Saturday 19 January 2019

Death of second Russian exile triggers new terror probe

Nikolai Grushkov was a business partner of Boris Berezovsky
Nikolai Grushkov was a business partner of Boris Berezovsky

Robert Mendick, Hayley Dixon, and Patrick Sawer in London

British counter-terrorism police have opened an investigation into the "unexplained" death on British soil of an arch enemy of Vladimir Putin, just eight days after the nerve gas assassination attempt on a Russian double agent.

Nikolai Glushkov (68) the right-hand man of the deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky - Mr Putin's one time fiercest rival -was found dead at his London home on Monday.

A Russian media source said Mr Glushkov, the former boss of the state airline Aeroflot who said he feared he was on a Kremlin hit-list, was found with "strangulation marks" on his neck.

The inquiry into Mr Glushkov's death was announced hours before a midnight deadline for the Kremlin to explain how Russian-made nerve agent came to be deployed in the assassination attempt on the double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury.

Russia appeared to suggest last night it would be unwise for Britain to provoke a fellow nuclear power and threatened to retaliate against sanctions, which UK prime minister Theresa May is expected to announce today.

A Russian foreign ministry spokesman said: "Any threats to take 'sanctions' against Russia will not be left without a response. The British side should understand that."

Mrs May last night gained the support of Western leaders including US president Donald Trump and German chancellor Angela Merkel, for reprisals against the Putin regime that will include sanctions and the expulsion of spies based in the Russian embassy in London.

The White House issued a statement saying the US "stands in solidarity with its closest ally" and condemning the use of "heinous weapons in flagrant violation of international norms".

A No 10 spokesman added: "President Trump said the US was with the UK all the way, agreeing the Russian government must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used."

Mr Trump's unequivocal support will have been welcomed, the White House previously having refused to blame Russia. Earlier in the day, Mr Trump had sacked Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, a day after the US diplomat had said the Novichok nerve agent "clearly came from Russia".

The Salisbury inquiry widened yesterday as police said 38 people had been treated, prompting fears the Novichok nerve agent could have spread across the city.

Col Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33) remain critical in intensive care while Nick Bailey, the Wiltshire police detective who went to the scene, is seriously ill but stable.

Firemen in chemical protection suits last night examined and removed material just feet from the bench where the Skripals collapsed, as the search for clues continued.

Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, warned Russia not to underestimate British outrage at the attack and refused to rule out a retaliatory cyber strike. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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