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News Wrap: UK’s May gives Moscow 48 hours to explain former spy poisoning

In our news wrap Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that it’s highly likely that Russia is behind the poisoning of former Russian spy and his daughter. Also, Syrian civilians tried to flee the embattled suburbs of Damascus, with no let-up in a government onslaught. Meanwhile, the largest rebel group in the area said it reached agreement with Russian forces to evacuate the wounded.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    In the day's other news- British Prime Minister Theresa May declared that it's highly likely that Russia was behind the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. But Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed that accusation as a — quote — "circus show."

    Alex Thomson of Independent Television News has our report.

  • Alex Thomson:

    A week and a day on, it is the attempted murder inquiry with no suspect people, only suspect places, suspected of contamination.

    Sergei Skripal's house cordoned from the public view at ground level, so too the restaurant Zizzi, the graveyard where his wife and son lie buried, the Mill pub in Salisbury's city center.

    And the list of places of interest to investigate has widened today. The prime minister said the nerve agent used was Novichok, produced in Russia since the '80s, a despicable act, she said.

  • Prime Minister Theresa May:

    The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

    Mr. Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Novichok on the 4th of march. Either this was a direct act by the Russian state again 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.

  • Alex Thomson:

    The Russian ambassador it was summoned to the Foreign Office and asked to explain. The prime minister told the Commons Moscow has 48 hours to do so.

  • Prime Minister Theresa May:

    Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom. And I will come back to this house and set out the full range of measures that we will take in response.

  • Alex Thomson:

    And then came this morning's revelations from this man, Boris Karpichkov, another former Russian spy exiled in the U.K. He claims Russian Secret Service warned him three weeks ago that Sergei Skripal would be killed.

    And Russian public opinion back home, well, here's last night's (INAUDIBLE) daily, one of the most popular news programs in Russia. Behind the presenter, the caption with Big Ben reads, "A Deathly Place." But all eyes, it seems, are apparently on this deathly place come Wednesday.

    Then, the government says it will act against what it insists is either criminal negligence by the Kremlin or just plain Kremlin crime.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    That report from Alex Thomson of Independent Television News.

    Meanwhile, here in Washington, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders called the poisoning an outrage, but she stopped short of saying Russia was to blame.

    Syrian civilians tried to escape the embattled suburbs of Damascus, with no letup in a government onslaught. State TV today showed men, women and children fleeing Eastern Ghouta along a corridor established by the Syrian army. In addition, the largest rebel group in the area said that it reached agreement with Russian forces to evacuate the wounded.

    War monitors estimate more than 1,000 have died in the enclave since the offensive began February 18.

    Back in this country, Texas authorities are investigating a pair of package bombs that killed one person and injured two others in Austin today. Police believe, they say, that they're related to another package explosion that killed a man in the city earlier this month. The boxes were all left on the doorsteps of homes, and exploded as soon as residents moved or opened them.

    A neighbor of one of today's victims described her shock at hearing the blast.

  • Woman:

    Well, I was in my room. I was about to go get a diaper and all of a sudden we just heard an explosion. And I just felt it like move the ground and that's when we walked out and we saw the smoke and the lady laying on the floor.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Police have not identified a suspect or a motive behind the attacks. But investigators haven't yet ruled out whether the explosions were race-related.

    Republicans in the House Intelligence Committee are preparing to announce that they have found no coordination or collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia. Texas Republican Mike Conaway said that they will release their draft report tomorrow after a year-long investigation. Democrats on the committee must review the report before it is shared with the public.

    In Colombia, primary election results are in, and conservatives came out ahead. Yesterday, voters signaled their support for critics of the country's peace agreement with the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia. FARC candidates only won 10 seats guaranteed to them under the peace deal. Former leftist rebel ®MD-BO¯Gustavo Petro and right-wing candidate Ivan Duque also won their party primaries ahead of the presidential election in May.

    New York's Metropolitan Opera fired longtime conductor James Levine today, after an investigation found credible evidence of sexually abusive conduct. Levine was suspended from the Met back in December, after four men came forward saying that he abused them as teenagers decades ago. Levine insisted that their claims are — quote — "unfounded."

    And stocks were mixed on Wall Street today, amid lingering concerns over the president's newly imposed tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 157 points to close at 25178. The Nasdaq rose 27 points, and the S&P 500 fell three.

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