The Latest: Envoy says abstentions show support for Russia
Apr. 04, 2018
MOSCOW (AP) — The latest on the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter (all times local):
Russia's envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says that although Moscow's proposal for a joint investigation with Britain was rejected, the number of countries that abstained from the vote shows widespread uneasiness with Britain.
Russia called for a session of the watchdog's executive council on Wednesday to further its adamant denials of Britain's allegation that Russia was involved in the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian former spy and his daughter.
A Russian proposal to conduct a joint investigation with Britain was defeated, getting only six votes from the 41-member executive body.
But envoy Alexander Shulgin noted that 17 countries abstained, meaning that "more than half of the members of the executive council refused to support the U.S. and U.K. position."
The United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain in the poisoning controversy.
Britain says Russia's proposal for a joint investigation of the nerve-agent poisoning of a Russian former spy and his daughter got only six votes at a special session of the executive council of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Russia requested the Wednesday session in The Hague, Netherlands, to push its vehement denials of Britain's allegation that Russia was involved in the March 4 poisonings in England. There are 41 countries on the OPCW's executive council.
The British government has invited experts from the international chemical weapons watchdog to help investigate the March 4 poisonings of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called Russia's bid to take part "ludicrous."
Johnson said: "The purpose of Russia's ludicrous proposal at The Hague was clear — - to undermine the independent, impartial work of the international chemical weapons watchdog." British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement. "
"Russia has had one goal in mind since the attempted murders on U.K. soil through the use of a military-grade chemical weapon: to obscure the truth and confuse the public."
Russia's Foreign Ministry wants Britain to provide information about the pets that lived in the house of the Russian former spy who was poisoned with nerve agent in England a month ago.
Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Wednesday that Russia has reliable information that there were pets in the Salisbury residence of Sergei Skripal.
"Where are the pets? What is their condition?" she said. "This is about living creatures, and if a toxic chemical agent was indeed used in their house, these living creatures should have been hurt."
It is not clear where Skripal and his daughter were exposed to the poison, which Britain has identified as a nerve agent of the Novichok class. Novichok was developed as a chemical weapon in the Soviet Union, and Britain has alleged Russia was involved in the poisoning.
Russia's U.N. ambassador has called for an open meeting of the U.N. Security Council Thursday on the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter in Britain.
Vassily Nebenzia made the request at the end of his speech Wednesday to a council meeting on chemical weapons in Syria.
Nebenzia said Russia requested the council meeting because it shares the principle that the use of chemical weapons anywhere "is not acceptable and must be investigated and perpetrators punished, and that impunity is unacceptable."
Kuwait's U.N. Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi told reporters the meeting is scheduled at 3 p.m. EDT on Thursday.
Nebenzia's request follows a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Wednesday requested by Russia on the incident in the English city of Salisbury.
Russia's envoy to the international chemical weapons watchdog has complained that Britain's work with the agency on the poisoning of a former spy has not been transparent.
Alexander Shulgin told a news conference Wednesday that "Russia as well as other states that are members of the executive committee have been pushed aside from this investigation."
He spoke after a special session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons called by Russia, which vehemently denies Britain's allegations that Moscow was responsible for the nerve-agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
The two were found poisoned in the British city of Salisbury a month ago.
"They tell us that they can inform us of the results of this investigation ... only with the good will of Great Britain," Shulgin said. "But, knowing how our so-called partners have conducted themselves, we are not going to count on their good will."
A senior Russian diplomat says a probe into the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain should involve a panel of independent experts.
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says that Moscow has suggested that the international chemical weapons watchdog set up a group of independent experts to look into the case.
Britain has blamed Russia for the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Russia has fervently denied its involvement and pushed Britain to provide evidence to back up its claim.
Ryabkov told the Tass news agency Wednesday that the refusal by Britain and its allies to have an independent probe would signal their "intention to sacrifice the truth for the sake of their geopolitical ambitions."
President Vladimir Putin says Russia expects Britain and its allies to respect international law to end the simmering diplomatic crisis.
Asked Wednesday if Moscow expects Britain to retract its accusations against Russia over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and offer an apology, Putin said Wednesday that Russia has no such expectations but hopes that "reason will prevail."
