this is bbc news. the headlines at 11: moscow is set to ignore the midnight deadline to explain how a russian nerve agent was used to attack a former spy. sergei skripal and his daughter were poisoned in salisbury over a week ago. scotland yard warns the investigation will take many more weeks. the public are going to continue to see a great deal of police activity around the city, including potentially more cordons. do not be alarmed. it is necessary as part of this investigation. in today's other main news: just over a year after his appointment, president trump sacks his secretary of state, rex tillerson. in his spring statement, the chancellor forecasts higher growth, lower inflation and debt, and hints at possible spending rises in the future. and newsnight, russia is not exactly trembling at the british threat of
some kind of response to the salisbury attack. so what might be retaliation of britain be? —— the. good evening, and welcome to bbc news. less than an hour remains until the deadline announced by theresa may for moscow to explain its role in an attack using a nerve agent upon a former spy and his daughter. sergei and yulia scripal were taken ill over a week ago in salisbury. the kremlin said today it would not co—operate until it was given a sample of the substance involved. as tensions deepened, scotland yard gave more details of the attack and appealed for more witnesses. here's our diplomatic correspondent, james landale. it began as a brutal attack on the streets of salisbury, the poisoning of a former russian
intelligence officer and his daughter. but it's become, tonight, a global diplomatic row, with britain in confrontation with moscow and looking for allies. british ministers have given russia until midnight to explain how a nerve agent created in russia ended up nerve agent created in russia ended up in britain. and if midnight passes without that explanation, the government is promising a robust and expensive response. this is a brazen attempt to murder innocent people on uk soil. a policeman is still in hospital, overwhelmingly likely or highly likely the russian state was involved, and the use of this nerve agent would represent the first use of nerve agents on the continent of europe since the second world war. as part of a huge diplomatic push, british officials told the chemical weapons watchdog in the netherlands that russia was implicated in the use of a nerve agent on british soil.
the foreign secretary called his eu counterparts, securing expressions of support from france, germany, the european commission and nato. this afternoon, theresa may spoke to donald trump, who agreed with her that russian must provide unambiguous answers about how this weapon came to be used in britain. even before the call, the president acknowledged russia's involvement. theresa may is going to be speaking to me today. it sounds to me like they believe it was russia and i would certainly take that finding as fact. as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn russia or whoever it may be. russia is already subject to sanctions because of its interventions in ukraine and crimea. ministers insist these damage russia's economy, but their impact on moscow's behaviour is doubtful. crucially, these are largely eu sanctions, the uk can't impose them on its own. so, what unilateral options is the government considering? well, some of russia's 58 diplomats
in london could be expelled but that might provoke a tit—for—tat expulsion of british diplomats. wealthy russians in london with links to the kremlin could face financial sanctions and travel bans, but who and how? there could be tougher laws to crack down on russian officials guilty of human rights abuses, and russian tv stations like rt could be targeted. the media regulator has already warned it could lose its licence. here at the foreign office, they are also investing a lot of effort and diplomacy in trying to bring international pressure to bear on russia, but the bar is high. russia has a veto at the un and some eu countries are reluctant to contemplate yet more sanctions. this evening, the russian embassy said moscow would not respond to britain's ultimatum unless it was given samples of the nerve agent. as diplomats promised retaliation against any punitive action. russia is not a country to be spoken to in the language of ultimatums. i think it's high time
the united kingdom learned that. tonight, the investigation continues in salisbury. tomorrow, the diplomatic war of words will be replaced by deeds, and outright confrontation. james landale, bbc news. russia has repeated its denial of any involvement in the nerve agent attack. the country's foreign minister, sergei lavrov, dismissed the accusation while the russian embassy in london warned that the threat of sanctions by britain would be met with a response. our correspondent, sarah rainsford, reports from moscow. accused of a crime many miles from here, under pressure to explain a chemical attack that shocked britain. but today, the kremlin has remained silent. the foreign minister, though, was in full defensive flow. sergey lavrov rejected britain's 24—hour ultimatum to respond to the claim that moscow used a nerve agent. "russia should get ten days,"
he said, accusing britain of flouting the chemical weapons convention. and when i asked about the actual charge, the minister called that nonsense. translation: russia is not guilty. russia is ready to co—operate in accordance with the convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons if the uk finally decides to fulfil its obligations under international law within that document. russia's also demanding a sample of the substance used in the attack to conduct its own tests. it's been identified as novichok, which the bbc believes was once produced here in a secret soviet programme. reports in moscow say any stockpiles were destroyed long ago. so when the british ambassador was called to the foreign ministry, moscow says he came to hear its protest at a sordid attempt
to discredit this country. i reiterated the points made by prime minister may that we expect by the end of today an account from the russian state as to how this material came to be used in salisbury. russia has always insisted it had nothing to do with the poisoning in salisbury, and that position clearly hasn't changed even with the threat of sanctions. after all, this is a country that's been living under international sanctions for some time, linked to its actions in ukraine. and those measures haven't weakened president putin politically at all. if anything, they've made him stronger. moscow, then, is in no mood for ultimatums, and it will continue to insist on its innocence. sarah rainsford, bbc news, moscow. scotland yard has given further details about the movements of sergei skripal and his daughter yulia in the hours before they became critically ill. counter—terrorism police say the investigation will take many weeks, but the prime focus is discovering exactly how
