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London uses ex-spy’s case as pretext for ‘short victorious war’ - Russian expert

According to political scientist Elena Ananieva, the further development of the situation is affected by a large number of factors, and the response may be "asymmetric"

MOSCOW, March 16. /TASS/. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is using former Russian spy Sergey Skripal’s poisoning case as a pretext for a "short victorious war," Elena Ananyeva, Head of the Center for British Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe, told TASS.

The prime minister’s harsh reaction to this case is "certainly the result of domestic political climate" in the UK, said Ananyeva, who is also expert of the Valdai International Discussion Club. May’s positions as the Conservative Party’s leader are unstable, she explained. "The positions of the British government are also unstable both inside the country and at talks with the European Union."

For strengthening these positions, May needs a "short victorious war and a threat posed to the country from a ‘monster.’" "The entire nation should be united in a single effort and there should be a monolithic unity of the Conservative Party and people, and this is so," she stressed.

Unlike the 2006 poisoning case of former Federal Security Service agent Alexander Litvinenko, London is calling for solidarity of France, Germany and the United States to submit the issue for the consideration by the UN Security Council, the expert noted.

The further development of events is "very volatile." The expert also noted that the current relations between Russia and the United States are very tense over the Syrian crisis. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley earlier said Washington was ready to deliver strikes on Damascus if the fighting in its suburb, Eastern Ghouta, did not stop, and Russia warned of retaliatory measures. "So, a very serious escalation is possible," Ananyeva stressed.

The UK leader earlier stated that 23 Russian diplomats would be expelled and some other restrictive measures would be introduced and warned of possibly freezing assets belonging to those who may pose a danger to the UK’s security.

"Speaking on the tit-for-tat measures, I do not think that there are very big assets in the Russian banks," Ananyeva said. So, Russia’s measures may be asymmetric, according to the expert.

"What measures will they take against our oligarchs? I don’t think this will deal a heavy blow to Russia’s interests, although certainly the idea is that they try to set the elite against the country’s leadership," she said.

On March 4, ex-intelligence officer Sergey Skripal aged 66, and his daughter Yulia, aged 33, came into contact with a nerve agent and were found unconscious on a bench in The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury. Both of them have been hospitalized and are presently in critical condition. In 2004, Skripal was arrested by the Federal Security Service and later sentenced to 13 years in prison for treason, and stripped of all his titles and awards. In 2010, the former colonel was transferred to the US during an exchange of people arrested on espionage charges and moved to the UK the same year.

On March 12, UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of being behind this incident and the poisoning itself to have been caused by a Novichok-type military-grade nerve agent designed in the Soviet Union.