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Linking Kremlin and new Novichok case 'absurd'

July 9, 2018

Moscow was sorry to hear a nerve agent had killed a woman, and was "deeply concerned" about such toxins' presence in the UK, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. But he described the case as a "British problem."

Großbritannien Nowitschok-Fall in Amesbury
Image: Reuters/H. Nicholls

Russian officials dismissed any claims that the Kremlin was responsible for the death of a British woman near Salisbury, in an incident that UK officials described as another case of the Novichok poisoning.

Addressing reporters on Monday, Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "we of course very much regret the death of the British citizen."

"Just like before, we are deeply concerned that toxic substances continue to surface on  British soil," Peskov said. "We believe it is not only dangerous for the British, but also all other Europeans."

Read more: UK and Russia at odds over latest Novichok nerve agent poisoning

However, Peskov also said he was unaware of anybody linking Moscow with this month's poisoning of a couple in Amesbury, which comes four months after Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with the same substance in nearby Salisbury. Both towns are in the southeast of Wiltshire, not far from the UK's highly secretive Porton Down military science and technology laboratory.

"At any case, we believe it would be quite absurd," said the Kremlin spokesman.

Russia's envoy voices doubts

Peskov went on to comment on a separate statement by Russia's representative at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Alexander Vasilievich Shulgin. Previously, Shulgin expanded on Russia's long-held thesis thatthe Novichok poisoning was an anti-Russian conspiracy.

"Such stories are lately popping up just ahead of important events," Shulgin told the Izvestiya newspaper. "Right now we have the final stages of the 2018 World Cup and the Russia-US summit in Helsinki coming up. It's hard to escape the thought that everything was pre-planned and deliberately brought about to escalate the international situation and undermine Russia's authority and its ties with other parties."

Time for Moscow to explain 'what has gone on'

On Monday, however, Peskov said the Wiltshire poisoning had "nothing to do with the summit" between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump in Finland.

"This is, let's put it this way, more of a British problem," Peskov said.

Last week, UK officials said the nerve agent used against the couple in Amesbury was of the same variety as the toxin used against the Skripals, but it was not clear if the substance came from the same batch.

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said it was time "that the Russian state comes forward and explains what has gone on."

The nominally retired double agent Sergei Skripal spent several weeks in a coma after being discovered on a bench in Salisbury in March; he eventually recovered enough to be released from the hospital. He and Julia Skripal are now living in a secret location.

dj/msh (Interfax, AFP, Reuters)