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French top diplomat confirms Macron’s visit to Russia in May

The top diplomat says preparations for French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Russia continue

PARIS, March 29. /TASS/. Preparations for French President Emmanuel Macron’s May visit to Russia continue, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told the RTL radio station on Thursday.

"As was announced before, the visit is planned. This is the current situation," he said.

In reply to a question about the Skripal incident, the French top diplomat claimed that "only Russia is capable of producing the Novichok gas." "This is why there can be no other credible explanation of the incident. And this is what France has been saying but Moscow has been giving no response. For that reason, after the EU summit was held last week, the Europeans took actions and French President Emmanuel Macron ordered the expulsion [of Russian diplomats]," Le Drian added.

"However, we would like to maintain a frank dialogue with Moscow, which would be totally free of ambiguity, and we demand that Moscow abide by international law," the French foreign minister noted.

Skripal incident and expulsion of diplomats

On March 26, a number of EU member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia earlier announced the expulsion of Russian diplomats over the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer Sergei Skripal, which the UK blames on Moscow without providing any evidence. In particular, Washington expelled 60 Russian diplomats, including 48 embassy staff and 12 members of Russia’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations. In addition, the US authorities decided to close Russia’s consulate in Seattle.

The Russian Foreign Ministry stated that those unfriendly actions would not remain unanswered.

On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of a nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury. British Prime Minister Theresa May said the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. London expelled 23 Russian diplomats. 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. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, 23 British diplomats were expelled, the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg was closed and the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia.