March 13, 2018 12:00:29by

Police, MI5 and the government will review 14 'Russian-linked' deaths on UK soil

Police, MI5 and the government will review 14 \'Russian-linked\' deaths on UK soil

The British government today revealed it will review the 'Russian-linked' deaths of up to 14 people on British soil.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd bowed to pressure to revisit the cases after Britain publicly blamed Moscow over the nerve agent poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The 14 cases were declared non-suspicious at the time, but links between the deceased and Russia were highlighted by the BuzzFeed News website.

It is a major escalation as Russia faces a deadline of midnight tonight to explain to the British government whether it commissioned the attack on 66-year-old Skripal in Salisbury.

As Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson blasted the "reckless" attack, his counterpart Sergei Lavrov today accused the British government of refusing access to the 'Novichok' nerve agent.

And Russia summoned Britain's Moscow ambassador to the Kremlin today in retaliation for the Russian ambassador being called in for a meeting yesterday.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chairwoman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, had demanded a review by the National Crime Agency or "other appropriate entity" into the 14 deaths.

Today Ms Rudd replied that police and MI5 will carry out work to ensure the claims of a Russian link "are nothing more than" allegations.

She wrote: "The Government was aware of these allegations, and takes seriously any suggestion that a foreign state has engaged in murder on UK soil.

"As you know, police investigations and coronial inquests at the time did not discover evidence of foul play.

"My immediate priority – and that of the police and other operational partners - is responding to the attempted murders in Salisbury, including decontamination, local reassurance and the criminal investigation itself. I do not want to distract from that focus.

"However, in the weeks to come, I will want to satisfy myself that the allegations are nothing more than that.

"The Police and MI5 agree and will assist in that endeavour."

Cases highlighted include the myserious deaths of two Russian exiles.

Boris Johnson attacks Russia's 'reckless use of chemical weapons' as he thanks international leaders for support in wake of poisoning

Banker Alexander Perepilichnyy, 44, collapsed while jogging near his home in Weybridge, Surrey, in November 2012.

And oligarch Boris Berezovsky, 67, was found dead in a Sunninghill, Berkshire, home in March 2013.

An inquest into Perepilichnyy's death is due to resume in mid-April, is looking at whether he died from natural causes or was poisoned.

The dad-of-two was allegedly helping specialist investment firm Hermitage Capital Management uncover a $230 million (£150 million) Russian money-laundering operation at the time of his death.

Mr Berezovsky, who was living in exile in the UK after falling out with Putin, died under mysterious circumstances.

Boris Johnson attacks Russia's 'reckless use of chemical weapons' as he thanks international leaders for support in wake of poisoning

The former Kremlin insider's body was found slumped at his ex-wife's luxury home, with a ligature wound to his neck.

A piece of the same material around his throat was tied on to the shower rail above him, indicating he apparently hanged from the rail.

Police told a coroner they could not rule out murder, and an open verdict was returned at an inquest in March 2014.

Coroner Peter Bedford said he could not prove beyond all reasonable doubt that Mr Berezovsky took his own life or was unlawfully killed.

Ms Rudd previously said she may look at "one or two or three or four" of the deaths again.

Home Affairs committee chief Ms Cooper said she agreed with putting priority on the Salisbury attack.

But she added: "Given the gravity of these issues, it is also right that the authorities should reassure us that they have looked at any further allegations or relevant evidence put forward in any other cases.

"As the Home Secretary has said in her letter, the government must satisfy itself that the correct finding was reached in each case and the public need to know that relevant questions about wider Russia links have been investigated and answered."