Russian denials of British attack ‘increasingly absurd’
Russia is wrong to deny responsibility for a nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent on British soil on March 4, Britain’s foreign minister said on March 19.
“The Russian denial is increasingly absurd,” Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels, where he is due to brief ministers on the incident.
“This is a classic Russian strategy ... they’re not fooling anybody anymore,” Johnson said, asserting that “there is scarcely a country around the table here in Brussels that has not been affected in recent years by some kind of malign or disruptive Russian behavior.”
His comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected allegations Russia was behind the attack.
“It’s complete drivel, rubbish, nonsense that somebody in Russia would allow themselves to do such a thing ahead of elections and the World Cup,” Putin told supporters on March 18 after winning a fourth term as president.
“We have destroyed all chemical weapons,” he said, adding that Russia was ready to take part in the investigation.
Johnson had accused Russia of stockpiling the nerve agent used in the attack.
“We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok,” Johnson told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.
The poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 has triggered a crisis with Britain and Russia expelling diplomats in tit-for-tat measures.
Technical experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were scheduled to arrive in Britain on March 19 to collect samples of the nerve agent used to poison the spy.
London says the substance is a Soviet-designed military grade nerve agent called Novichok.