the American elections.
So, Putin thinks it's open hunting ground for him.
GORANI: What should the response be? What would dissuade if indeed Russia is behind this? What would dissuade Moscow intelligence agencies in that
country from doing this type of thing?
BAER: Well, you're asking an ex-CIA officer who used to run covert action against Russia. And there's all sorts of ways that we could retaliate in
the West, whether it's in the Middle East or the northern caucuses or any other things or simply shutting down Russian money, Russian banks and the
rest of it.
But let's not forget, it's just not assassination, it's money laundering and on and on and covert action, which continues to this day. Again, in
the Italian elections. Even in Brexit, the Russians were involved in that vote.
So, you have to hit them back and you have to hit them back hard and you could have an organized program. Or otherwise, I can just assume this is
going to continue.
GORANI: Thanks very much. Bob Baer, certainly, many fingers pointing at Russia on this particular incident in Salisbury and also Bob mentioned
Brexit and other electoral contests in Europe where some have accused Russia of trying to meddle.
We're going to have a lot more on our breaking news. We'll be right back. Stay with CNN.
GORANI: Welcome back. Updating you on the breaking news. The nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter here in the UK last week.
The British prime minister has spoken. Theresa May told Parliament it is "highly likely" that Russia is behind that attack.
A Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman calls the prime minister's speech "a circus show" in the British Parliament. But Ms. May says she wants
answers and she wants them by Wednesday. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAY: It's highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Mr. Speaker, there are, therefore, only two
plausible explanation for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March. Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country or
the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.
This after, my right honorable friend, the foreign secretary, has summoned the Russian ambassador to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and asked him
to explain which of these two possibilities it is, and, therefore, to account for how this Russian produced nerve agent could have been deployed
in Salisbury against Mr. Skripal and his daughter.
My right honorable friend has stated to the ambassador that the Russian Federation must immediately provide full and complete disclosure of the
Novichok program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And he has requested the Russian government's response by the end
International diplomatic editor Nick Robertson joins me now in the studio. So, I mean, this really just some stunning news, isn't it? Because we're
talking about a highly lethal chemical agent here.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: That has perhaps injured - it has injured at least one unintended victim and perhaps several
others and put the whole of the town of Salisbury in a quandary about what to do with their clothes, where were they and who did they touch and who
did they meet and what are the repercussions -
GORANI: They burned the table that Sergei Skripal and his daughter were sitting in the restaurant.
ROBERTSON: As we heard from Theresa May, and it wasn't just her speech there, it was the questions that came after the questions, were in support
of her position, but there were also things like, are you going to call in essentially NATO's support on this. Why don't you do what the prime
minister in the 1970s, Edward Heath, which was expel at a moment - during the Cold War there, which was expel more than 100 Russian diplomats and
others associated with their intelligence gathering activities in the UK.
We've already heard, obviously, from Moscow on this, but we've heard from the Russian ambassador in London today before even Theresa May spoke,
saying this is a very dangerous game that you're playing, put out the evidence, there are long-term consequences on this.
So, Theresa May is in a particularly tough position. We know, as prime minister, she's relatively weak. Everyone is looking for her to take a
very tough position.
And we know that the most unlikely thing here is that Russia will come back with a yes, no answer to her -
GORANI: Well, we know based on - I have an entire list here of Russian reaction dating back away a week. From the foreign ministry spokesperson
today calling the accusations fairytales.
Putin just an hour ago saying sort things out from your side and then we'll discuss this with you.
[14:25:00] Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, Friday, March 9, we haven't heard a single fact, we only watch reportages on TV.
Another one from the foreign ministry, it's very hard not to assess this speculation as provocative black PR.
They're not going to come back on Wednesday and say mea culpa, are they?
ROBERTSON: They're not. And Theresa May knows she's going to be in that position, but what she's done is give them an opportunity. And she, I
think - we can see the clouds gathering here. This is going to get worse. She is likely to take some tough diplomatic actions.
Remembering just in December was when Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, made the first trip to Moscow of a British foreign secretary in three
years. And his mandate then, as we understood it, was to go and have a tough frank conversation with Russia with his opposite number there. And
say, we know what you're doing, whether it's in Ukraine, whether it's in Syria, whether it's meddling in US elections or the Brexit referendum, we
know what you're doing and that there will be clear consequences. If you do this, there will be consequences.
