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Russia: spy poisoning could be Brexit distraction

Timothy Jones with AFP
April 2, 2018

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has suggested that the poison attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal could be in the interests of Britain. He also repeated denials of Russian involvement.

Sergey Lavrov
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Makovec

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Monday suggested that the British government could have ordered a poison attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal to distract from the problems posed by the UK's impending exit from the European Union.

He told a news conference in Moscow that the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia "could be in the interests of the British government, which found itself in an uncomfortable situation having failed to fulfill promises to its electorate about the conditions for Brexit."

He said the poisoning could have been carried out by British special forces "known for their abilities to act with a license to kill."

Lavrov also accused Britain and its allies of "casting off all decency" and "resorting to lies and disinformation" while blaming the attack on Moscow.

He insisted that "serious experts and leaders of a whole number of countries" were not convinced the account of the crime given by Britain, which says the attack's use of a nerve agent first produced in Soviet laboratories indicates Russian involvement.

Diplomatic crisis

Among other things, Lavrov denied that the attack's "sophistication" was a sign that it had been approved by the Russian leadership, an argument reportedly used by British investigators.

"If I understand correctly, sophisticated attacks usually lead to instant death," Lavrov said.

The Skripals remain in hospital in the southern English city of Salisbury after the attack in early March. While Sergei Skripal is reported to be still in critical, though stable condition, his daughter was recently said to be much improved and communicating.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal
Yulia Skripal was visiting her father from Moscow

British authorities have not yet granted Russian consular representatives access to Yulia Skripal, something Lavrov also complained about at the news conference, while saying he hoped that Sergei Skripal would also get better.

The affair has triggered an unprecedented series of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats around the world.

More than 150 Russian diplomats have been ordered out of various EU nations, NATO member states, the US and other countries that see themselves as Britain's allies, with Moscow responding in kind.

A US State Department official said on Friday that Russia could apply to accredit more diplomats to replace the 60 alleged spies that have been expelled from the United States.

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