The denunciation came just minutes before British Prime Minister Theresa May rose to speak in the House of Commons in London, England, to tell parliamentarians there that Russia is “culpable” for the attack which has left two in critical condition and a police officer in serious but stable condition.
The U.K. has also called for an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the attack, which investigators say used a military-grade nerve agent in an attempt to murder both Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia on March 4.
“Canada stands in solidarity with its close ally, the United Kingdom, and the British people,” said Freeland in a press release.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the despicable use of a chemical agent on the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom — a point I recently conveyed to my British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Russia’s likely involvement in this attack is a serious breach of the rules-based order. Canada offers its complete support to the United Kingdom and calls on all states to cooperate fully with British investigators.”
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Russia has denied involvement in the attack and officials from the Kremlin say they will take retaliatory measures if the U.K. targets them in response to the attack.
In a statement issued Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Russian embassy in Ottawa said the condemnation from Freeland is too hasty.
“We regret Canadian Foreign Minister’s hasty support for the unfounded and unacceptable accusations on the part of UK with regard to the Skripal case,” said press secretary Kirill Kalinin.
“The British blame game based on the word ‘likely’, but not on trustworthy investigation, hard facts and proper international procedures, is highly reprehensible and extremely counterproductive.”
It is worth noting that Freeland, a vocal critic of Putin even before she was named to cabinet in January 2017, is one of 13 Canadians banned from entering Russia as part of a retaliatory response to tightened Western sanctions on the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin was given a deadline of midnight on Tuesday to explain either whether Russia was responsible for the attack or had somehow lost control of its store of weapons.
May said Wednesday he did not meet that deadline and that Russia has treated demanded to explain the attack with “sarcasm, contempt and defiance.”
Russia holds a permanent veto on the U.N. Security Council, meaning any proposals to impose punishment through that vehicle would be rejected by Russia.
However, merely calling for a meeting before the powerful body marks a significant escalation in the situation.
“There is no alternative conclusion other than the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr. Skripal and his daughter,” May said in her speech before the House of Commons on Wednesday.
May also added that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will investigate the attack.
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Members of the Royal Family and British ministers will not attend the FIFA World Cup taking place this summer in Russia, and the U.K. is severing all high-level communication with Russian officials.
The 23 Russian diplomats will have one week to leave U.K. soil, May said.
It marks the biggest expulsion from the U.K. in 30 years.
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