EU leaders to weigh 'consequences' on Russia over spy attack

A police officer patrols outside the British embassy in Moscow (AFP Photo/Alexander NEMENOV) (AFP)

Brussels (AFP) - EU leaders will say this week that they will "coordinate on the consequences" for Russia after the poisoning of an ex-spy but stop short of mentioning sanctions, according to a draft summit statement seen by AFP.

The 28 leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will wait to see what answers Moscow provides on the nerve agent attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, the draft says.

The leaders' statement says the European Union "condemns in the strongest possible terms" the attack, which Britain has blamed on Russia.

Moscow denies any involvement.

"Member States will coordinate on the consequences to be drawn in the light of the answers provided by the Russian authorities. The European Union will remain closely focused on this issue and its implications," it says.

The draft however makes no overt mention of sanctions or any other diplomatic measures to follow the lead of Britain, which is expelling 23 Russian diplomats and severing some high-level ties with Moscow.

European Council President Donald Tusk said last week after speaking to British Prime Minister Theresa May that he was putting the attack on the agenda of the first day of the summit.

May will not be at the second day of the summit when leaders will discuss Brexit negotiations.

The statement echoes the words of EU foreign ministers, who said on Monday that the bloc "takes extremely seriously the UK government's assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible".

"We stand in unqualified solidarity with the United Kingdom in the face of this grave challenge to our shared security," the draft leaders' statement says.

The EU leaders also call for the bloc to "strengthen its resilience to chemical biological radiological and nuclear related risks" and ask European diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini to report back to them in June.

The leaders will decide whether or not to sign off on the statement at the summit.

Resistance from Greece, which has traditionally close relations with Moscow, stopped a stronger statement from the foreign ministers, EU sources said.

The EU already has sweeping economic sanctions in place against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, despite divisions among member states about how hard to be on Moscow.