Russia Rejects Allegations of Nerve-Agent Attack in Salisbury

Vladimir Putin. Photo: Kremlin
Vladimir Putin. Photo: Kremlin

During a heated debate in the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Russia again rejected allegations levelled by the United Kingdom that Moscow was behind a deadly nerve-agent attack in the English city of Salisbury on 4 March.

Russia “is not responsible” for the attack in Salisbury, that country’s Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said, stressing that the origin of the substance used in the incident has not been confirmed.

The meeting, requested by Russia, took place amid expectations that the results of tests of samples collected from individuals exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury will be known by early next week.

The United Kingdom sent the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) samples of the nerve agent within days of the incident, which left Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, hospitalized.

After the incident, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the attack in Salisbury was the first use of a nerve agent on NATO territory. On March 14, NATO Allies made clear their deep concern, and condemnation of this reckless breach of international norms, Stoltenberg said in a statement.

Since then, he added, intensive consultations have taken place among Allies, including at NATO and in capitals. Those consultations have resulted so far in the expulsion of over 140 Russian officials by over 25 NATO Allies and partners.

Earlier, President Trump had ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the U.S. According to a White House Statement, the order also specifies the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle. With these steps, the statement added, the U.S. and its allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences.

The Trump Administration ordered the expulsion of Russians from the U.S. following similar actions taken by other countries in the wake of the allegation by the United Kingdom that Russia was behind an attack using a deadly nerve-agent in Salisbury on 4 March. The attack left Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, hospitalized in critical condition.

At Thursday’s meeting, Mr. Nebenzia accused the UK of engaging in a “theatre of the absurd,” and wondered why Russia would want to wage such an attack, eight years after Mr. Skripal was granted amnesty, and before the Russian presidential elections and the 2018 World Cup soccer event.

Further, the Russian delegate said that Russia does not have a copyright on Novichok and that line of toxic substances has been developed in many countries, including the United States and the UK.

“Yet people are demanding that the Russian Federation acknowledged its guilt,” he said.

His delegation has prepared a draft statement for the Council that will be a litmus test as to whether the UK and its allies are true to their words; rejecting that test will be a confirmation of their “dirty games,” he added.

Speaking after Mr. Nebenzia was UK Ambassador to UN, Karen Pierce, who said that her Government’s investigations into the use of chemical weapons involved 250 police detectives interviewing more than 500 witnesses, supported by a range of experts and partners that have gone through more than 5,000 hours of video footage.

A military-grade nerve agent – a weapon of mass destruction – has been used in an attempt to kill civilians on British soil in a reckless fashion, she said.

Telling the meeting that she would “take no lectures” from Moscow, Ms. Pierce said: “There is one country, Russia, which is playing a fast and loose with our collective security and the international institutions that protect us.”

Noting that Yulia is now able to communicate and is getting better, Ms. Pierce said that the UK Government received a request from the Russian consulate for access to Yulia, which was already conveyed to her.

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