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Tillerson: Russian Ex-Spy's Poisoning 'Will Trigger a Response'

© AP Photo / Pablo Martinez MonsivaisSecretary of State Rex Tillerson gestures during a interview with the Associated Press at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gestures during a interview with the Associated Press at the State Department in Washington, Friday, Jan. 5, 2018 - Sputnik International
United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday that the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal "clearly came from Russia," and that it "will trigger a response."

The official told reporters that he's not sure whether the Russian government had knowledge of the poisoning, but that the nerve agent used in the attack couldn't have originated elsewhere. He noted that the substance the UK says the two were attacked with exists "only in the hands of a very, very limited number of parties."

Speaking to reporters during his flight from Nigeria to Washington, DC, Tillerson called the incident "a really egregious act" and that it's "almost beyond comprehension" that a state actor would use the nerve agent in a public place.

Tillerson's announcement comes hours after British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that either Russia had been responsible for the poisoning or that it had allowed the nerve agent to get into the hands of those who committed the attack.

Police cordon off the area near the Maltings in Salisbury, England, where British media reported Monday, March 5, 2018 that a former Russian spy was in critical condition after coming into contact with an unknown substance on Sunday. British media identified him as Sergei Skripal, 66, who was convicted in Russia on charges of spying for Britain and sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison. Skripal was freed in 2010 as part of a U.S.-Russian spy swap. - Sputnik International
Russian Spy: Police Have Reportedly Identified Nerve Agent, Won't Make It Public

"It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. This is part of a group of agents known as Novichok," the prime minister stated. "Either this was a direct act 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."

May has given Moscow until the end of Tuesday to offer details of its Novichok nerve agents program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Despite speculation, Moscow has shut down claims that it knew anything about how or why the poisoning took place.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017 - Sputnik International
Stoltenberg: Former Spy Skripal’s Poisoning ‘of Great Concern to NATO’

"Unfortunately, I cannot give you any comments because we do not have any information. But, in fact, these accusations 'were not long in coming' as we say in Russia," Dmitri Peskov, presidential spokesman, said, before adding that Moscow is open to cooperating in the investigation.

A total of 21 people were injured in the March 5 incident, during which Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious on a park bench. The two remain in hospital in critical condition. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that the organization had been in contact with London about the incident, which is "of great concern."

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