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Russian Foreign Ministry suggests US could have orchestrated Skripal saga

March 21, 2018, 16:04 UTC+3

The Skripal case could have been staged by the US, the state with the largest chemical weapons arsenal, an official says

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Russian Foreign Ministry

Russian Foreign Ministry

© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 21. /TASS/. The Skripal case could have been staged by the US, the state with the largest chemical weapons arsenal, Head of the Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Department at the Russian Defense Ministry Vladimir Yermakov said at a briefing for foreign ambassadors.

"It is likely that this could have been orchestrated from across the pond. It is no secret to anyone that the UK’s closest partner is the only state officially keeping the largest arsenals of chemical weapons in the world," he pointed out.

"Of course, they are not comfortable with the mounting criticism coming from sensible parties in the [Chemical Weapons] Convention], that’s why they have gotten riled up," the diplomat went on to say. "Maybe this is the reason behind all this unseemly commotion around Salisbury?" he asked.

Yermakov said Russia has absolutely no complicity in the poisoning. According to him, "it is becoming ever more obvious" that the attack on the Skripals in Salisbury "is most likely a new grossly falsified and unlawful provocation." 

"It only has to be solved who stood behind this and which goals pursued. Only one thing is clear that Russia has absolutely no complicity in this at least for one simple reason: such a scheme is simply inadmissible and it is disadvantageous for us by all parameters," Yermakov said.

"At the same time, Great Britain has quite a different track record," the senior diplomat said, adding that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had openly admitted his lies about the situation around Iraq.

"Even though he admitted that, several hundred thousand innocent Iraqi citizens were killed. And no one was held responsible for that," Yermakov said.

"One only has to guess who and for what purpose is now trying to plunge Great Britain into a new dirty and again losing venture for London from the very outset against Russia this time,’ the high-ranking diplomat said.

The senior Russian diplomat said it was absurd to demand some explanations from Russia on the Skripal case.

"In this situation, Russia by definition does not owe anything to anyone and surely cannot bear responsibility for the acts or the idleness of the British authorities on their own territory," he stressed.

As the senior Russian diplomat added, "the British authorities are beginning to get ever more nervous" as "they have driven themselves into a deadlock" but "in the final account, they will have to answer" a growing number of incoming questions." "But they have nothing to answer," he stressed.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s department head rejected London’s logic, following which Moscow is in any case to blame and be responsible for everything.

"Such logic would perhaps fit a new British or Hollywood TV series but in real life and surely in relations with Russia this will not work," the senior diplomat noted.

Act of terror against Russia

Moscow considers the Salisbury attack to be an act of terror against Russian citizens carried out on UK soil, he stressed. 

"It once again confirms how different our assessments and approaches are. We say that two Russian citizens were attacked on the UK territory, so provide us with all the information about the attack that we believe to be an act of terror against Russian citizens carried out on the UK territory," he said, addressing to a British diplomat.

He pointed out that Russia had come up with an initiative to conduct a joint investigation and make all the information public "instead of issuing unclear reports about some Novichok nerve agent."

The senior Russian diplomat called on the British to put their hatred against Russia aside for a moment, as well as their "island way of thinking." "I mean no offence, I think highly of the British diplomacy and this is the reason why I feel ashamed for you when I hear such things," Yermakov added, stressing that in the past, Russian diplomats had learned much from their British colleagues and British experts and now they were calling them for dialogue.

Russia destroyed all chemical weapons stockpiles

Russia has destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles, the issue closed once and for all, Yermakov said.

"On September 27, 2017, the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) officially confirmed that Russia had completed the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpiles ahead of time," he said. "For us, this issue is closed once and for all. British politicians’ unscrupulous attempts to cause disarray in this noble effort does little credit to them, frankly speaking," Yermakov added.

"It only has to be solved who stood behind this and which goals pursued. Only one thing is clear that Russia has absolutely no complicity in this at least for one simple reason: such an act is simply inadmissible and it is disadvantageous for us by all parameters," Yermakov said.

"We would like the OPCW to elaborate which paragraph of Article 8 of the (Chemical Weapons) Convention serves as a basis for cooperation between the Technical Secretariat and the UK," he said, adding that Article 8 was dedicated to the organization’s structure and the distribution of power among its bodies. He noted that in accordance with the Convention, the Technical Secretariat was not eligible to assess any national investigations, which was what the UK had requested.

Yermakov stressed that London had even dared to question the efficiency of the OPCW, though it was one of the most respected and effective international organizations as far as disarmament was concerned.

Commander of Russia's Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Troops, Major General Igor Kirillov said  the United States has not yet destroyed its arsenal of chemical weapons so the US’ accusations appear cynical. 

"The US’ accusations against us look especially cynical since they have failed to destroy their stockpile of chemical weapons citing shortage of money," Kirillov told foreign ambassadors at the briefing.

"While comparing the Salisbury case and the previously staged provocations in Eastern Ghouta and Khan Shaykhun one arrives at an unambiguous conclusion the Western countries in their attempts at discrediting Russia and its legitimate government are prepared to employ any methods and unseemly and illegal means," Kirillov said.

UK fails to grant consular access

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said London has failed to grant consular access to former GRU military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal’ daughter Yulia, who is a Russian citizen.

"We are at least very surprised that in violation of elementary civilized norms of inter-state communication, the British authorities are not providing even consular access to the Russian citizen in trouble," Yermakov said.

The diplomat pointed out that the British authorities give "some excuses" but "at the same time they circulate certain videos shot at the Skripals’ alleged location." "Honestly speaking, our questions are merely multiplied by all the stuff," Yermakov said.

The Russian diplomat was surprised that "British do not share evidence collected during the investigation and keep silent in response to any Russian questions about Yulia Skripal." "We have no reliable information related to what has happened to the Russian citizen in recent two weeks and why," Yermakov said.

"Just look, it is happening in the 21st century in, it seems, a civilized country," he told the ambassadors, adding that "in this case it is absurd to demand any explanations from the Russian side."

The Skripal case

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4 and found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, UK. Both of them have been hospitalized and are in critical condition.

British authorities blamed Russia for the poisoning, but failed to provide any evidence to support their accusations. Russia refuted all of London’s allegations. With that, UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and the suspension of high-level bilateral contacts. On Saturday, in response to London’s moves, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that Russia had declared 23 British diplomats personae-non-gratae and would expel them within a week, close the British consulate general in St. Petersburg, and terminate the British Council’s activity in Russia. 

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