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Novichok nerve agent use in Salisbury: UK government response

This page sets out the government's response to the Salisbury attack, where a military-grade nerve agent was deployed in the UK on 4 March 2018.

Prime Minister Theresa May visiting Salisbury, pictured with police officers and a crowd of people.
The Prime Minister visiting Salisbury on 15 March.

On Sunday 4 March Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.

Latest news

Independent investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will arrive in the UK on Monday 19 March to begin their investigation into the nerve agent used in the attempted assassinations of Mr Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury on 4 March.

On 17 March The Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued a statement in response to the Russian government’s decision to expel UK diplomats, following the British Ambassador’s meeting with the Russian government.

Prime Minister’s latest statement

Prime Minister Theresa May gave a statement to Parliament on 14 March. Russia has provided no explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the UK, and there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter. This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister stated that the UK government will:

  • expel 23 Russian diplomats who have been identified as undeclared intelligence officers
  • develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against Hostile State Activity and ensure those seeking to carry out such activity cannot enter the UK
  • suspend all planned high-level contacts between the UK and the Russian Federation

Find out more about Russia’s impact on global security

The Kremlin has positioned Russia in direct opposition to the West

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has written an article in the Washington Post setting out Russia’s threat to global security.

Earlier statements

On 12 March Prime Minister Theresa May gave a statement in Parliament. Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others. The Foreign Secretary spoke to the BBC and reiterated the Prime Minister’s message.

Find out more about Russian state aggression in the past few years

Pattern of Russian state aggression

On 8 March the Home Secretary Amber Rudd gave an initial statement on the investigation into events in Salisbury. This followed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s response to an Urgent Question in Parliament on 6 March.

International response

The leaders of France, Germany, the US and the UK have issued a joint statement on the Salisbury attack.

The Prime Minister has spoken with world leaders about the ongoing investigation. Each expressed their solidarity with the UK:

The Foreign Secretary also called for a united response with our international counterparts.

Find out more about the international response in our Twitter Moment.

International organisations

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office also raised this issue in international forums:

On 15 March Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced a £48 million investment in a new Chemical Weapons Defence Centre to maintain our cutting-edge in chemical analysis and defence.

Advice and guidance

Published 14 March 2018
Last updated 16 March 2018 + show all updates
  1. Call with Italian Prime Minister added.
  2. Added the Prime Minister's latest call.
  3. Statement to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe added
  4. Foreign Secretary's Washington Post article added
  5. Joint statement from France, Germany, US and UK added
  6. Added UN Security Council statement and the Prime Minister's latest calls
  7. New statement to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons added
  8. First published.