So, in a way -
GORANI: And what are these consequences potentially apart from expelling a few diplomats which is very symbolic?
ROBERTSON: Look, it's very clear that the British government has a lot of business interest tied up with Russia and they've been very careful to
avoid damaging those.
But Theresa May is in a political position now, for a number of reasons, whether it's Brexit, whether it's her slim majority - barely a majority -
in government, the perception that she is weak. On this, she's going to have to be seen as being very -
GORANI: But she can't do it alone. The UK cannot do this alone. The UK either needs its EU partners and we're in the middle of Brexit
negotiations, by the way, or it needs NATO.
Even EU partners like Germany, if they're going to take really decisive economic steps in the form of sanctions, will also be potentially harming
their economy because it's so intertwined with Russia, especially in the energy sector.
ROBERTSON: I think the political environment in Britain at the moment is such that is not going to be something that Theresa May can get away get
away with saying. I'm waiting for my European friends and allies who, by the way, we're trying to leave. I'm waiting for those friends and allies
to step up behind us on Wednesday.
She is going to be in a position of having to take a very tough position. I think that's where we're at.
GORANI: She has to take a tough position, but can't really - doesn't want to ask for help too overtly or publicly because we're in the middle of
ROBERTSON: And she doesn't know what Russia is going to do on the back of this. The Russians have said, look, this could have long-term consequences
on our relationship, but the question facing her now is - and we've heard it in parliament today, what is that relationship. This really is a
potential turning point.
And I think indication is that she considers it -
GORANI: But I've got to ask you something because if you deploy military- grade chemical agents in a big town in England, how is that, as some MPs have qualified it, a declaration of war on some level, right?
ROBERTSON: Russia, to some degree, in the eyes of many analysts, has already made essentially what would be considered declarations of war in
different ways, whether it's cyber war on NATO's activities, whether it's meddling in the democracy in the United States.
There is a diplomatic dance going on around a dictatorship in Russia that that has no truck with diplomacy, that believes - Russia believes Europe
and the United States are encroaching on its territory and its interest.
This has been essentially an argument that has been a long time in coming with President Putin. And the actions now - and President Putin is many
things, but one of them is he does tend to take risks. Risks inasmuch as he doesn't define his endgame. He will do something. And if he gets away
with it, he will do it again. Whether it's accruing wealth, the vast sums of wealth, he is believed and alleged to have accrued - they continue to
grow. He is a man who the analysts, particularly in Russia, those that have been known to speak out before they've been silenced have said that
will take risks if it's not stopped.
It is coming to a moment whether you are in the United States in the middle of the investigation looking at the hacking and the meddling, whether you
happen to be in Germany and looking at the meddling in the elections there, whether you're in Italy looking at the meddling there, whether you're in
Britain looking at the meddling in Brexit or this poison attack that puts so many people at risk.
And those people, we don't know at the moment how much risk - how many more people may be at risk, how these people who may have some symptoms, they
This is coming to a point where Russia and its actions cannot be ignored. And history has put Theresa May at the apex of that decision when she is
viewed as being weak, when she is in a very tough political position.
GORANI: All right. Thanks very much, Nic Robertson. We'll have a lot more on our breaking news story after a break. Stay with CNN.
HALA GORANI, ANCHOR, CNN: Updating you on the breaking news, the British Prime Minister is making some very serious allegations against Moscow.
Theresa May has told parliament that it is highly likely, Russia is behind the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter last week.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has called the Prime Minister's speech a circus show in the British Parliament. Mrs. May though is saying
she wants answers by Wednesday.
THERESA MAY, PRIME MINISTER, UNITED KINGDOM: . Set out the details of events. It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned
with a military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.
This is part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world leading experts at
the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down. Our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be
capable of doing so, Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as
legitimate targets for assassinations.
The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
GORANI: Well, Nick Paton Walsh joins me from outside British Parliament with more on what Teresa May said and what the likely responses might be
from the United Kingdom, Nick.
