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Russian ambassador comments on relations with UK

The ambassador says the British government is not interested in normal relations with Moscow

LONDON, May 8. /TASS/. The British government is not interested in functional relations with Moscow, Russian Ambassador to London Alexander Yakovenko said in an article dedicated to the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, published on the embassy’s website.

"The UK is depicted by the Conservative government as the ‘leader’ of the Western efforts to ‘hold Russia to account’," the ambassador said. "It seems that the Cabinet has no interest in functional bilateral relations, which have reached a new low since the Salisbury poisoning. Russia is again presented as a ‘cyber threat’ and the British public is being prepared for a massive cyber attack against Russia, which would purport to be retaliatory by nature, but in fact would constitute an unprovoked use of force. The Foreign Office has ignored the Russian offer for consultations on cybersecurity," he added.

"Two months have passed since the poisoning and more than a month since Prime Minister May accused Russia of this crime. However, despite our numerous requests, we have not been granted access to the investigation. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Metropolitan Police have refrained from contacts," he noted.

"We have been denied consular access to our citizens in violation of the Vienna Convention on the Consular Relations and the bilateral Consular Convention," the ambassador pointed out. "We are still unable to verify their whereabouts, health and wishes. Considering all the facts, we now have more reasons to qualify this situation as an abduction of the two Russian nationals. We will continue to seek the truth and demand answers from the British side," he added.

"We also get the impression that the British government is deliberately destroying the evidence, classifying all remaining materials and making independent investigation impossible," the ambassador wrote. "Sergei Skripal’s pets were incinerated without having been tested for exposure to nerve agents. Then a decontamination of the area was announced, which reportedly included destruction of potentially contaminated objects along with Sergei Skripal’s house, the Mill pub and the Zizzi restaurant," he said.

On media coverage

Yakovenko also pointed to restrictions on freedom of the press following the Skripal incident. "The media coverage of the Salisbury poisoning is not as free as it should be," he wrote. "On April 8, it was reported that the National Security Council ‘had seized control’ over the media response to the incident. On April 18, the media regulator Ofcom announced investigations into the RT channel regarding Salisbury."

"Is it a coincidence that no one has ever seen any photos of the Skripals since the incident, and no attempts have been made by the media to interview them? Hospital privacy and security might be an excuse, but it looks like the Skripals’ privacy is better protected than that of pop stars and even the Royal family," Yakovenko said.

"The list of questions to the British government is constantly growing. What we demand in the first place is transparency," the Russian ambassador stressed.

According to the embassy, the article was submitted to one of the British national newspapers but "was rejected without explanation."

Skripal saga

According to London, former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury on March 4. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.

However, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow without presenting any evidence of its involvement in the incident. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, Russia expelled 23 British diplomats, closed the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg, while the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia.

In the wake of the Skripal incident, a number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Washington expelled 60 diplomatic workers and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle.

The Russian Foreign Ministry later announced retaliatory measures against counties that had expelled Russian diplomats. In particular, Moscow expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the US consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg. The United Kingdom was requested to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia so that it would match the number of Russian diplomats in Great Britain.