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UK plans response to poisoning of agent

British Prime Minister Theresa May

London: Wednesday is the big day when Theresa May will announce what retaliatory measures Britain will take as the resulting of the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia just over a week ago.

Foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Tuesday: "What we're doing today is giving Russia until midnight tonight to explain how it came to be that (nerve agent) Novichok was used on the streets of Wiltshire.

"If they can come up with a convincing explanation then obviously we will want to see full disclosure of that to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in the Hague.

"If not, then clearly we will want to be announcing the UK response and that will come tomorrow."

"Other possible actions could include: freezing financial assets; bans on visas; boycotting the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year; and taking Russian broadcasters such as RT (formerly Russia Today) off the air in the UK," it added.

Johnson said he had been "very encouraged so far by the strength of the support that we are getting. I think in particular from President Macron of France; I talked to Sigmar Gabriel, my German counterpart, and from Washington where Rex Tillerson last night made it absolutely clear that he sees this as part of a pattern of disruptive behaviour".

Minutes later came the news Tillerson had been sacked by President Donald Trump.

Former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband told the BBC: "The biggest thing she has to do in the next two days is to rally her allies. It is very significant and very worrying, frankly, that the White House has not felt able to point the finger at Russia in the last seven or eight days."

In London, housing minister Dominic Raab said that retaliation would open up "the whole panoply of counter-measures from economic, financial, diplomatic measures", potentially including moves targeted at individuals such as visa bans and freezing financial assets.

However he downplayed the involvement of Nato in any response to Moscow, saying that the PM "chose her words very carefully" in her Commons statement. "The words 'unlawful use of force' are different and have a different meaning in international law from 'armed attack'."

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