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Russia tells May it is 'not to blame' for nerve agent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal

The Independent logo The Independent 13/03/2018
Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court. © Getty Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court.

Russia has told Theresa May it “is not to blame” for the nerve agent attack on former spy Sergei Skripal.

Sergei Lavrov, the country’s foreign minister, said Moscow had demanded access to samples of the nerve agent used to poison Mr Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

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Mr Lavrov said the British government had refused to provide Moscow access to materials and samples related to the case.

He called it a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which outlaws the production of chemical weapons.

A police officer outside The Mill pub near to the Maltings in Salisbury © PA A police officer outside The Mill pub near to the Maltings in Salisbury

Moscow was willing to cooperate with the probe but suggested the UK would be “better off” complying with its international obligations “before putting forward ultimatums," Mr Lavrov added.

On Monday, Theresa May said Mr Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, had been poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent known as Novichok, which had been developed in the Soviet Union.

© PA

She said Russia has until the end of Tuesday to explain how the substance ended up in Britain, otherwise, she said, the attack will be interpreted as an act of military aggression.

The British government will have understood that the Kremlin was unlikely to respond to Ms May’s ultimatum positively. Many in Moscow are already bracing themselves for what they see as an inevitable tightening of sanctions.

Military personnel in College Street Car Park in Salisbury © PA Military personnel in College Street Car Park in Salisbury

Sergei Stepashin, Vladimir Putin’s predecessor as FSB director and Prime Minister, also called for British authorities to hand over evidence.

“We have the relevant agreements to investigate this together,” he told the Interfax news agency.

Military personnel in College Street Car Park in Salisbury © PA Military personnel in College Street Car Park in Salisbury

Mr Stepashin said British security services may have been complicit in the poisoning — and were using it to undermine Russia ahead of Sunday’s presidential elections: “It seems obvious to me that this might be the primitive work of English security services. Tell me who needs this traitor in Russia?”

There could be another reason apart from elections, he added: “The World Cup is about to take start and the English hate us for the fact the competition is taking place in our country.”

Military personnel in gas masks prepare to remove a second ambulance from the South Western Ambulance Service station in Harnham, near Salisbury © PA Military personnel in gas masks prepare to remove a second ambulance from the South Western Ambulance Service station in Harnham, near Salisbury

Earlier in the day, Konstantin Kosachyov, head of the Committee for Foreign Affairs in the Russian upper house described British allegations as “maniacal.” Britain was well versed in blaming all kinds of “mortal sins” on Russia, he wrote on Facebook.

“Russia is being asked to justify itself even without evidence,” he said. “In queen of courts of Britain, this degradation is complete: the total presumption of guilt, when the neither court and nor prosecutor are asked to prove the case, but the accused ”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd talks to Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard during a visit to the scene at the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury © PA Home Secretary Amber Rudd talks to Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard during a visit to the scene at the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury

Mr Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter remain in critical condition.

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