Syria air strikes 'a message' after novichok poisoning of Skripals in Salisbury, says May


Air strikes carried out against Syria should serve as a warning to Russia over its use of chemical weapons, Theresa May has said.

The Prime Minister drew connections between the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury and the bombing carried out overnight during a press conference at Downing Street.

The United States, Britain and France launched a joint attack on Syrian military targets during the early hours of the morning, in response to a suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens of people in Douma last week.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the air strike had been “a highly successful mission”, while US Joint Staff director, Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, said Syria’s chemical weapon programme had been set back three years. 

“We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere,” Mrs May told reporters.

When asked if the strikes could be seen as a warning to Russia, the Prime Minister said the military action should send a message that chemical weapons could not be used with impunity.

“The action that took place last night was an action which was focused on degrading and deterring the operational capability and the willingness of the Syrian regime to continue to use chemical weapons,” she added.

“There have been many instances when we have seen them using those chemical weapons.

“But I believe it should also be a message to others that the international community is not going to stand by and allow chemical weapons to be used with impunity.”

The UK has accused Russia of carrying out an attempted assassination of former double agent Mr Skripal, a claim Moscow vehemently denies.

An independent investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had added weight to British conclusions after it confirmed the Skripals were poisoned using novichok on Thursday.

Ministers say the “military grade” nerve agent is of a type known to be manufactured in Russia and would have required state resources to produce.

Russia has refused to accept the results of the results of the independent tests unless it is given access to the investigation.

Meanwhile, Britain has said in a letter to Nato that Russia had been spying on the Skripals since at least 2013 and investigated how to launch nerve agents attacks by applying poisons to door handles.

Ms Skripal is recovering from the attack at a secure location after being discharged from hospital on Monday. Mr Skripal remains seriously ill in hospital, although his condition is longer thought to be critical.

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