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UK police get new powers in response to nerve agent attack blamed on Russia

Thu, 13th Aug 2020 09:08

LONDON, Aug 13 (Reuters) - New powers allowing British
police officers to stop, question and detain people at the
borders on suspicion of espionage or foreign interference came
into force on Thursday in a response to a 2018 chemical attack
blamed on Russian agents.

Russia has denied playing any part in the nerve agent
poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, and his
daughter Yulia Skripal, in the English cathedral city of
Salisbury.

Britain has named two Russian military intelligence agents
as the prime suspects in the case, which led to the biggest
Western expulsions of Russian diplomats and spies since the Cold
War.

In response, Britain introduced new legislation, the
Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019, which includes
the new powers now coming into effect.

Known as Schedule 3 powers, they will allow specially
trained police officers to stop, question, and when necessary
detain and search individuals travelling through UK ports to
determine whether they are involved in hostile state activity.

The Home Office, or interior ministry, said the new system
included robust safeguards such as independent oversight by the
Investigatory Powers Commissioner, as well as special
protections for confidential material and journalistic sources.

"The threat to the UK from hostile state activity is growing
and ever changing," Home Secretary Priti Patel said in a
statement.

"These new powers send a very clear message to those
involved in it that this government has zero tolerance for those
acting against British interests."
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Kate Holton)

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