LONDON, March 3. /TASS/. Russia's ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko expects an official apology from Mail on Sunday newspaper for slander, according to the letter published on the official websited of the Russian Foreign Ministry.
"We have noted today’s Mail on Sunday piece on Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko. As was made clear to your correspondent yesterday, we would have been prepared to comment on statements regarding the Ambassador personally if we had an opportunity to look at the article in advance," the letter said. The Ministry noted that the newspaper misled the British public.
"The information that Mr Yakovenko, when working at the USSR Mission in New York, was expelled for spying, is not true. Mr Yakovenko worked at the Mission from 1981 and 1986 and left after the standard term of posting expired. The allegation on him having been expelled is a blatant lie," the message said.
"The allegation on Mr Yakovenko having received a state award "military medal… often given to spies is also untrue. In 1993-1998, Mr Yakovenko led the Russian delegation at negotiations over the launch of the International Space Station, a joint project of Russia, the US, EU countries, Canada and Japan. It was after the talks were successfully concluded and an agreement was signed at Washington in 1998 that Mr Yakovenko was awarded with a Medal of the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland", 2nd," the Ministry wrote.
Earlier on Sunday, Mail on Sunday daily wrote that their investigation suggested that Yakovenko was once a Soviet spy - and that he was expelled from the US during a "famous purge of agents at the height of the Cold War".
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova commented on the matter, saying that British media "celebrate" the first anniversary of the incident with the poisoning of the former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter with openly orchestrated fakes. Zakharova criticized the newspaper’s investigation and the facts that they used. "Alexander Yakovenko has worked in New York for five years and completed his work assignment as scheduled," she wrote.
Salisbury drew the world’s attention last year when, according to London's version, former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, convicted in Russia of spying for Britain, and his daughter Yulia, were exposed to a 'Novichok-class' nerve agent in the city on March 4. The British government claimed that Russia was "highly likely" behind the incident. However, Moscow strongly dismissed all speculations on that score, adding that programs for developing this substance had never existed in the Soviet Union or Russia. Britain’s military chemical laboratory at Porton Down failed to pinpoint the origin of the substance that poisoned the Skripals.