MOSCOW, March 22. /TASS/. Obstructing the work of Russian diplomats in the UK is the only lever of pressure on Russian politics available for London, Russian Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko told Rossiya-1 TV channel on Wednesday.
He commented on British Prime Minister Theresa May’s claims that the expulsion of Russian diplomats from London would undermine the operations of Russian intelligence services in the UK.
"Claims of this kind are meant to sustain the anti-Russia crusade," Yakovenko said. "This campaign goes far beyond the embassy’s activities. It is just that the embassy is a convenient excuse for the British to exert pressure on us, since any other levers of pressure on Russia’s foreign policy are unavailable to them."
The ambassador said the subject of Russian intelligence operations is always useful to whip up anti-Russian sentiment in the UK quite easily.
He indicated that the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Great Britain in the wake the alleged poisoning of the former Russian intelligence officer and British spy, Sergei Skripal, was devoid of any sense, as the staff of the Russian embassy "performed their professional duties honestly and courageously."
"From my point of view, all of this [the suspicions that the expelled Russian diplomats were intelligence agents - TASS] are ridiculous but it’s really difficult to dissuade the British authorities who see a KGB agent in just every diplomat," Yakovenko said. "They haven’t even changed their own perceptions about the [name of the] intelligence service we have in Russia."
Ex-Colonel Sergei Skripal, 66, formerly from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, who had come to see him from Moscow the day before, were found sitting comatose on a bench outside a shopping mall in the town of Salisbury on March 4. The police said later they had been poisoned with a nerve agent.
Sergei and Yulia were rushed to a hospital, where physicians there described their conditions as critical. Reports on their medical status have been scant and vague ever since then.
Given the background of frantic Russia bashing that has gripped the mainstream media, the British authorities rushed to pin the blame on Russia but refused to provide any samples of the alleged nerve agent Novichok or any practical evidence in general.
Russian officials including President Vladimir Putin have resolutely refuted any accusations in connection with the nerve agent, saying Moscow destroyed all of its stockpiles of chemical weapons under the supervision of international disarmament organizations.
They have also said neither the USSR nor Russia hasever had any programs for the development and production of a war gas with the codename ‘Novichok’.
Based on the implications of the scandal, the British government expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Moscow has sent packing the same number of British diplomats and ordered the closure of the UK Consulate General in St Petersburg. It has also terminated the operations of the British Council in Russia.