Russia brushes off poisoning accusations by Britain
LONDON — Russia on Tuesday dismissed accusations of any involvement in the poisoning of an ex-spy and his daughter as “nonsense,” saying it will only co-operate with a
British investigation if it receives samples of the nerve agent believed to have been used.
Police said the investigation of who poisoned Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, will last many weeks and that they are not ready to identify any persons of interest in the inquiry. The father and daughter remain in critical condition in a Salisbury hospital.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Russia’s involvement is “highly likely,” and she gave the country a deadline of midnight Tuesday to explain its actions in the case. She is reviewing a range of economic and diplomatic measures in retaliation for the assault with what she identified as the military-grade nerve agent Novichok.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that his country’s requests to see samples of the nerve agent have been turned down. He insisted that Russia is “not to blame” for the poisoning.
“We have already made a statement to say this is nonsense,” he said. “We have nothing to do with this.”
The cases of other Russians who have died under mysterious circumstances also are being raised. British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said police and the domestic security service will look into 14 deaths in Britain that might be linked to Russia.
“In the weeks to come, I will want to satisfy myself that the allegations are nothing more than that,” Rudd said. “The police and MI5 agree and will assist in that endeavour.”
BuzzFeed News reported in 2017 that 14 deaths in Britain and the U.S. dating to 2006 may have been linked to Russia. Among them are prominent Putin critics, including oligarch Boris Berezovsky and whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny.
Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer, was convicted of spying for Britain and then released in a spy swap. He had been living in Salisbury for eight years.
Police are appealing to the public to come forward if they saw Skripal and his daughter driving in his red BMW in the early afternoon of March 4.
New counterterrorism chief Neil Basu said Salisbury residents would see much police activity in the coming days and they should not be alarmed.
Investigators work in the Maltings shopping centre area in Salisbury, England, yesterday.
SKRIPAL In hospital