Haley slams Russia over spy poisoning in Britain

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(CNN) — US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Wednesday the Trump administration "stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain" following a nerve agent attack against a Russian double agent and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury last week for which the United Kingdom has blamed Russia.

"The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent," Haley said in her remarks at a UN Security Council emergency session, blasting the Russian government for flouting international law.

Russia has dismissed the accusations as "fairy tales" and denied any involvement in the attack against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, which landed the pair, along with an English police officer, in the hospital.

"If we don't take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used," said Haley. "They could be used here in New York or in cities of any country that sits on this council."

Highlighting Russia's support of the Assad regime in Syria following that government's use of chemical weapons against civilians, Haley told fellow diplomats the world has reached "a defining moment."

"Time and time again, members states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance," said Haley. "Now one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable."

The United Kingdom concluded earlier in the week that Russia was responsible for the attempted murders because the nerve agent used, Novichok, was developed in the Soviet Union and could not be replicated by non-state actors. London then announced it would expel 23 Russian diplomats over the matter after Russia failed to meet a deadline set by the British government to give a "credible response."

Deputy UK Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Allen, who spoke ahead of Haley at Wednesday's meeting, called the attack "an unlawful use of force" and invited representatives from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to conduct an independent investigation of the incident.

Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, in a lengthy and colorful response reaffirmed his government's denial of involvement.

He called on the UK government to offer proof that Novichok was used and that Russia was responsible, and slammed UK Prime Minister Theresa May for making "completely irresponsible statements" and "threats."

In questioning London's allegations, Nebenzia cited the English fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his "hapless" Scotland Yard counterpart, Inspector Lestrade.

"Lestrade latches on to something that is on the surface of a crime and is in a hurry to provide banal conclusions only to be overturned by Sherlock Holmes, who always finds what is behind the crime," Nebenzia said. "I do think we could all stand to benefit from having a Sherlock Holmes with us today."

He also -- with apparent sarcasm -- suggested the UK government should look inward to determine why Russian nationals in the country so often find themselves in mortal peril, and mocked Haley's credibility as "an experienced chemist."

Earlier Wednesday, White House spokesman Raj Shah told reporters on Air Force One that the United States stands behind the British assessment of the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

This story was first published on CNN.com, “Haley slams Russia over spy poisoning in Britain."