All news

UK failure to respond to Skripal case notes is ‘extraordinary situation’ — Russian envoy

Russia’s envoy to UK hopes London will come to terms and eventually patch ties up
Russian embassy in London Ilya Dmitryachev/TASS
Russian embassy in London
© Ilya Dmitryachev/TASS

MOSCOW, August 12. /TASS/. The situation with London’s refusal to respond to Russia’s official requests regarding the investigation into the Skripal case is "extraordinary," Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom Alexander Yakovenko said in an interview with Rossia-24 TV channel on Monday.

"They are refusing to hold any meetings and discussions with the Russian Foreign Ministry on this issue. They are not responding to our notes and we have sent nearly 80 notes. From the viewpoint of diplomatic practice, when a state stops responding to official requests, it’s just an extraordinary situation. Nevertheless, this is a new British reality," the envoy said.

"Today we will continue demanding an official investigation and particular facts. But unfortunately, so far, we haven’t made any serious progress in this issue," Yakovenko noted.

In comment on Scotland Yard’s recent statement that it has no evidence in order to bring charges against the Russian leadership in connection with the alleged assassination plot against the Skripals in Salisbury, Yakovenko noted that "those people, who are in charge of the investigation, are behaving a little bit more honestly."

"Indeed, they should work with particular facts. There are no facts of Russia’s complicity in this incident. We are still waiting for an official report from the UK," the diplomat said.

Russia's intent to maintain normal relations with Britain

Maintaining normal relations with Britain is one of the key aims of Russia’s foreign policy, but Moscow is interested in this precisely to the extent London wishes the same, Russia’s ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko told Rossiya-24 round-the-clock television news channel in an interview.

"We will keep cooperating with Britain, but on a very pragmatic basis. The main task of the Russian diplomacy today is to create the maximum favorable conditions for the development of our country. Britain is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an important trading partner for us," Yakovenko said. "Naturally, maintaining normal relations with that country is one of the key elements of our foreign policy, but we need this only as much as Britain does."

Yakovenko noted the tremendous influence of the United States on Britain’s foreign policy. "London follows in Washington’s footsteps practically in all issues," but at the same time the country has its own national interests to take care of. "We do remember the way they voted in parliament when the United States wished to deal a strike on Syria, but the British parliament did not support the idea. They proceeded from their national interests. We would like to hope that Britain will follow its national interests and in some cases its policy will be different from the one Washington dictates," Yakovenko pointed out.

Concerning the UK, the Russian ambassador believes that sooner or later London will have no choice but to return to normal and pragmatic relations with Moscow.

Yakovenko has put the spotlight on Downing Street’s aggressive line towards Russia, in particular a recent statement by UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Dominic Raab."Yet, we hope that life in general will compel Britain to take a sensible position and just return to normal, mutually respectful and pragmatic relations with Russia," the diplomat told the TV channel.

The ambassador hoped that relations between Moscow and London would improve sooner or later. "I’m an optimist and I want to believe that our relations will stabilize at some point and thrive. Certainly, for its part the British government has to have the political willpower for it," he noted.

According to Yakovenko, economic dialogue between Russia and the UK has been on track. "If we look at the entire relationship between the two countries, economy-wise, it has been moving ahead rather well," he said, noting that British companies have taken the lead in terms of investments in Russia.

Bilateral relations have been thriving in the spheres of culture, science, technology and in all aspects, where there is no political meddling by the British government — this includes people-to-people contacts.

Meanwhile, Moscow-London relations hit rock bottom in the wake of the Skripal case.

Predictions for post-Brexit UK

The Russian envoy believes that the United Kingdom will be fighting for economic survival in the next few years after the country withdraws from the European Union.

"This will be a fight for stabilizing the economy and for economic survival in around the next few years," he shared his assessment of the Brexit consequences for the UK in an interview with the Rossiya-24 TV channel on Monday.

Yakovenko clarified that the country is now rapidly approaching Hard Brexit (EU exit without a deal), which will entail difficult economic woes for the United Kingdom. "The British pound is likely to plummet, while the Bank of England governor says that a grave economic contraction is possible," he stressed. The UK’s prosperity is heavily dependent on the service sector and the British can lose a significant share of the market, with businesses moving their services to EU countries.

Moreover, Hard Brexit will force Great Britain "to search for any options to avoid shock therapy [measures]," as 54% of the UK foreign trade is conducted with the EU.

New UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered the first speech in his new position on July 24, promising that the country will leave the EU on October 31 "no ifs, no buts." British press and experts are finding more and more evidence that Johnson is aiming to hold snap general elections soon and will possibly set their date on the next day after Brexit, November 1, while a significant part of the population will be elated that the UK has finally withdrawn from the EU.

Skripal saga

According to London, together with his daughter Yulia, 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, suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018. 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 neither the Soviet Union nor Russia ever had any program aimed at developing such a substance.

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 August 1, the US administration imposed a second round of sanctions on Russia over the Skripal case.