The UK is using the Skripal case to divert attention from Brexit issues, Russia’s Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko told RT. London has actively engaged a NATO-led anti-Russian campaign for this purpose, he said.
“In order to divert attention from Brexit, the UK has to present something to the public to move [the focus] a little bit to the other side,” the Russian envoy told RT’s Anastasia Churkina.
Britain views the poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal as a “possibility to launch this anti-Russian campaign,” said Yakovenko, who has been serving in his position since 2011. “This is a scenario that was written in London but it’s a short-sighted scenario because, in the long run, Britain will have to explain what is behind all these things in Salisbury,”he added.
Britain is trying to find a new place in the world order as it is leaving the EU and attempting to maintain relations with international organizations, Yakovenko said. “The key organization is NATO. Britain is trying to find [its] place, and they found that place in a so-called anti-Russian campaign,” he said. The UK is one of the founders of NATO and has almost a 70-year-old history with the alliance.
“That’s why we saw their new concept of national security last year, where Russia was named as a major enemy of Britain,” the Russian ambassador said.
Another concern for Russia in the Skripal case is the fact that the whole investigation has been classified. “Nobody saw even the pictures of these people in a hospital [Skripal and his daughter Yulia] – whether they are alive or maybe they are in good health. Nobody talked to the doctors. There is absolutely no transparency in the case,” the diplomat stated.
Yakovenko said he was surprised by how quickly British PM Theresa May blamed Russia for Skripal’s poisoning, despite the absence of any evidence. “We want to clarify all the questions behind this provocation – this is exactly how we see [this incident],”he added.
The British authorities will also have to explain the results of their investigation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the envoy believes. They will have to show “what are they doing in a secret chemical laboratory which is eight miles from Salisbury, where they investigated that substance based on their info and on their samples, following certain standards they have,” he said.
Authorities in the UK claim a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok was used in the attack on the former Russian-UK double agent. Russia denies any involvement in the incident.
In a separate interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel, Yakovenko said that Russia would “exert maximum pressure” on the UK over the situation with Skripal and his daughter. “I am sure we won’t let them [Britain] off the hook,” he added.
On Monday, Prime Minister May confronted Moscow with an ultimatum to reveal the details of the alleged Skripal plot. The demand was rejected and, on Wednesday, the UK imposed sanctions on Russia, which included expelling 23 diplomats, limiting diplomatic ties, and freezing Russian state assets in the UK.
In response, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that UK diplomats would “definitely” be expelled from the country in response to the move by London. However, Moscow stressed that it was open to cooperation with the UK on the Skripal case if it is treated as an equal partner in the probe.