the poison was administered. our home affairs correspondent, daniel sandford, has the latest from salisbury. this evening, with nerve agent contamination still a huge concern, police were working at the pound where sergei skripal‘s car was found after being towed away from salisbury town centre. britain's most senior counter—terrorism detective warning today that the complex operation in the city will last many weeks. we are sifting and assessing all evidence available and we are exploring all investigative avenues, this includes extensive cctv footage from across the city and over 380 exhibits so far. detectives now believe yulia skripal arrived at heathrow airport from russia on the afternoon of saturday, third march. the next day, the day of the attack, she and herfather sergei drove into salisbury in this red bmw. police are asking anyone who saw
the car between 1.00pm and 1.45pm that sunday to come forward. at 1.40pm that afternoon, they parked on the upper deck of the sainsbury‘s car park from where they walked past a small park to the mill pub. after a drink, they headed to the zizzi restaurant, where they were between 2.20pm and 3.35pm. they then headed back to the park where, at ii.15pm, they were found desperately ill on a bench. today, police said detective sergeant nick bailey, who also became seriously ill after getting contaminated, was making good progress. the two people targeted in the attack, yulia and sergei skripal, are still in intensive care here in salisbury hospital, were staff are having to use special precautions because of the military grade nerve agent. they're both in a critical condition, but they are both
still stable, which means they're not getting significantly worse. i understand that she is doing slightly better than he is. we still don't know if detectives have a specific suspect in this unique and challenging investigation, they said they wouldn't be making that public at this stage. daniel sandford, bbc news, salisbury. the chancellor, philip hammond, has delivered an upbeat assessment of the uk economy, claiming there's "light at the end of the tunnel," and hinting at possible public spending increases in the autumn. but labour accused the chancellor of "astounding complacency" and ignoring a public sector funding crisis. here's our political editor, laura kuennsberg. is there anybody out there? number 11 didn't want us to pay that much attention. no fuss, no frills. reporter: do you have good news today, chancellor? only the chancellor slipping off to work. the speaker: statement, the chancellor of the exchequer. but what was this, a cheery philip hammond rushing to his place? if there are any eeyores
in the chamber, they're over there. i, meanwhile, am at my most positively tigger—like today. not much has changed from the world outside. true, the economy will grow a little bit faster. the debt will start to fall, just. the day to day deficit, remember that, it's gone. but compared to other countries, the economy is sluggish and slow, only a hint of easing off months away. if, in the autumn, the public finances continue to reflect the improvements that today's report hints at then, in accordance with our balanced approach, i would have capacity to enable further increases in public spending. that might have delighted his side. the speaker: john mcdonnell. but labour accused him of not being in the real world. hasn't he listened to the doctors, the nurses, the teachers, the police officers, the carers and even his own councillors,
they're telling him they can't wait for the next budget. they're telling him to act now. but is he listening? this is the eighth year, the eighth year in a row when a conservative chancellor has said to the public that dealing with the accounts is more important than what they might feel they need. well, i hear what you're saying, laura, but the facts speak for themselves. i've put £11 billion, this is just what i've done since i've been chancellor, £11 billion additionally into public spending in 2018/19 and have promised to put more into the national health service this year if we get a deal on pay. but you are aware, yourself, chancellore... many of your colleagues now believe that the evidence is overwhelming for more money to go into the nhs in the longer term? well, the evidence is clearly there that our population is getting older. that technology is developing in a way that makes more and more interventions possible,
and indeed desirable, in the health service, and that does represent a continuous upward pressure. is the cabinet at the moment discussing how to find more money for the health service, as some of your colleagues have told me? well, this is my responsibility to look at these things, but of course we look at all these issues. and as we approach the budget in the autumn and then the spending review in 2019, of course we will look at all these pressures across the piece. not good enough for these opponents. this is a chancellor that's asleep at the wheel. he really had to show today he was prepared to take action. there was nothing in that statement that creates confidence. he has dispelled some of the gloom about the economy by giving statistics about employment, growth, output, debt etc. what the chancellor should have done, i think, is to be much more open and honest with the public and say there is no more public money for public services, which is very badly needed,
and therefore we are going to have to have an increase in taxation to pay for it. not admissions the government is ready to make. hard choices that will linger long after today. along with the brexit bill, revealed to be hanging around until 2064. spring has not yet really sprung. laura kuenssberg, bbc news, westminster. president trump has sacked his top diplomat, the us secretary of state, rex tillerson, apparently without warning. the two men have had a series of public rifts over issues like russia, north korea, and iran. here's what the outgoing secretary of state had to say. i received a call today from the president of the united states after afternoon from air force one, and i have spoken to the white house chief of staff, kelly, to make sure we
have clarity as to the days ahead. what is most important is to make sure there is a smooth transition during a time when there are so many national policy and security challenges to the country. that's a summary of the news. now on bbc news, newsnight with evan davies. translation: i don't care. i couldn't care less. ever get the feeling someone's laughing at you? he was actually laughing at accusations of us election interference, but president putin might as well have been talking about salisbury. so what, if anything, can we do about russia? one option — kick russian state television out of britain? or maybe boycott the world cup? but is there really anything we can do to intimidate