MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. Moscow believes that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s statement on the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergey Skripal as an unprecedentedly blatant provocation, which undermines the foundations of dialogue, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
"We believe that the statement British Prime Minister Theresa May made in the parliament on March 14, concerning measures to punish Russia for its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, is an unprecedentedly blatant provocation, which undermines the foundations of dialogue between our countries," the statement reads.
"We consider it to be an unacceptable and deplorable fact that the British government should choose to deteriorate relations seeking to achieve some improper political goals and announce a number of hostile measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats," the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that "our retaliatory measures are sure to follow soon."
The ministry pointed out that the British government "preferred to ramp up confrontation with Russia" rather than completing its own investigation using traditional tools and methods, including those established by the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons). "Clearly, by employing unilateral and non-transparent methods to investigate this incident, British authorities once again attempted to launch a baseless campaign against Russia," the statement added.
On March 4, Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, suffered from the effects of an unknown nerve agent. They were found unconscious on a bench in a park near the Maltings shopping center in the city of Salisbury. Both are currently in the hospital in critical condition.
Skripal was arrested by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in December 2004. An investigation revealed that back in 1995, he had been recruited by the British intelligence to provide information constituting state secrets. In August 2006, the Moscow District Military Court sentenced Skripal to 13 years in a maximum security correctional facility, also stripping him of his military rank and state awards. In 2010, when Russia and the United States carried out a spy swap, Skripal was handed over to the US alongside three other convicts, while Moscow received ten Russian citizens in return. In the same year, he settled in the United Kingdom.
On March 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack on Skripal and his daughter. She said the substance used in the attack was a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union.
On March 14, the British prime minister accused Russia of an "unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom" and announced that London would expel 23 Russian diplomats in connection with the poisoning of Skripal. The diplomats will have a week to leave the country. Besides, London has revoked the invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to pay a visit to the United Kingdom.
Lavrov said earlier that Moscow had nothing to do with the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter. He pointed out that Russia had not received any requests from the UK concerning a substance allegedly used in the Salisbury incident.