Theresa May has vowed that Britain will wage an international campaign to disrupt the Russian GRU spy agency behind the deadly Salisbury novichok attack.
She said the UK would use its full range of security services – including MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – to expose its “malign activity” and “dismantle its networks”, after revealing how two of its agents were behind the chemical weapons incident.
The prime minister then signalled new sanctions against Russia, with government insiders suggesting key GRU figures could be targeted with travel bans and asset freezes.
The Foreign Office also hauled in the most senior Russian diplomat in the UK to explain his government’s actions, while British officials prepared to take the case to an emergency UN Security Council on Thursday.
Ahead of the meeting, Number 10 said Ms May had already discussed the matter with US President Donald Trump and was expecting further calls with other leaders.
Ms May made her pledge to target the GRU – Moscow’s foreign military intelligence directorate – in a dramatic commons statement following prime minister’s questions on Wednesday.
After explaining how a pair of under-cover agents travelled to the UK under the pseudonyms Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, she turned her sites more broadly on the GRU.
She told MPs the agency is “a threat to all our allies and to all our citizens” adding that Britain and its friends “must now step up our collective efforts, specifically against the GRU.”
Ms May said: “We are increasing our understanding of what the GRU is doing in our countries, shining a light on their activities, exposing their methods and sharing them with our allies, just as we have done with Salisbury.
“And while the house will appreciate that I cannot go into details, together with our allies we will deploy the full range of tools from across our national security apparatus in order to counter the threat posed by the GRU.”
Downing Street officials pointed to Ms May’s action to degrade the GRU’s network in the UK by expelling 23 Russian intelligence officers earlier this year, and did not rule out the possibility that new action abroad had already begun against the agency.
A Number 10 spokesman said that with the UK’s allies across the world, “we will now step up our collective efforts to disrupt and dismantle their networks.”