Russia has a deal to produce the British vaccine against Covid-19 and is eager to work with any party in power in the country, Andrey Kelin, Russian Ambassador to the UK, told the BBC, rebuffing fresh accusations by London.
“I don’t believe in this story at all. There’s no sense in it,” Kelin said, in an interview with The Andrew Marr show on BBC television, when asked about the accusations by Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre earlier this week. According to the agency, Russian government-backed hackers have been trying to obtain coronavirus vaccine data from scientists in the UK and elsewhere around the globe.
Moscow doesn’t need any extra information on the British vaccine, made by Oxford-based AstraZeneca, as there’s already a contract for its commercial production in Russia, signed with local company P-Pharm, he pointed out.
Besides, Russia has 26 different laboratories working to “find the right vaccine” at home, with its health ministry expecting three or four of those studies to make it into the market eventually.
“The [British] vaccine, around which all this mess is going around, is just one product out of many,” the ambassador explained. Another thing that made the British claims questionable was the fact that “in this world, to attribute any kind of computer hackers to any country is impossible,” he said.
Moreover, “several cyberattacks proceeding from the territory of the UK” were registered during the recent vote in Russia on amendments to its constitution, “but we don’t accuse the UK [as a state] of what has happened,” Kelin pointed out.
The ambassador also rejected claims by Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who said that “it is almost certain” that some Russian actors had tried to interfere in the 2019 General Election in the UK through “online amplification” of leaked documents from trade talks between London and Washington.
The envoy also gave an assurance that Russia has no policy of meddling with elections, be they in the UK, the US or any other country.
“We don’t see any point in interference [in a British election], because for us – whether it’ll be the Conservative Party or the Labour Party at the head of this country – we will try to …establish better relations than now, ether with this or with that.”
Host Andrew Marr, of course, couldn’t avoid the issue of the 2018 chemical poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, which led to a major cooling of relations between London and Moscow.
He asked Kelin if he watched BBC One’s new TV show about those events, called “The Salisbury Poisonings.” The diplomat replied that he had seen some episodes, but wasn’t hooked as the show was “so dull.”
He again denied Russia’s involvement in the incident, saying that “we still don’t know what has happened” in Salisbury, and expressed regret over London’s reluctance to share any information on it.
“For us, it’s easy. We’re prepared to turn the page. We’re prepared to do business with Britain,” the ambassador said. “We still don’t understand why some spy story should disrupt these important business relationship, which will be very helpful to Britain in time when it’s exiting from the EU… when it needs more partners.”