NICK PATON WALSH, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Well, let's start with what she said there. The keywords, you may be wondering what
does it mean? It's Novichok. That translates from the Russian as "new comer." It was a specific nerve agent, military grade as Theresa May
pointed out. A specific nerve agent made in the '70s by the Soviets to kind of get around some of the chemical weapons treaties they have signed
with the US, meaning, none of them had chemical weapons at all.
Novichok was part of a family kind of created to be less detectable, to be easy to transport, to be frankly the most lethal chemicals ever made. Only
to be discovered by defectors and spies revealing their existence to the West in the late '80s. One of the scientists who in fact revealed the
program existence was jailed when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early '90s too.
So, that's kind of why perhaps they feel so comfortable this emanated from Russia. What can the United Kingdom do? Well, they first of all threw the
ball back into Moscow's court. They've got until the end of Tuesday to effectively say, "Well, we've lost control of part of our chemical weapons
stock," and allow the UN Weapons Inspectors, the OPCW for chemical weapons to step in and clean that mess up.
Highly unlikely though that the Kremlin days before Presidential elections are going to accept to that sort of scrutiny and that kind of international
embarrassment frankly, so the second option presented to them by Theresa May is well, without doing that, you effectively say you were behind this
and that will lead to the UK's Cabinet on Wednesday considering "the unlawful use of force." What could that possibly mean?
Well, they are part of NATO, this could be an Article V issue where attack on one is considered an attack against all.
PATON WALSH:. that possibly would lead towards some strident measures, but it's not really clear that anybody has the appetite for some sort of
military response in this regard.
So, economic actions that could require European allies to step forward, but Russia has been careful to try and carry favor with South and East
Europe, but also part of the EU to try and find the kind of kinks of light between various parts of the European alliance.
So, there will need to be a lot of European solidarity for a unified response. Remember, even after Ukraine, there was some umming and arring
as far they are willing to push Moscow with economic sanctions. But what we've heard from the White House, well, obviously, they have been
criticizing the part of being too soft on Russia.
So, the UK in a moment frankly in its political history where it's never been quite so distant and I have to say, look so feckless when dealing with
international allies because of the calamity around Brexit, now has to appeal to them for a more united response for this quite frankly,
remarkable attempted murder in Salisbury.
GORANI: Actually, not in the strongest position and as you say, in the middle of Brexit negotiations having to potentially ask for help from their
EU allies on this. Let's get more on Russia's response.
Sam Kiley is in Moscow and Sam, we heard from -- or we read a quote from Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, "Sort things out from your side and
then we will discuss this with you." He was reported as saying by Interfax, the Russian news agency.
SAM KILEY, SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, that's right. He said that during a visit to Southern Russia, the agricultural heartland
before Theresa May had made her statement that said it was highly likely that this nerve agent, Novichok had been used for the attack in Salisbury
and therefore pointing the finger pretty firmly if not conclusively towards the Kremlin.
Since then, Maria Zakharova has come out. She is the Foreign Ministry spokesman. She said, this is a circus show in the British Parliament. The
conclusion is obvious. This is another information and political campaign based on provocation.
But also, what the Russians have done here is we often use this phrase, the Gerasimov Doctrine, it's an unwritten doctrine that the Russians have been
very skilled at using, creating chaos in the ranks of its enemies and rivals.
We could see that unfolding in terms of the political life in the United States, in very large part, Brexit delivers whether or not it was inspired
at all by the Kremlin, it's certainly right at the top of their list of priorities seeing the European Union breakup and it would be very
interesting to see whether Theresa May can get European solidarity in response if it comes to the sort of economic sanctions that Nick was
talking about will be likely then.
As Nick says, there has been efforts made to cultivate out of the Kremlin some of the harder line nationalist movements across Europe that are anti-
European because this sort of an issue could be the source of wedge that actually drives European nations apart even though it is in the view of the
You know, something verging, certainly in the view of Tom Tugendhat, the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee is saying, if not an act of war,
a war-like act. That will be the view held strongly within Parliament and no doubt, by the British public and that's just the sort of opportunity
that the Putin administration and the Kremlin is very, very skilled at exploiting.
So, this could actually play very strongly into Russia's hands over the next few weeks.
