The Home Secretary will chair an emergency meeting of the Government’s Cobra committee as the Russian spy poisoning mystery threatens to become a security and diplomatic crisis.
Amber Rudd is coming under pressure from senior MPs to launch an inquiry into claims that 14 suspicious deaths in recent years are potentially connected to Russian intelligence services.
And as Sergei Skripal and his daughter fight for life in hospital in Salisbury, Theresa May is likely to be quizzed by MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions about the suspected poisoning and other deaths.
The Cobra meeting, which will be attended by senior Cabinet ministers, police and intelligence chiefs, comes less than 24 hours after a hastily-arranged meeting of the National Security Council in Downing Street.
The crisis has also plunged Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson into a major diplomatic row with Vladimir Putin after he told MPs Russia was malign and suggested England could boycott this summer’s World Cup.
The MP for Salisbury, John Glen, attempted to reassure alarmed constituents in the normally tranquil cathedral city by tweeting: My thoughts and prayers this evening are with my constituent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
We still do not know all the facts but we do know that a terrible human tragedy took place on the streets of Salisbury on Sunday.
The Government is now doing all it can to find out exactly what happened.
The National Security Council met today (Tuesday) and the Home Secretary is chairing the Cobra committee tomorrow morning.
No stone will be left unturned in the investigation and bringing those responsible to justice.
The call on the Home Secretary to order a probe into earlier suspicious Russian-linked deaths comes from senior Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee.
In a letter headed Review of deaths with allegations of state responsibility, Ms Cooper steps up pressure on the Government for an inquiry following exchanges with the Foreign Secretary in the Commons earlier.
I asked the Foreign Secretary to discuss with you a review by the National Crime Agency (NCA), or another appropriate entity, into 14 deaths that have not been treated as suspicious by the UK police, but have – reportedly – been identified by United States intelligence sources as potentially connected to the Russian state, Ms Cooper writes.
The Foreign Secretary agreed to discuss this with you, and I am writing to request a response on these matters as soon as possible.
In her letter, Ms Cooper quotes a report claiming US intelligence has informed the British Government that a Russian whistleblower – Alexander Perepilichnyy, who died in Surrey in 2012 – was likely killed under orders by the Russian state.
She also suggests that a further 13 people, including an associate of Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Berezovsky, were also likely killed on British soil.
But she complains: Yet the UK authorities have ruled out suspicious circumstances in these cases, often concluding that suicide or natural causes was the explanation.
Ms Cooper points out that the Foreign Secretary noted the Perepilichnyy case in his answer to her question in the Commons, calling it one of a number of deeply troubling cases.
And she adds: You will be aware of reports of considerable concerning evidence about many of the 14 cases that raises serious doubts about the decisions made in each case to treat them either as suicides, natural causes or accidents.
This reported evidence raises questions over the robustness of the police investigations.
Surely a review of all these cases and the decisions made on them, in light of this further reported evidence, carried out by the NCA, would be a prudent course of action to ensure that – as the Foreign Secretary said today – no attempt on an innocent life on British soil should go un-investigated or unpunished.