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Ambassador to US excoriates new anti-Russian sanctions as ‘road to nowhere’

Among other things, the US course toward anti-Russian sanctions affected Russia's routine diplomatic work in the country
Russia’s US ambassador, Anatoly Antonov Alexander Shcherbak/TASS
Russia’s US ambassador, Anatoly Antonov
© Alexander Shcherbak/TASS

WASHINGTON, September 14. /TASS/. Russia rejects baseless claims of its role in the Salisbury incident and believes that new sanctions against Moscow, including in this context, are a dead-end road, Russia’s US ambassador, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters on Thursday.

"The Russian Federation strongly rejects baseless accusations of involvement in the poisoning of Russian citizens Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the city of Salisbury in March 2018, which were once again voiced by UK Prime Minister Theresa May during her address to parliament on September 5," the ambassador said.

He reiterated that "Russia has stated, repeatedly and at various levels, that it was not involved in the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury in any way."

"On many occasions, we have invited the British side to jointly investigate those matters," the ambassador went on. "However, our calls for a rational dialogue have been ignored."

"We regret that the United States did London’s bidding and joined the September 6 joint statement, which reiterated the far-fetched accusations against Russia in the context of the Amesbury and Salisbury incidents. Once again, threats of sanctions against us are being voiced," he added.

Road to nowhere

"I would like to stress that imposing more and more restrictions against Russia are a road to nowhere. Our country will withstand the pressure, but US companies will fall victims. With the help of their own administration, they will lose serious profits and cede their positions on our country’s markets," Antonov continued.

According to the ambassador, about 3,000 enterprises with US capital, having combined assets worth approximately $75 billion, currently work in Russia. They employ about 180,000 people.

"They don’t want to leave Russia. This was confirmed during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where, just like in the previous year, the US delegation of more than 550 participants was the biggest. An impressive team of US businessmen has recently visited the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok," he said.

Besides, the diplomat said that during the Helsinki summit with his US counterpart Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested setting up a "high-level group, uniting Russian and US businessmen" that would promote bilateral trade and investment.

"Work is now under way to put this initiative into practice. I wish it proceeded more promptly," he said.

Diplomatic work affected

"The course toward sanctions in Washington’s policies has had quite a negative impact on the issuance of visas to Russian diplomats. Entry permissions for our new staff members are issued in an offhand way," he said, answering to a question from TASS. "Their visa applications simply get suspended in the US embassy, which prevents due rotation of staff. Besides, there were cases of withdrawal of already issued visas."

"We have repeatedly suggested to the US Department of State variants of unblocking the existing visa problems with regard to each other’s interests, however, little progress has been made. We will employ the principle of reciprocity in issuing visas to Americans," Antonov went on.

"One thing is clear: the return back to normal visa-related work depends on the US side’s readiness to engage in an equal and mutually beneficial dialogue with us," the ambassador added.

Skripal affair

According to London, former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel 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. Chief Executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down Gary Aitkenhead said later that British experts had been unable to identify the origin of the nerve agent used in the attack on the Skripals.

On June 30, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess and 45-year-old Charles Rowley were hospitalized in critical condition in the British town of Amesbury. The Metropolitan Police went on to claim that the two had been exposed to Novichok, the same nerve agent that was allegedly used in the Skripal poisoning. After being mysteriously exposed to a nerve agent and falling into a coma, Sturgess died on July 8 while Rowley was discharged from the hospital. However, he is currently being treated for meningitis and loss of eyesight.

On September 5, British Prime Minister Theresa May informed the country’s parliament about the conclusions that investigators looking into the Salisbury incident had come to, saying that two Russians, believed to be Russian agents, were suspected of conspiracy to murder the Skripals. On September 6, leaders of Germany, Canada, the United States and France said they shared the UK opinion. The Russian Foreign Ministry replied that it regretted the move and said all claims regarding Russia’s role in the Salisbury and Amesbury were completely trumped up.