GORANI: It will be interesting to see if it plays in their hands or if indeed, it brings some EU countries together, maybe Germany and France and
the UK in the middle of tense Brexit negotiations. We will also have to see how that unfolds. Sam Kiley, we'll get back to you very soon.
Phil Black is following the investigation in Salisbury, England where this attack took place against Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, and we
were talking here about a situation where hundreds, hundreds of security personnel, of HAZMAT officials and experts have been deployed in a city of
40,000 people that is how grave they estimated the threat to be to the general public, Phil.
PHIL BLACK, INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Yes, that's right. You've heard Theresa May in Parliament today talking about the indiscriminate
nature of this and that's what's really upset and shocked the people of this city.
Specifically, the idea that they could have been put at risk by the use of what the Prime Minister described as a weapon's grade nerve agent, one that
was developed by Russia. It was found -- traces of it -- just behind me here. It's such an extraordinary idea really.
This restaurant, a pub around the corner and just a short walk to my right, that's where you'll find the bench that Sergei and Yulia Skripal eventually
collapsed upon. That's when they suffered the full physical consequences of the nerve agent and that is where they were assisted in such a way that
may have saved their lives.
What this tells.
BLACK: . us so far about the nature of the nerve agent being detected at these various locations is that it was slow-acting, that it kicked in over
a period of time. At some point, the Skripals were exposed to it, then they unknowingly trailed it with them as they went to lunch, as they went
to the pub, as they walked out by the bench and eventually succumbed to it.
They were involved in the same -- the incredibly ordinary day-to-day activities of hundreds of other people in this city, going for a meal and a
drink on a Sunday afternoon, it is the very ordinariness of that activity, that behavior and the fact that in doing so, so many people were
unknowingly put themselves at risk is a big part of why you're hearing such passion in the British Parliament and why there has been such shock into a
significant degree, anger here on the streets of Salisbury as well, Hala.
GORANI: What do we know are Sergei Skripal and his daughter still in critical condition? Are they conscious at all? Do we know more about how
they are doing a week on?
BLACK: There hasn't been any recent update on their condition. The last we heard was that they were still critical. Remember, they were in the
hospital, they were described as critical from the outset.
The police officer who rushed to help them, one of the people who rushed to help them had also succumbed to the nerve agent, Detective Sergeant Nick
Bailey, he was being described as in a serious condition, but we got updates on his condition fairly quickly when we were told that he was awake
and talking and engaging.
We haven't had that sort of language used to describe the condition of the Skripals, so perhaps, it implies that they are not awake and talking, but
we don't know -- we haven't heard for a couple of days on just how they are doing.
GORANI: All right, Phil Black in Salisbury, thanks very much for that report. We will continue our coverage after this. Stay with us.
Well, back to our breaking news this hour, the British Prime Minister, Theresa May is telling Parliament that it is highly likely Russia is behind
that assassination attempt of a Russian spy and his daughter with poisoning using a nerve agent last week in the UK.
And here is the bigger headline, she says, it was a military grade nerve agent that was used and that it is "highly likely that it is Russia." That
it was a nerve agent "of a type developed by Russia."
Now, as far as response from Moscow, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman is calling the Prime Minister's speech a circus show, but.
GORANI: . Mrs. May has said she will give Russia until Wednesday to respond. She summoned the Russian Ambassador to London as well.
Now, the former Russian spy and his daughter were found slumped over on a bench after visiting a restaurant and a pub in Salisbury. Public Health
authorities are warning that hundreds of people could be affected by that attack. They are saying to people, wash your clothes if you were anywhere
in that restaurant or anywhere near the trajectory that these two people took.
CNN's Erin McLaughlin spoke with a man who was at the pub shortly after the nerve agent attack. He is worried about long-term effects of potential
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had been wearing this shoes on that day and used that also and had my glasses and worn the same watch as the coat as I was
wearing. I think the same with the others, so well, if the risk is low, I don't need to take any real action.
