Russian ambassador to the UK lashes out over Skripal case

By Rachel Dobbs

The Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom has told the press that the attack on former double-agent Sergei Skripal is “so complicated…we need the wisdom of Hercule Poirot to solve the mystery”.

Alexander Yakovenko went on the offensive today at a press conference in London, after 23 Russian diplomats were expelled from the country following the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former double agent, with the nerve agent novichok.

Yakovenko hit back at British allegations that Moscow was behind the attack, saying that Britain has provided no proof of this and that all has been seen is a “hysterical newspaper campaign”.

He suggested that the United Kingdom:

  • Had stores of the nerve agent prior to the attack; refused Russia access to their citizen Yulia Skripal
  • Deliberately withheld information on the investigation into the attack from Russian authorities
  • Ignored Russian requests for details on the recent murder of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov

Yakovenko repeatedly stated that Russia had nothing to do with the attack, which he called “a horrible act, the poisoning of the Russian people”.

Yakovenko also said that the United Kingdom has a “bad record of violating international law and misleading the international community” including invading Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya under false pretenses and supporting a coup in the Ukraine.

Yakovenko went on to say that the expulsion of Russian diplomats constituted a violation by the British Government of its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

He also refused to commit Russia to accepting the verdict of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who are investigating the nerve agent. Instead he said that he would listen to their findings, and then might ask for more evidence.

The ambassador attacked Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson for his comments yesterday, likening the World Cup in Russia to Hitler hosting the Olympics in 1936.

Yakovenko said:

The British government is free to make a decision about its participation in the World Cup. But nobody has the right to insult the Russian people, who defeated Nazism and lost more than 25 million people, by comparing our country to Nazi Germany.

Asked if he would resign if Russia was found to be responsible for the Skripal attack, Yakovenko dodged the question, instead responding with a list of questions Russia had for the UK.

He said Russia still didn’t know:

  • What hospital Sergei and Yulia Skripal were in and and what their condition was?
  • Why the policeman who was also exposed to the nerve agent was recovering and they were not?
  • Did the Skripals receive an antidote? (Yakovenko later clarified that the Russians assumed the Skripals had an antidote because they assessed that, without one, they would be dead).
  • What exposure did medical staff have to the nerve agent and, if it was not dangerous for them, why could consular staff not visit them too?

Yakovenko also stated that he found it “extraordinary” that British MPs were encouraging cyberwarfare against Russia, and suggested that the response was the result of Britain trying to find a new role in the world after Brexit.

In a cross-over with the other main news story of the last fortnight, Yakovenko denied any Russian contact with Cambridge Analytica, after Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow asked about a photo showing Yakovenko with the data-communications CEO at a polo match.