MOSCOW – Russia’s foreign minister has accused Britain of refusing to play by “the rules” following its response to the poisoning of a former KGB agent and his daughter with a lethal nerve agent in Salisbury.
Sergei Lavrov said the UK had dropped “all propriety” in blaming Russia for the chemical attack, which he claimed may even have been carried out by British intelligence services in a bid to discredit Russia.
“There are other explanations besides those put forward by our Western colleagues who declare that it can only be the Russians who are responsible,” Mr Lavrov told reporters at a press conference in Moscow.
“Experts say that it could be highly advantageous to the British security services as well, who are well known for their capacity to act with a licence to kill.
“It could also be advantageous to the British government, who clearly find themselves in a difficult situation, having failed to fulfill their promises to voters over Brexit.
“In times of cold war there were some rules, but now Britain and the United States had dropped all propriety.
Mr Lavrov said Russia does not want to “play children’s games, as our partners are exactly doing,” and he insisted Russia’s response to the diplomatic crisis caused by the incident three weeks ago “does not depend on us”.
“In diplomacy there is a principle of reciprocity, nobody canceled it. This principle will be applied consistently”, Mr Lavrov said.
“Now our Western partners, I mean primarily the United Kingdom, the United States and several countries that have blindly followed them, have run out of niceties, resorting to open lies, to outright misinformation. We will respond to this fairly calmly, coolly, and insist that any accusations, any allegations must be justified by facts”.
Mr Lavrov’s remarks follow the publication on Sunday of a letter containing 13 questions that the Kremlin has sent the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) regarding what it called the “fabricated Skripal case”.
In it the Russian government demands to know what kind of assistance the UK has requested from the OPCW, what evidence investigators have so far collected, in which laboratories tests are being carried out, the methods used, and who has access to any samples throughout the process.
“There are many questions, and the inability of our UK colleagues to answer them will mean only one thing — that this is all a fiction, and more specifically, a gross provocation,” Mr Lavrov added.
“We have strictly distributed specific questions in full compliance with the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The questions are addressed to the technical secretariat of the OPCW, and to our British colleagues and to our French colleagues, because suddenly some reports have appeared and President Macron had said that France was actively involved in the investigation.”
Russia’s foreign minister also moved to address widespread claims the attack on former spy Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, had been personally signed off by president Vladimir Putin.
“When they say that the order came from the very top, then, firstly, President Putin personally commented on this situation and said that only a completely biased person, a person who started a terrible, insane provocation, can insist on that Russia had a motive. As it is done by our British colleagues.
“What was our motive? On the eve of presidential elections, on the eve of the World Cup in football? This is a cynical point of view to treat this problem,” Mr Lavrov told journalists at a press conference after his meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart.
“The man was released, was pardoned in exchange for the representatives of Russia a few years ago. And if there were any claims on this person, he probably would not be subject to an exchange.
“I hope that Sergey Skripal will follow the example [of Yulia Skripal, who has come out of a coma], because, apparently, he and his daughter were roughly equally affected by the incident that took place”.