Diplo­mat claims UK is ‘wag­ing ag­gres­sive anti-rus­sian cam­paign’

The Herald - - POLITICS - GAVIN COR­DON

RUS­SIA’S am­bas­sador has ac­cused Bri­tain of wag­ing an “ag­gres­sive anti-rus­sian cam­paign” that has left re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries at a “very low level”.

Dur­ing a lengthy press con­fer­ence at the em­bassy in Lon­don, Alexan­der Yakovenko dis­missed re­cent high-pro­file claims of cy­ber at­tacks by the Rus­sian GRU mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence agency and in­volve­ment in the Sal­is­bury nerve agent in­ci­dent.

He said a four-man GRU “close ac­cess” team, ac­cused by the Bri­tish and Dutch of try­ing to hack the com­put­ers of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion

For The Pro­hi­bi­tion Of Chem­i­cal Weapons in The Hague, had sim­ply been in the city to con­duct rou­tine se­cu­rity checks at the Rus­sian em­bassy.

He also com­plained the UK au­thor­i­ties were con­tin­u­ing to refuse to co-op­er­ate with Moscow over the in­ves­ti­ga­tions into the at­tempted poi­son­ing of former spy Sergei Skri­pal in Sal­is­bury and the mur­der in Lon­don of Rus­sian busi­ness­man Niko­lai Glushkov.

He claimed the UK ac­tions were in­tended to di­vert at­ten­tion from the Sal­is­bury in­ci­dent and from the Govern­ment’s prob­lems over Brexit.

The re­sult of what he said had been a “well-or­ches­trated cam­paign” to dis­credit his coun­try was to re­duce Uk-rus­sia re­la­tions to a

“very low level”.

“The rea­son for that lies in an ag­gres­sive anti-rus­sian cam­paign launched by the cur­rent Tory Govern­ment and sup­ported by Bri­tish me­dia,” he said.

“The Con­ser­va­tive Govern­ment has been act­ing in a com­pletely un­con­struc­tive way by breach­ing mul­ti­ple bi­lat­eral and in­ter­na­tional agree­ments and re­fus­ing to co-op­er­ate with Rus­sia of­fi­cials on the Sal­is­bury in­ci­dent or the death of the Rus­sia na­tional Niko­lai Gushkov.

“The bi­lat­eral high-level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue is cur­rently frozen. That was not our ini­tia­tive. That was the ini­tia­tive of the Bri­tish Govern­ment.”

Mr Yakovenko dis­missed claims by the Belling­cat in­ves­tiga­tive web­site to have un­masked the true iden­ti­ties of the two sus­pects in Sal­is­bury case – orig­i­nally iden­ti­fied by the UK au­thor­i­ties by the aliases Rus­lan Boshi­rov and Alexan­der Petrov.

The web­site said their real names were Ana­toliy Chep­iga and Alexan­der Mishkin, and it claimed they were both highly-dec­o­rated of­fi­cers in the GRU.

How­ever, Mr Yakovenko in­sisted there was no rea­son to doubt their as­ser­tion in a Rus­sian tele­vi­sion in­ter­view they were ac­tu­ally Boshi­rov and Petrov, and that they had been in­no­cent tourists who were on a visit to Sal­is­bury when the at­tack on Mr Skri­pal took place.

“We have the of­fi­cial state­ment of these peo­ple and we do not have any rea­son not to trust them,” he said.

He also re­peated Rus­sian claims that Belling­cat was sim­ply a tool of the “Bri­tish spe­cial ser­vices”.

“Belling­cat is not the me­dia,” he said. “This is the tool of the deep es­tab­lish­ment to leak cer­tain things.”

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