In fact, my wife is still wearing the same shoes yesterday, taken the same handbag. So, we just -- I don't suppose we took it seriously because there
was no -- if you don't do this, this will happen, so we just carried on as normal.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CORRESPONDENT, CNN: Are you concerned?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't say majorly concerned. I am a little irritated that we weren't advised that there was a risk; I think, earlier
in the week, would have been better. So, I myself have been in contact with the general public, some major companies and major customers and my
colleagues, my family and friends.
And a lot of (inaudible) here is whether it would impact them or would affect them or whether we should have taken action earlier.
MCLAUGHLIN: Do you feel that you have enough information at this point?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, honestly, no. I don't think there's been enough information given to those individuals who were there. We should have been
asked to come forward, to present ourselves and to be checked and to pass ourselves and how we are supposed to be decontaminated by the
GORANI: All right, and I want to bring in former CIA Chief of Russia Operations and a CNN National Security analyst, Steve Hall. He is in
Steve, why would -- if it is Russia, behind this, as the Prime Minister says, likely is the case. Why use such a traceable nerve agent?
STEVE HALL, NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST, CNN: Well, I think you only have a certain number of different options when you're trying to connect an
assassination operation or an attempted assassination operation like this.
I think a lot of what drives the decision-making process on the Russian intelligence side because this would have been the Russian Intelligence
Services that conducted or had been responsible for carrying this out. Either the external service called the SPR or perhaps the GRU, the military
service. They are the ones who have these materials.
One of the issues though is the message that it sends to potential future Russian spies, which is certainly part of this operation. So, it could be
that the use of this particular agent which is a pretty horrible thing. You just heard that British citizen talking about how nervous he is about
his family and his colleagues.
So, the psychological impact of using something like that is important to the Russians.
GORANI: And what could Western intelligence agencies do to try to protect their countries, their citizens from this type of attack in the future?
HALL: Well, on the part of the Western intelligence services and law enforcement of course, you know, their job is internal vigilance. Their
requirement is to recruit spies and to try to obtain information that would stop potential future attacks like this if there is one in the planning in
But you know, I am sure, one of the things that everybody else have been asking is, beyond the intelligence and law enforcement piece, what about
the political side of it? And that's going to be a very, very important role, what -- issue rather, what message is sent to the Russians in the
aftermath of these attacks?
GORANI: Well, when Litvinenko was basically murdered in a Central London hotel with radioactive material placed in a cup of tea, it wasn't much
HALL: And I think that's -- and I think what you're seeing now is the result of that. Litvinenko also you know, horribly, horribly -- it was a
terrible death to die, obviously, at the hands of the Russians.
Their response wasn't that robust and now, you've got another situation, so for sure, simply expelling diplomats is probably not going to do it.
You're going to take some sort of strong reaction and the reporters earlier who were talking about this being a NATO issue, I think that's a valid
point because we know that Russia is looking at pretty much all the world democracies not just the UK.
So, it is indeed a collective security issue in my view.
GORANI: But NATO or the EU, these are all organizations that are now going through a tough time. There's a lot of division for instance in the
European Union. There is Brexit going on. I mean, if it is indeed the Russians behind this, they could be banking on the fact that there won't be
much unity in that response.
HALL: Absolutely they will, and of course, we'll hear more of people like Saharova and Foreign Minister Lavrov said this is ridiculous. This wasn't
us. Don't keep doing that.
But there are a lot of things that Great Britain can do, that the UK can do unilaterally. I mean, there is so much.
GORANI: Like what? I mean, even in terms of financial sanctions, they don't have much leverage there.
HALL: I can assure you that.
HALL: . if the British Parliament decided to freeze the accounts of you know, take your top 20 you know members of the Russian government or more
importantly, Russian oligarchs. If that money was frozen or if they went further and said they were not going to be -- they are going to be denied
access to those economic and banking systems present in London, and in other locations, but specifically in the UK, that would get a lot of
attention on the Russian side absolutely.
GORANI: I get that, but they haven't done that in the past for a reason. I mean, this is money that flows in to the banking system, so the property
market in London and other places. It's tough for the UK. They are in a very tough position right now.
HALL: It's tough for all of us and unfortunately, you're absolutely right because what the Russians and specifically Vladimir Putin, who is the
intellectual author of this are expert at, is using open society like the one in the United States, like the one in Great Britain, like other places,
They know that there is a price that we would have to pay if we were going to come down hard on them with economic sanctions. That's why they are in
a good position to carry out these types of things.
