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Britain planning new $66M chemical weapons center after spy attack

By Susan McFarland
Britain planning new $66M chemical weapons center after spy attack
Members of British armed forces wear protective suits at the Salisbury ambulance station in Salisbury, Britain, on March 10. Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter were attacked with a nerve agent there a week earlier. Photo by Neil Hall/EPA-EFE

March 15 (UPI) -- In response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy with a weapons-grade nerve agent, Britain has said it will build a new $67 million science and technology laboratory.

Minister of defense Gavin Williamson is making a case for increased defense spending, even with the country facing a mounting deficit.

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The new facility will be located at the Porton Down military research center, which was instrumental in identifying Russia as the source of the nerve agent used to target Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month.

Skripal, a 66-year-old former colonel in Russia's military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia Skripal, were found dead slumped on a bench in a British shopping district March 4. Both remain in a critical condition.

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Scientists at the lab were at the center of the clean-up operation after the attack, which also led to British Prime Minister Theresa May expelling 23 Russian diplomats on Wednesday and the announcement of thousands of British troops to be vaccinated against anthrax.

Williamson said in his speech he will advocate for more spending, because of the threats exposed by the poisoning of Skripal.

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"If we doubted the threat Russia poses to our citizens, we only have to look at the shocking example of their reckless attack in Salisbury," Williamson said in prepared remarks. "In the face of intensifying threats, we must prioritize investment in military capabilities.

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"We cannot sit back and let events overtake us. We have to be the ones who determine our future."

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