I was Prime Minister on day of the Salisbury poisonings – I called Donald Trump and he didn’t expect what I asked of him

IT may be five years ago but I clearly remember the conversation with my private secretary.

A Russian man, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, had been found slumped on a park bench in the cathedral city of Salisbury.

AFP or licensorsTheresa May has recounted her memories of the day of the Salisbury poisonings[/caption]

Not the sort of thing that would usually make it to the Prime Minister’s desk.

But it did because Sergei, then 66, was a former Russian intelligence officer.

The alarm bells were ringing, but even then we hoped there might be a “normal” explanation for this; perhaps because the alternative would have been so brazen, so reckless.

It was too shocking to contemplate. This was real life, not a Seventies spy novel.

Our brilliant experts at Porton Down — Britain’s military science park — went to work and three days later we knew the truth. Our fears were confirmed.

The Skripals had been poisoned with Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents normally used in chemical warfare and terrorism.

Novichok was developed by the Soviet military.

Suspicion quickly fell on Russia.

I was outraged that they could do this on the streets of our country.

That’s why, when we looked at our response, I was clear that nothing should be off the table.

You look at all the options, all the pros and cons.

Then you come to a decision as to where to focus the action your are going to take.

We decided we wanted to work with allies in Europe and across the world to expel Russian diplomats who were known to be undeclared intelligence officers.

Sergei Skripal was the target of the Novichok attack along with daughter YuliaEnterprise News and PicturesPA:Press Association/PA ImagesYulia Skripal survived the attack along with her father Sergei[/caption]

Provide evidence

We wanted to send a very clear message to Russia: “We know exactly what you’ve been doing and we are going to act against your network and we’re going to stop you.”

But if we were going to bring allies with us, we had to be absolutely sure of all the evidence we had gathered.

If we were going to publicly attribute this to Russia, we had to make sure that no one could pick holes in what we were saying.

The only way to do that was to reveal intelligence information in a way that hadn’t been done before.

Of course, there were risks involved in that.

You don’t want to give anything away about the capabilities that you have but, ultimately, I thought it was important to declassify that intelligence because we had to provide the evidence to our allies.

They needed the confidence to act alongside us.

We then set about persuading in person.

We briefed the Nato alliance, the European Council and I made various telephone calls to other leaders including Donald Trump.

He was trying to recalibrate his relationship with Russia at the time and I don’t think he expected me to be ringing him up and saying: “We want you to do this because of an attack on our streets.”

It wasn’t an immediate yes, but in the end, I said: “Who are you going to believe?

“Are you going to believe the United Kingdom, long-standing allies? Or Russia?”

They worked with us, expelling 60 Russian intelligence officers.

We expelled 23 and many others, including Canada, Australia, Ukraine and 14 EU states, followed suit.

In the end approximately 140 officials were expelled, representing 25 countries.

This was the biggest ever expulsion of Russian intelligence officers.

We had been clear. The international community could — and would — work together to combat Russian aggression.

It wasn’t just the audacity of the attack itself that had an impact.

What was shocking was the total disregard for the fact this could have affected so many more British citizens, including children.

These people would have been going about their business completely unaware that a nerve agent had been released into their community.

AFPDawn Sturgess died after coming into contact with the discarded Novichok[/caption]

PADS Nick Bailey was hospitalised after attending the Skripal’s home following the attack[/caption]

In the end, Sergei and Yulia survived, but others were affected, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who unknowingly came into contact with the Novichok at the Skripals’ home.

Sadly, it also led to the death of Dawn Sturgess, 44.

Dawn died after she and her partner found the perfume bottle the Novichok had been hidden in.

They picked it up in a local park and she sprayed it on herself with fatal consequences.

So here was another reckless act by the Russians — just throwing a chemical weapon away so that it did end up affecting somebody else.

Somebody did die as a result of their actions.

West stands united

At the time there were some who thought that Salisbury was a one-off, some sort of aberration. It wasn’t.

I was always clear that this was part of a more aggressive positioning by Russia that would have consequences further down the line.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is an opportunist.

Four years later he invaded Ukraine, believing that the West was disunited and looking elsewhere. He was wrong.

In virtually everything he wanted to achieve, he has failed.

He thought he would take Kyiv in a matter of weeks.

His troops were forced to retreat. He thought the UK and Europe would be less united. We are more united.

He wanted to cause division in Nato. Nato has only been strengthened by his actions.

He wanted fewer Nato troops on his border. He has more.

He took a calculated gamble and it hasn’t paid off.

The West stands united, once again, in its support of Ukraine and must continue to do so.

Of course, the attack on Salisbury and the invasion of Ukraine are different but the principles underlying our response remain the same.

We will defend the fundamental values that underpin our way of life and we will do everything we can to counter Putin’s recklessness and Russia’s threat to international security.

GettyTheresa May was Prime Minister at the time of the Salisbury poisonings[/caption]

PAThe Skripal’s home in Salisbury became the centre of an international incident[/caption]