The attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter is an act of terrorism against Russian citizens, the Russian Foreign Ministry says, noting that the UK does not share any evidence with Moscow while demanding explanations.
“The British authorities don’t share any data they received following the probe [on the Skripal case] and don’t answer any questions concerning Yulia Skripal,” Director of Department for Nonproliferation & Arms Control Vladimir Ermakov said at a meeting with representatives from foreign embassies in Russia. He said that Russia insists on being given “all evidence regarding a terrorist attack against Russian citizens at the territory of Great Britain.” Yulia Skripal, 33, who was poisoned along with her father Sergei Skripal in Salisbury earlier in March, is a Russian citizen.
Moscow is ready for a joint investigation on the case with London and with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), according to the diplomat.
Moscow has repeatedly stated that it is ready to cooperate with the UK to investigate the incident which left the former Russian double agent and his daughter in critical condition. However, London seemed to ignore the calls.
The ministry’s top official called all accusations towards Russia “groundless” and “hysterical.” Ermakov said Russia has nothing to do with the poisoning of 66-year-old Skripal, noting that such a “gamble” is not in Moscow’s interests.
“They emphasized that certain chemical substances which they call ‘Novichok’ were used in the poisoning [of the former Russian double agent]. I can say that none of these versions which we’ve heard stands up to any criticism,” he added.
The case has seen many “inconsistencies,” and the British side seems to be “confusing evidence,” according to Ermakov.
“Logic suggests that there are only two possible things. Either the British authorities are not able to provide protection from such a, let’s say, terrorist attack on their soil, or they – whether directly or indirectly, I am not accusing anyone – have orchestrated an attack on a Russian citizen,” he added.
He said that the UK has not provided any evidence that the substance which was used to poison Skripal and his daughter was produced in Russia.
Russia does not accuse anyone of anything when it comes to the Skripal case, Ermakov said at the briefing.
“We are closely following the developments of the Skripal case… I am sure that the authors and the participants of this provocation will soon be punished… I would like to stress that Russia does not accuse anyone of anything.”
Representatives of Paris and Washington said in their statements that they stand by the UK’s version of events in Skripal case. Ermakov called on them to wait for the results of the investigation, noting that “France has no data of its own.”
The former Russian intelligence officer was a part of a “spy swap” between the US and Russia back in 2010. He had worked as a double agent for the UK intelligence agency MI6 and was jailed in Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain. Russia released four spies in exchange for 10 Russian agents back in 2010.
Speaking in Brussels on Monday, Karin Kneissl said that she viewed the poisoning of former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, as “abhorrent.” However, unlike its British counterparts, Austria wants to have the full picture before casting blame on someone specifically.
“Our position is: First there is the need to establish a full picture of events in joint cooperation with the Chemical agency [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)] and all those involved” the foreign minister said.
Kneissl’s cautionary remarks come less than a week after a French government spokesperson said it was too early to discuss retaliatory measures against Russia, as its involvement in the case has yet to be established.
“We don’t do fantasy politics. Once the elements are proven, then the time will come for decisions to be made,” the spokesperson told a press conference shortly after British Prime Minister Theresa May announced she would be expelling 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning.
The French government’s position on the matter quickly took a U-turn, however, with the Elysee Palace releasing a follow-up statement declaring Russia’s culpability in the attack. “France shares Britain’s assessment that there is no other plausible explanation and reiterates its solidarity with his ally,” the statement said.
Novichok is a Soviet-era nerve agent allegedly used in the March 4 incident. The UK has so far failed to send a formal inquiry to Moscow about the case, although Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that London will soon provide the OPCW with samples of the nerve agent used in the case. Johnson had earlier accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of personally ordering the attack.
Moscow has countered that view. “The fact, that they [UK officials] categorically reject to file an official request and deliberately and arrogantly fan anti-Russian rhetoric in the public sphere bordering on hysteria, indicates that they clearly understand they have no formal pretext to go down a legal road,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.
On Monday, Johnson doubled down on his inflammatory rhetoric, describing Russian denials of responsibility in the nerve agent attack as “increasingly absurd.”