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Russian diplomat warns tit-for-tat measures against UK in the works

March 15, 11:24 UTC+3

The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman says Moscow has dispatched four notes to the British Foreign Office concerning the poisoning of former officer Sergey Skripal, only to get noncommittal replies

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© EPA/ANDY RAIN

MOSCOW, March 15. /TASS/. Moscow is currently considering retaliatory steps against London and will divulge them in the near future, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Thursday.

"After the United Kingdom announced unfriendly actions against Russia, retaliatory measures must be taken, as the Russian Foreign Ministry stated yesterday," she said. "They are currently under consideration and will be taken in the near future," Zakharova added.

Moscow has dispatched four notes to the British Foreign Office concerning the poisoning of former GRU Colonel Sergey Skripal, once convicted in Russia of high treason, only to get noncommittal replies, she added.

"I would like to inform you that the Russian embassy in London has dispatched several diplomatic notes to the Foreign Office with the goal of starting an active dialogue with officials in London over the state of affairs that ensued as a result of the use of poisonous chemicals on British soil," she said. "Four notes were dispatched in all. In reply we got non-committal messages meaning nothing."

"Russia has officially expressed readiness to work, using all the mechanisms and tools of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), but London has been unwilling to cooperate with us within the legal framework, and the trend is only growing," she said.

"We are again officially calling on Great Britain to provide all the materials on the incident, as they call it, with the spread of chemical weapons on UK territory," the diplomat said. 

"They invented a story that Moscow had allegedly used a chemical substance in the UK. Why did we need to do that in the spring of 2018? Have reasonable people asked themselves such a question? What could be the reason to do that, who is the beneficiary?" she said. "Beneficiaries are those who have been inventing stories of Russian aggression for the past several years," Zakharova added.

"It requires a large-scale campaign to stimulate internal processes," Zakharova said. "I have no doubts that as far as Prime Minister Theresa May is concerned, the whole affair has internal underlying factors, too."

"The leader of a nuclear country appears in parliament to groundlessly accuse another country of aggression against Britain, set 24-hour deadlines and declare ultimatums. Generally speaking, a national leader acts regardless of any realities, and this is most dangerous and risky," Zakharova said. "There is no link with the real state of affairs at all."

As the Russian diplomat pointed out, Moscow has no slightest doubts left that London has unleashed "a true anti-Russian campaign."

"From the very beginning, we requested all the information on the circumstances of the incident and proposed using international law documents to start profound analytical work on the incident," the Russian diplomat stressed. "An outrageous incident has occurred in Europe," the spokeswoman noted.

"Judging from the words of the British side, a chemical poisonous substance was used." "We did everything that was required on our part. But in response we got no information, except an undisguised desire not to interact," she added.

"Amid the hysteria and the show displayed by London, Moscow has demonstrated maximum constructivism and tried to organize a law-based and legally substantiated dialogue on the investigation of the incident," Zakharova said.

"We have been given no data. Why aren’t all the international mechanisms involved? Why does not this happen? It is obvious that there is the desire to bring this anti-Russian campaign to a new level," she stressed.

The UK has actually been squeezing Russian diplomats out of the country over the past few years refusing to extend their visas, she said.  "Russian diplomats have literally been squeezed out for several years, with all sorts of obstacles created by UK officials, in particular, through visa mechanisms," she said.

"Visas have not actually been extended to many staff members of our embassy and diplomats," Zakharova stressed. She described that as "visa war." "Everything was done to make the work of the Russian Embassy’s staff members in Britain as difficult as possible," Zakharova said.

"During high-level meetings, at the foreign ministers’ level, Russia has repeatedly proposed to remedy the situation, because at some point we realized that all this is done deliberately and is no coincidence," the diplomat stressed.

"The recent developments are just the most impossible nonsense, logic does not help," she said. "The scale and scope of the use of media and public diplomacy, including addresses to the Security Council and parliament - all this makes the picture complete," Zakharova noted. In response to a question by foreign reporters as to what consequences the Skripal situation could have, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman said that "all this is actually very dangerous for global peace and stability."

Skripal case

On March 4, Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a park bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury after being exposed to a nerve agent. Both are currently hospitalized in critical condition.

On March 14, Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of an "unlawful use of force" against her country. She claimed that Moscow was involved in the poisoning.

In 2004, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested Skripal and later on, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for high treason. In 2010, the former colonel was handed over to the US as part of a swap deal involving espionage suspects. Later that same year, Skripal arrived in the UK and settled there. 

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union.

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