Britain blamed Russia for the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, accusations which Russia has fervently denied. More than two dozen Western allies have expelled over 150 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with Britain, and Russia responded quid pro quo.
Putin said on a visit to Ankara he hopes Britain and its allies will refrain from actions damaging international relations and return to the framework of international law.
The British government is under pressure to reveal more details of its intelligence on the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning, after the country's defense research lab said it has not been able to pinpoint the precise source of the poison.
The chief executive of the Porton Down laboratory, Gary Aitkenhead, says scientists there have identified the substance used on Sergei and Yulia Skripal as a Soviet-developed nerve agent known as Novichok. But he said Tuesday that "it's not our job to say where that was actually manufactured."
The British government says it relied on a combination of scientific analysis and other intelligence to conclude that the nerve agent came from Russia. Russia denies responsibility, and has seized on Aitkenhead's remarks to support its case.
Britain is standing by its assessment, but the Foreign Office on Wednesday deleted a tweet from last month saying Porton Down scientists had identified the substance as "made in Russia."
Russia's Foreign Ministry says it is expelling one Hungarian diplomat after Hungary joined other Western nations in kicking out Russian diplomats.
The United States and many European countries last week expelled a total of over 150 Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with Britain, which accuses Russia of being behind the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter last month.
Hungary said last week that it was expelling one Russian diplomat who was carrying out intelligence activities.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that it has summoned the Hungarian ambassador to Moscow and informed him of Russia's decision to expel one diplomat from the Hungarian embassy.
Britain is rejecting any possibility of having a joint investigation involving Russia into the nerve agent attack in England's Salisbury last month.
The British envoy to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the executive council of the watchdog on Wednesday that there is no requirement in the body's convention that would force a victim "to engage the likely perpetrator in a joint investigation."
Acting U.K. Permanent Representative John Foggo said that "to do so would be perverse."
Russia had called for a special meeting of the OPCW's executive council on Wednesday to access developments in the March 4 nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
The British delegation at an international meeting says Russia is asking for a joint probe into last month's Salisbury nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and dismissed the offer as "perverse."
During a special meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the British delegation called the offer for a UK-Russian investigation "a diversionary tactic, and yet more disinformation designed to evade the questions the Russian authorities must answer."
The special council meeting in The Hague was requested by Russia a month after the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Russia's Ambassador to the Czech Republic says his country is set to propose a solution to the crisis over the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy at an emergency meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Talking to reporters at the Russian embassy in Prague, Alexander Zmeyevskiy says Russia will propose "a civilized solution to the problem" but declined to give any details.
The closed-door meeting of the OPCW started Wednesday morning.
Zmeyevskiy also says his country is not blaming the Czech Republic for being involved in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
Russian officials previously suggested the nerve agent used for the attack may have originated in the Czech Republic, Sweden and Slovakia. Acting Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called it a lie.
The Czechs expelled three Russian diplomats in solidarity with Britain.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is holding an emergency meeting at Russia's request on last month's nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.
Russia has said that it will push Britain to provide evidence they might have in their hands about the attack in the English city of Salisbury on March 4 which left former double agent Sergei Skripal in critical condition. His daughter, Yulia, is recovering.
The OPCW said the closed-door meeting in The Hague, Netherlands, started in the morning. The Russian delegation plans to brief the media late Wednesday.
Britain's Foreign Office said the move by Moscow to call for the meeting was a "diversionary tactic, intended to undermine the work of the OPCW in reaching a conclusion" about the nerve agent attack.
Russia's spymaster says the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in Britain was staged by U.K. and U.S. intelligence agencies.
Sergei Naryshkin, director of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, the top KGB successor agency, said the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a "grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and U.S. intelligence agencies."
Speaking Wednesday at an international security conference organized by the Russian Defense Ministry, Naryshkin said the poisoning was the latest U.S. effort to undermine Russia and was akin to its practices during the Cold War.
Britain has blamed Russia for the nerve agent attack, an accusation that Russia has vehemently denied. Consequently, relations between the West and Russia are at their lowest ebb since the Cold War.