Russia has called for urgent UN Security Council talks on the spiraling diplomatic crisis sparked by the spy poisoning scandal as a group of expelled US diplomats left their embassy in Moscow early yesterday.
Britain blames Russia for the March 4 poisoning on UK soil of former double agent Sergei Skripal with what it says was a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union, sending relations between Moscow and the West plummeting to new lows.
More than 150 Russian diplomats were ordered out of the US, EU member states, NATO nations and other countries in the wake of the attack, a move that was met in kind by Moscow.
Early yesterday morning the first of about 60 US diplomats ordered out of Russia left their embassy compound in Moscow on their way to the airport.
The departure came a day after Russia found itself diplomatically isolated when it lost its bid at the global chemical weapons watchdog to launch a joint probe with Britain into the poisoning.
Moscow had convened a meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Wednesday, but Russia’s ambassador to the watchdog said Moscow was unable to get the required two-thirds of votes from members to approve a joint investigation.
Diplomatic sources said that six nations voted in favor of the Russian draft motion, but 15 were against while 17 abstained, mainly nations from the Non-Aligned Movement.
After the failure Moscow called for a UN Security Council meeting yesterday in New York.
Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia said the meeting would focus on a letter sent by British Prime Minister Theresa May accusing Moscow of carrying out the attempted assassination.
Wednesday’s bid to secure a joint probe saw a day of bitter rhetoric between Moscow, London and Britain’s allies.
London criticized the joint probe idea as “perverse.”
“We will not agree to Russia’s demand to conduct a joint investigation into the attack in Salisbury because the UK — supported by many other countries — has assessed that it is highly likely that the Russian state is responsible for this attack,” British chemical arms expert John Foggo told the OPCW’s governing executive council.
British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson hailed the defeat of Russia’s bid.
“The purpose of Russia’s ludicrous proposal at The Hague was clear — to undermine the independent, impartial work of the international chemical weapons watchdog,” Johnson said, adding that Moscow’s main goal was “to obscure the truth and confuse the public.”
Bulgarian Representative to the OPCW Krassimir Kostov, speaking on behalf of the EU, said the bloc had “full confidence in the UK investigation.”
Kostov said the EU agreed with the British “assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation.”
Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergei Naryshkin on Wednesday said in a speech in Moscow that both sides must avoid tensions escalating to the dangerous levels of the Cold War.
Accusations of Moscow engineering the attack were a “grotesque provocation ... crudely concocted by the British and American security services,” he said.
OPCW experts have already taken on-site samples which are being analyzed in The Hague, as well as in four other certified laboratories.
OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said he expected the results “by early next week.”
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big