France backs UK in blaming Russia for spy attack as Macron vows response

The French President Emmanuel Macron joined leaders of Germany and the US in backing the UK's claim that Russia was behind the nerve agent poisoning of a former spy and vowed that France would take action in the coming days.

France backs UK in blaming Russia for spy attack as Macron vows response
Photo: AFP

Macron said on Thursday that he would announce unspecified “measures” in the coming days over the poisoning of a Russian former double agent in Britain.

“I will announce the measures that we are going to take in the coming days,” Macron told reporters during a visit to central France. 

Later on Thursday a rare joint statement from France, Gerany, the US and the UK was issued in London. It read :”We, the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom, abhor the attack that took place against Sergei and Yulia Skripal” in the English city of Salisbury on March 4.

“We share the UK assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia's failure to address the legitimate request by the UK government further underlines its responsibility.”

Macron had already spoken out on Wednesday to show his backing for the UK in blaming Russia.

A statement from the Elysée Palace earlier in the day read: “Since the start of the week, Britain has kept France closely informed of the evidence gathered by British investigators and of elements demonstrating Russian responsibility in the attack.

“France shares Britain's assessment that there is no other plausible explanation and reiterates its solidarity with his ally,” Macron's office said
after a Thursday morning call between the French leader and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister condemn all use of chemical weapons. They recall the importance of full compliance with international conventions and their commitment to the fight against impunity for the use of chemical weapons.

“The President of the Republic and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom have agreed on the importance of European and transatlantic unity in the response to this event. They will stay in close contact over the next few days.”

Earlier in the week Macron  had “assured May of France's full solidarity with the United Kingdom,” but refrained from pointing the figure at the Kremlin for the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter 

British police have said the case is being as an attempted murder.

A British diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said London was “grateful for French solidarity at this time”.

“As President Macron said this morning, the unity of our European and transatlantic alliance is essential as we respond to Russian behaviour.”

On Wednesday, May expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city
of Salisbury, as the standoff with Moscow — which denies responsibility — escalated.



Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.