UK not supplying proof in ex-spy poisoning: Russia

Britain has bad record of violating international law, claims Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko
LONDON: The British government has provided no proof of Russia’s alleged involvement in the Salisbury incident, Russia’s ambassador to London said Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference at the Russian Embassy in London, Alexander Yakovenko said the U.K. has been “denying consular access to the embassy to Russian citizens” in refusing to share any information on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who fell into critical condition after being exposed to a toxic substance on March 4 in Salisbury, southern England.
He said that by refusing the Skripals’ consular access, the U.K. has violated the Vienna Convention.
Russia denies “evidence-free accusations and provocations by the British authorities,” the ambassador said.
“The burden of proof lies within the British authorities. By now, no facts have been presented either to the [chemical weapons watchdog] OPCW, or us, or to the U.K. partners or to the public. We cannot take British words for granted,” he added.
“The U.K. has a bad record of violating international law and misleading the international community. We demand full transparency of the investigation and full cooperation with Russia.”
Yakovenko also criticized Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for comparing Russia with Nazi Germany.
He said Johnson had no right to insult the Russian people, who defeated the Nazis and lost 25 million people in World War II.
Johnson on Wednesday said Russian President Vladimir Putin would use the upcoming World Cup to “glorify” Russia, comparing it to Nazi Germany hosting the 1936 Olympics.
– Diplomats’ expulsion
Twenty-three Russian diplomats also left Britain Wednesday in the biggest single expulsion of foreign diplomats from the U.K. since the 1970s, after Russia refused to provide any explanation for their stockpile of the nerve agent Novichok – a military-grade chemical gas – which Britain says it used in the attempted March 4 murder.
The Skripals remain in stable but critical condition in hospital after being found unconscious on a public bench.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is visiting Brussels on Thursday for a European Council meeting where she is expected to seek further support from the member states against Russian involvement in the incident, which the U.K. describes as “attempted murder.”
May earlier said the incident took place “against the backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian state aggression across Europe and beyond.”
Russia has denied any involvement in the incident but also expelled 23 British diplomats in a reciprocal move, accusing the U.K. of not sharing a sample of the substance for their examination.
As well as expelling the Russian diplomats, who the U.K. has identified as “undeclared intelligence officers,” May said they would “develop proposals for new legislative powers to harden our defences against Hostile State Activity and ensure those seeking to carry out such activity cannot enter the U.K.” and “suspend all planned high-level contacts between the UK and the Russian Federation.”
The incident has drawn comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement.
Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he was serving 13 years in prison for leaking information to British intelligence.
An earlier statement from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance supports the U.K., adding: “The attack in Salisbury was the first use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory. It showed total disrespect for human lives. And the attack was an unacceptable breach of international norms and rules.”
France, Germany, the U.S., and the U.K. in a joint statement last week condemned Russia over the alleged nerve agent attack.–AA

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