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Russian Foreign Ministry organized a special briefing on Skripal case for CSTO ambassadors

A ministry official said that Russia is "can have nothing to do with the Salisbury incident"

MOSCOW, March 23. /TASS/. Russia’s foreign ministry organized on Friday a briefing for ambassadors of the member states of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) on the incident with the poisoning of former Russian foreign intelligence officer Sergei Skripal.

A similar briefing was organized on Wednesday for foreign ambassador to Moscow.

"On March 23, director of the ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, Vladimir Yermakov, held a briefing for ambassadors of the CSTO member states to explain Russia’s position concerning the United Kingdom’s groundless allegations of Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter if the city of Salisbury on March 4," the ministry said. "Provocative statements deliberately circulated by London at various international venues and in the mass media were refuted."

Yermakov reiterated that Russia "is in no way involved and can have nothing to do with the Salisbury incident," the ministry said. "A nerve gas dubbed in the West as ‘Novichok’ has never been produced in Russia."

Moscow expressed serious concern over an attempted assassination on Russian citizen Yulia Skripal in the United Kingdom. "Russia’s Investigative Committee opened a criminal case over this incident on March 18," the ministry said. "It was pointed out that the British side violates not only humanitarian law but also the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Russian representatives have been denied access to Yulia Skripal to offer her necessary assistance."

"The CSTO partners expressed general understanding of the Russian position. Participants in the meeting arrived at a conclusion that close contacts on the Skripals case were needed," the ministry added.

On March 4, colonel of the Russian military intelligence service GRU, Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia who had come to see him from Moscow the day before, were exposed to a nerve agent. They were found unconscious on a bench near a shopping center in Salisbury. On March 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for the attack on Skripal and his daughter. She identified the substance used in the attack as a Novichok nerve agent, developed in the Soviet Union. The PM accused Russia of "an unlawful use of force" against her country. Later she announced that London would expel 23 Russian diplomats and take other measures against Moscow.

Moscow has rejected all the accusations insisting that neither the Soviet Union nor Russia have had programs on developing the substance.

On March 17, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that 23 British diplomats have been declared persona non grata and would be expelled within a week. Moreover, the ministry stated that Moscow would withdraw permission to open the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg and terminate the British Council in the Russian Federation.