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Vladimir Putin could target UK again with novichok-style attack, warns Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps compared the threat posed by Russian president to that of Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler

Tara Cobham
Sunday 25 February 2024 14:35 GMT
Alexei Navalny: Alexander Litvinenko’s wife calls Vladimir Putin ‘monster’

Vladimir Putin could target the UK with another novichok-style poisoning attempt, Britain’s defence secretary has warned.

Grant Shapps compared the threat Mr Putin poses to that of Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

Mr Shapps, along with a number of Western leaders, blamed the Kremlin for the recent death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who died in an Arctic penal colony on 16 February.

Vladimir Putin could murder again on UK soil, Britain’s defence secretary has warned in a series of fiery comments (Reuters)

Mr Shapps told The Sun: “Putin has Navalny’s blood on his hands. Navalny should never have been in prison. His crime was standing up to an autocratic and now dictatorial Putin, who has a long history of bumping off his opponents.

“He does it at home and abroad. And the world must not waver or bend to that kind of squalid leadership. We know what happens when you do – you end up with the mess of the last century.”

Grant Shapps compared the threat posed by Russian President to that of Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler (Sputnik)

Navalny, 47, was given life-saving treatment in Germany in 2020 after he was poisoned with novichok – the same deadly nerve agent that had been used by Putin’s GRU spy agency to target the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal, 72, and his daughter Yulia, 39, in Salisbury in 2018.

Although the Skripals survived, British citizen Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after coming into contact with the military-grade nerve agent from a discarded perfume bottle.

Branding Putin a despotic leader who had lost any semblance of legitimacy, the defence secretary warned of another novichok-style killing on the streets of Britain.

Sergei Skripal talks to his lawyer from behind bars in 2006 (AP)

He said: “Look what happened in Salisbury. We’ve seen what Putin is capable of.

“His behaviour makes him a pariah. He thinks the more he does it the stronger he gets. But in the eyes of the world it makes him more desperate and weaker.”

Asked if the UK could be hit by another novichok attack, he replied: “We are always tracking and trying to prevent those things. But do I think he has intent? You have seen that. So, yes.”

He added: “Because it’s so far outside of the parameters of civilisation, it’s sometimes hard for the Brits to believe. But it’s Putin’s modus operandi. His approach if he doesn’t like someone is, don’t vote them out, just bump them off.”

Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned in Salisbury along with her father, Russian spy Sergei Skripal (Reuters)

Mr Shapps described the Russian president as “right up there” among the most serious threats to world peace since Hitler.

Putin has denied any involvement in novichok attacks in the UK.

The defence secretary’s warning comes after Saturday marked the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Dawn Sturgess was poisoned in Amesbury (PA)

On 24 February 2022, Putin shocked the world by launching a brutal all-out invasion of Ukraine, sending troops, tanks and warplanes in their masses across Russia’s border under the cover of darkness.

While the Kremlin is reported to have believed its “special military operation” would bring the capital Kyiv under Russia’s grip in just 10 days, the extraordinary show of defiance by Ukrainians to fight for their country’s existence has instead seen the war now enter its third year.

The CPS issued European Arrest Warrants for Russian nationals Alexander Petrov (left) and Ruslan Boshirov in connection with the Salisbury poisonings (PA)

Over the course of 24 months, battle lines have shifted dramatically as Volodymyr Zelensky’s troops pushed Russian invaders back hundreds of miles to enter into a grinding war of attrition centred in battle-hardened Donbas, where both armies are paying for small tactical and symbolic gains with thousands of lives.

Yet while the fighting hotspots have become more centralised, albeit along a 600-mile front line, the fate of Ukraine is increasingly at the mercy of geopolitical developments.

Seeking to justify his lengthy war, and his moves to transform Russia’s economy into a vast war machine, Putin is increasingly casting the conflict as an existential battle against the West.

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