Salisbury: too many questions left unanswered

Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko
Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko

Article by Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko

On 4 March 2018 the two Russian citizens were reportedly poisoned in Salisbury. Five months have passed since that time, but no credible and verifiable information about what happened with Sergei and Yulia Skripal has been presented to Russia and the British public.


British officials have not produced any evidence confirming the UK’s arguments that would point to Russia’s involvement into the poisoning, despite our numerous requests to the British authorities via official channels to provide access to the ongoing investigation.


Almost the next day after the incident Prime Minister Theresa May put forward serious political accusations that only the Russian state had the means, the motive and the record to carry out this crime. It was shocking and unacceptable in international diplomatic practice.


One of the key arguments was that only Russia could produce and stockpile the so-called “Novichok”. But this allegation was challenged by Czech President Milos Zeman, who admitted in May that “Novichok” was “produced and stored in insignificant amounts” in the Czech Republic. Moreover, this type of agent was described in numerous publications of US and other countries’ researchers. Given the broad scientific literature, it is safe to say that any modern chemical laboratory, including Porton Down, is capable of synthesizing it.


Russia is interested in establishing the truth and cares about its citizens. That is why we have offered cooperation and proposed a joint investigation into the Salisbury incident. A criminal case on the attempted murder of the Russian national Yulia Skripal has been opened in Russia, and numerous requests for legal assistance in this case have been sent to the Foreign Office and the Home Office.


According to the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the 1965 bilateral Consular Convention, Russia has the right to communicate with its citizens. This right has been grossly violated by the British authorities by denying us consular access to the Skripals. We still cannot verify their condition, whereabouts as well as freedom of movement and communications. Besides, Yulia Skripal’s cousin Viktoria, who wanted to visit her relatives in the UK, has been twice refused a British visa under a far-fetched pretext. In absence of the opportunity to meet Sergei and Yulia Skripal in person we will continue to consider the actions of the British authorities as forcible isolation of the two Russian citizens.


The Conservative government has not responded to our offer of cooperation and launched an anti-Russian campaign together with its EU and NATO allies, who took the British allegations for granted and expelled Russian diplomats based on “highly likely” assertions. They confirmed to us that no credible explanations were presented by the UK to them.


On 1 May National Security Adviser to the Prime Minister Sir Mark Sedwill in his speech at the House of Commons Defence Committee admitted that no suspects have been identified in the Salisbury investigation. On 19 July Security Minister Ben Wallace gave an assessment to the reports that the police identified the persons who poisoned the Skripals by writing in Twitter that they “belong the ill informed and wild speculation folder”. However, the British media continue producing leaks about the investigation. The latest example is the article in The Guardian of 7 August claiming that the British authorities are poised to submit an extradition request to Moscow for two Russians allegedly involved in the Salisbury poisoning. All this information has not been supported by official statements.


We absolutely disagree with the allegations that Russia is somehow involved in the Salisbury incident. We want to know the truth of what happened in Salisbury with the two Russian nationals and demand that the British authorities provide access to the investigation so that we could verify its conclusions.

 

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