But really, something does more firmly have to be done after the Litvinenko and now this.
GORANI: All right, well, we'll see if indeed anything changes. The British Prime Minister has given Russia until Wednesday. She herself is in
a quite weak position right now. Steve Hall, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate your time in the program this evening.
Join me later when I speak with Putin critic, Vladimir Kara-Murza. He is a Russian opposition politician who has survived two suspected poisonings.
That will be at 8:30 p.m. in London, 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
I want to get back to Phil Black. He is in Salisbury following the investigation. That's of course where the attempted murder of Sergei
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia took place and one police officer is still very seriously injured, though he seems to be in much better shape than
Skripal and his daughter.
What are authorities there saying about the risk to the public at this hour? Now that we know that it is military grade.
BLACK: They have been pretty -- yes, Hala, they have been keen to say from the outset, they believe the risk to the public is pretty much minimal, but
of course, we had just some information, some advice given to people yesterday, which has made people think twice, wonder, even worry a little
bit about that.
They have advised people who were at the locations where this military- grade nerve agent has been found, that is the restaurant behind me, the pub around the corner of the mill -- if you were there Sunday afternoon, you
should wash your clothes, wash your belongings because they say there is theoretically a long-term, although they stress low risk possible impact
upon your health if some small trace amount is coming into contact with your skin in a prolonged kind of way.
But they stress that people really shouldn't worry about this, that if they take those precautions, everything will be okay.
GORANI: Did they know, law enforcement in Salisbury from the beginning that it was this type of lethal weapon, this type of military grade
BLACK: Well, I think what we heard pretty early on from the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd last week that they had identified this through
sample testing. So, samples taken from those that was struck down by it that were processed at a facility, a secure military facility just up the
road, Porton Down, the Defense Science and Technology Lab there.
It was at that point that they said they were pretty sure they knew what this was. It was a nerve agent and it was rare, but they have refrained
from identifying it specifically up until now for operational reasons.
As we've heard, the Prime Minister today has identified it as a very specific, very rare form of nerve agent developed in Russia.
GORANI: And why hold back on that information until now?
BLACK: I think that it's part of the ongoing process of what we have seen. The other point that they have been stressing is the need to build an
investigation, get the information straight before pointing the finger of blame.
Now, if you identify the source of the nerve agent, which they seem to have done very, very quickly, then you just want to be sure I think in terms of
getting your case right and Theresa May again stressed the need of this at the start of her speech in Parliament today, the need to build a case,
build the investigation, understand what is happening before pointing the finger of blame specifically.
But there is no doubt, from the very early identification of that -- early identification of that nerve agent that the shadow of suspicion fell on
Russia in terms of the investigation and the government's response very, very quickly.
But meanwhile, on the ground here, the investigation has been working to determine precisely how and where that rare Russian-developed nerve agent
was deployed and we haven't had an update on what the investigators' thinking is on that. They say repeatedly, they are not giving a running
commentary, but we don't yet know where they believe, what their current working theory is on just how and where it was used against the Skripals.
We know that it has been found in these two locations. It shows that unknowingly, the Skripals have trailed it with them around the center of
town, but just where they were exposed to it, the authorities here haven't confirmed just yet.
GORANI: All right, we don't know where. Was it in their home? Was it out on the street somewhere? But we know in that Italian restaurant and in the
pub, and then ultimately on that bench. There was that trail of highly lethal nerve agent.
Phil, we'll get back to you in the following hours. You've been watching CNN Breaking News. Just to quickly recap for you, the British Prime
Minister Theresa May says that a military-grade nerve agent developed by Moscow was used to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter.
The response from Russia once again, pretty swift. We heard before the May announcement, from Vladimir Putin, he was saying to the Brits essentially,
you need to get to the bottom of this on your side, but the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Russia is saying, this is a circus show in the
Theresa May is saying to Russia, you have until Tuesday close of business to come back to us. They summoned the Russian Ambassador to London as
We are going to continue our Breaking News coverage here on CNN and I will see you in one hour on Hala Gorani Tonight. Stay with CNN.