Vladimir Putin, fully embracing his role as despised international super villain, has *a lot* to answer for; if he’s not supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, he’s backing the Chechen war lord Ramzan Kadyrov in his anti-gay purges or plotting how to interfere in US elections.
And the latest crime being laid at his door is the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury last week. Skripal and his daughter Yulia, 33, are still in hospital – along with police officer Nick Bailey, who fell ill attending to the pair.
Now Prime Minister Theresa May has given Vladimir Putin until midnight to explain what happened before she prepares to take action.
May told the Commons on Monday that the poison used in the attack was a military-grade nerve agent known as Novichok.
“Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others,” she said.
She warned that if there was no “credible response” by the end of Tuesday, the UK would conclude there has been an “unlawful use of force” by Moscow, according to the BBC.
She added that the country could “take much more extensive measures” after the “indiscriminate and reckless act against the UK, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk.”
May says she will give Russia until end of tomorrow to respond to nerve agent attack against ex-Russian spy. "Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russia state against the United Kingdom." pic.twitter.com/9qzhJZYL1Q— ABC News (@ABC) March 12, 2018
Putin was also put on the spot by a brave BBC journalist Steve Rosenberg who asked the Russia leader: “Is Russia behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal?”. But he sidestepped the question, saying: “You are talking about some tragedies. Get to the bottom of things there first, then we’ll discuss this.”
Donald Trump’s silence on the whole mess is also starting to raise some eyebrows – but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has defied his boss by blaming Russia and demanding action against them.
Mr Tillerson, who spoke to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the phone about the case on Monday, said: “We agree that those responsible - both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it - must face appropriately serious consequences.
“We stand in solidarity with our allies in the United Kingdom and will continue to coordinate closely our responses.”
All this raises the question of whether we’re going to do anything at all to tackle Russia and its devolution into a full-blown ‘mafia state,’ as Masha Gessen has labelled it. If we do nothing, Russia’s bad behaviour will likely only get worse… and worse… and worse.