Wed, Mar 14, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Moscow rejects UK ultimatum on spy’s poisoning

‘NONSENSE’:Russia’s top envoy said the UK should provide samples of the poison and full access to the investigation before making accusations


Russia yesterday rejected a British ultimatum to come clean over a suspected chemical weapon attack on a former double agent in the UK as it braced for threatened reprisals.

“This is all nonsense, we’ve got nothing to do with this,” Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. “Before issuing ultimatums to report to the British government within 24 hours, it would have been better to observe your obligations under international law.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May, in a dramatic statement to parliament on Monday, said that ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned just more than a week ago with a “military grade” nerve agent known as “Novichok” that was developed in the Soviet Union.

She gave Russian President Vladimir Putin until midnight yesterday to respond to the charges or face retaliation.

The crisis over the attempted murder, which comes just days before Sunday’s elections in which Putin is coasting toward a fourth term, threatens to further strain relations between Russia and the West.

The UK has been rallying support for punitive measures among its allies in Europe and the US, but with mixed results so far.

Russia expects diplomatic expulsions, though more drastic measures such as cutting Russian banks off from the SWIFT payment system are seen as unlikely, one person close to the Kremlin said.

Lavrov called on the UK to provide Russia samples of the poison and full access to the investigation.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday branded Russia an “irresponsible force of instability in the world” and said those who ordered and carried out the crime must face consequences.

Less than 24 hours later, US President Donald Trump announced in a tweet that Tillerson had been removed from his post, to be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Skripal, 66, who was found unconscious on March 4 with his 33-year-old daughter, on a bench in Salisbury, England, spied for the UK for a decade while working for Russian military intelligence. He was sent to Britain in 2010 in a spy swap.

In a state-television documentary released on Sunday, Putin said he can never forgive treachery.

In 2010, a few months after Skripal was released from a prison sentence, the Russian leader warned of retribution for those who betray their country.

“Traitors will kick the bucket, trust me. You’re talking about a person who betrayed their friends, their comrades-in-arms. Whatever they got in exchange for it, those 30 pieces of silver they were given, they will choke on them,” Putin said.

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