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NATO uses Skripal case to tighten ranks ahead of alliance’s summit — senior diplomat

The Skripal affair is aimed at injecting another portion of Russophobia, according to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksander Grushko

MOSCOW, April 3. /TASS/. The West is using the Skripal case in order to "tighten the loosened" ranks of the European Union and NATO ahead of the forthcoming summit of the alliance, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksander Grushko said on the Rossiya-24 television channel on Tuesday.

"The Skripal affair was used in order to tighten the ranks of the European Union and NATO, which loosened lately, and to inject another portion of Russophobia," Grushko said. He explained that had been done because "in several months from now the alliance will hold its summit in Brussels to make more decisions on strengthening its eastern flank and ways of achieving the two-percent defense spending target."

NATO’s summit in Brussels is due on July 11-12, 2018.

On March 4, GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal, convicted in Russia of spying for Britain, and his daughter Yulia, were poisoned by a nerve gas in Salisbury, if the British version of the incident is to be believed. London claimed that the poisonous substance had been developed in Russia and blamed Moscow for complicity in the incident. Russia dismissed all speculations on that score. Without presenting any proof London expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Russia retaliated by asking as many British embassy staffers to leave and issuing orders to close down the consulate-general in St. Petersburg and terminating the activity of the British Council in Russia.

On March 26-29 "in a gesture of solidarity" with London the United States, Canada, Australia, France and Germany and a number of other European countries expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would retaliate proportionately.