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London to answer Moscow’s questions on Skripal case by April 23

The organization will respond as soon as possible, within the ten days stipulated in the Convention, according to UK's OPCW envoy Peter Wilson

THE HAGUE, April 18. /TASS/. London will answer Moscow’s questions concerning the Skripal case within ten days after receiving them, British envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Peter Wilson said, addressing a session of the OPCW Executive Council dedicated to the Salisbury incident.

"Late on April 13, the Russian Federation transmitted to the United Kingdom a list of questions under Article IX of the Convention. We will respond as soon as possible, within the ten days stipulated in the Convention," he said. "We will share our response with all States Parties. Russia made a claim of urgency and requested an answer by ‘no later than April 17.’ We regret Russia did not consider it urgent when we asked for an explanation on March 12. We have still to receive a formal response to our questions," Wilson added.

The British envoy also thanked the OPCW director general for the assistance the organization had provided to the United Kingdom, promptly sending experts to the county.

The OPCW Executive Council’s meeting, called by Great Britain, is aimed at discussing the OPCW report based on the analysis of samples OPCW experts collected in the British city of Salisbury. It is yet unclear if London plans to put any document to the vote.

Skripal saga

According to London, 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, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in Salisbury on March 4. 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 a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.

However, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow without presenting any evidence of its involvement in the incident. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, Russia expelled 23 British diplomats, closed the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg, while the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia.

In the wake of the Skripal incident, a number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats. Washington expelled 60 diplomatic workers and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle.

The Russian Foreign Ministry later announced retaliatory measures against counties that had expelled Russian diplomats. In particular, Moscow expelled 60 US diplomats and closed the US consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg. The United Kingdom was requested to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia so that it would match the number of Russian diplomats in Great Britain.