Russian ambassador says it is ‘plausible’ UK was involved in poisoning

Yury Filatov provides update on Skripal incident in Salisbury in March

At a press briefing in Dublin, the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov, has said that Russia had to expel an Irish diplomat after he was told one of his own staff would have to leave Ireland. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

It seems “at least plausible” that sectors of the British government may have been involved in the poisoning of the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the UK, the Russian ambassador to Ireland has claimed.

Yury Filatov held a media briefing on Tuesday at the Russian embassy in Dublin to provide an update on the poisoning incident last month.

Britain has said that Russian state involvement is the only plausible explanation for the attack, and has led a worldwide reaction involving the expulsion of more than 100 diplomats.

However, Russia’s foreign minister accused the UK of “putting all decency aside” over its claims that Moscow is to blame. Sergey Lavrov appeared to suggested on Monday that UK secret services may have been involved in the March 4th attack in Salisbury, which he said may have been “beneficial” to the British government to distract attention from Brexit.

Mr Filatov published lists of questions he said had to be answered separately by the British government, by France and by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

These included questions about the grounds on which France had become involved in the technical side of investigating an incident in which Russian citizens were injured, and whether the UK was in possession of “control samples” of the chemical warfare agent British representatives referred to as Novichok.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov appeared to suggested on Monday that UK secret services may have been involved in the March 4th attack in Salisbury, which he said may have been “beneficial” to the British government to distract attention from Brexit.

Russia on Friday expelled 59 more diplomats from 23 countries – including one from Ireland – as relations between Moscow and the West continue to deteriorate to their lowest ebb since the cold war.

The move is a continuation of the Kremlin’s retaliation for the expulsion of Russians from embassies across the West in the wake of the poisoning .

Mr Filatov said on Tuesday the “whole story” put forward by the British government was still unclear and he said the questions Russia was seeking answers to were “not meant to be rhetorical”.

“They have to be answered so far the only thing which is clear to us, that the British government decided to put the blame for the Salisbury incident on Russia without presenting any evidence to that effect,” he said.

“So we suggest that the British authorities answer these questions. If they choose to ignore them, there is ample ground to assume that we are dealing with a grand-scale provocation organised by London with the end to discredit Russia.”

“We certainly reject any notion or claim of Russian involvement in the Salisbury incident. We will not tolerate this kind of irresponsible and, well basically indecent, behaviour on the part of the British government. They will have to answer for that,” Mr Filatov added.

He said the Russian government had asked the executive council of the OPCW to examine the “extraordinary assertion” at a meeting in the Hague on Wednesday.

“We hope to discuss the whole matter and call on Britain to provide every possible element of evidence they might have at their hands,” he said.

“Russia is interested in establishing the whole truth of the matter.”

He said Russia hoped the meeting would help to restore “normality” within the realm of international law and international relations.

And we hope certainly that this meeting will help to return to at least the realm of normality within the realm of international law and let’s put a (decency?) in the international relations.

Asked what motivated Britain in its claims, Mr Filatov said it was “hard to put yourself into the mind” of British foreign secretary Boris Johnson because he had a “funny way of doing things”.

“You might assume that if it’s not Russia then somebody did it and you’d have to just look for someone would would benefit…either criminally or politically, I don’t know.

“But some experts have suggested a number of scenarios, some of them which, it seems at least plausible involve sectors of the British government.”

On what the issue meant for the relationship between Ireland and Russia, Mr Filatov said he did not think it was really “a huge story”.

The diplomatic expulsions were “very unfortunate” but it was “not the end of the world” and the two countries had a very positive agenda before them, the ambassador added.

There was huge interest in both Russia and Ireland in developing relationships in the business area and in cultural, community and educational exchanges.

“So it’s an objective thing that has its own inertia and dynamics and I’m sure it will develop.”

“We have explained everything to the Government in Ireland, let’s put it this way,” Mr Filatov said. He said the leading principle of diplomacy was reciprocity.

“Basically, you have to assume that every action finds its counter-action. That’s the way it is.”

He said all parties had to “use our common sense as much as we can” and that what was being seen from London was “just political posturing, political theatre”.

“That’s not a serious way to deal with the incident in question.”

The expulsion by Russia of the 59 diplomats last week marked a continuation of the Kremlin’s retaliation for the expulsion of Russians from embassies across the West in the wake of the poisoning

The Irish Ambassador in Moscow, Adrian McDaid, was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow and informed that one Irish diplomat would be expelled from Russia in answer to the Irish expulsion of a Russian diplomat earlier this week.

The person to leave the Moscow embassy was identified by Russia and has been given until April 9th to leave the country. The Department of Foreign Affairs said it would not be releasing the official’s name.

A spokesman for Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said on Friday afternoon there was no justification for this expulsion.

“Irish staff do not engage in activities that are incompatible with their diplomatic status. This decision to expel an Irish diplomat is regrettable,” the spokesman said.