Russia DENIES poisoning spy and daughter and asks for nerve agent

Russia wants access to samples of the rare nerve agent used to poison a former spy and his daughter in the UK and has again denied any involvement in the case.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claims Britain has denied Moscow’s request to access to materials related to the ongoing investigation.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

But Mr Lavrov denied allegations that the nerve agent came from Russia and said President Vladimir Putin’s government has no connection to the poisoning.

The UK ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, according to reports out of Moscow.

Putin’s government faces a midnight deadline to explain how a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union was used to poison the Skripals in a UK city.

Mr Lavrov said Moscow requested access to all aspects of the investigation because Ms Ms Skripal, who lives in the capital, is Russian citizen.

Mrs May said the Skripals were poisoned by a substance that was part of the Novichok group of nerve agents which were developed by the Soviet military during the 1970s and 1980s.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the Prime Minister’s allegations were politically motivated.

She told Russia’s TASS state news agency: "It is a circus show in the British parliament. The conclusion is obvious: It’s another political information campaign, based on a provocation."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has welcomed international support over the poisoning as the deadline for Russia to provide a "convincing explanation" creeps closer.

France, Germany and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all gave their backing to the UK.

Mr Skripal, a former spy who betrayed Moscow, and his daughter have been in a critical condition since they were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre more than a week ago.

Novichok nerve agents are believed to be five to 10 times more lethal than VX and Sarin.

They cause the heart to slow down and restrict the airways, leading to death by asphyxiation.

Mr Skripal was a former Russian military intelligence colonel who became an MI6 informant and betrayed dozens of Russian agents.

He was arrested in Moscow in 2004 and sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006.

In 2010, he was granted refuge in the UK, where he settled in Salisbury, after he was pardoned by Russia and exchanged in a Cold-War spy swap between Moscow and Washington.

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