Russia rejects ultimatum, wants access to nerve agent

Photo shows the Kremlin complex (rear) and the Bolshoy Kamenny bridge crossing the river in Moskow. — AFP photo

MOSCOW: Russia yesterday rejected Britain’s demand that Moscow provide an explanation over the poisoning of an ex-double agent and said London should provide Moscow with access to the nerve agent.

“Before giving ultimatums it’s better to honour your own obligations on international law,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, referring to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Russia’s top diplomat said that Britain should have sent Moscow an official request about the substance used on its soil.

Lavrov said Russia had not received such a request and also demanded to be given access to the Russian-made nerve agent used to poison former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

“Through an official note we had demanded access to this substance,” Lavrov said, adding that Russia also asked to be informed about the investigation. “Our requests have been denied.”

“If the procedures stipulated by the convention will be implemented I assure you that Russia will fulfil its obligations,” Lavrov said.

He insisted that Moscow was not to blame for the poisoning of the former agent said it was ready to cooperate with London.

“Russia is not guilty. Russia is ready to cooperate according to the Chemical Weapons Convention, if Britain takes the trouble and condescends to carry out its international obligations according to the same document,” Lavrov told a press conference.

Separately, a spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova, said the ministry had summoned the British ambassador, Laurie Bristow, amid the escalating poisoning row.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday said it was ‘highly likely’ Moscow for the attack was to blame after British officials identified the substance as being part of the Novichok group of nerve agents which were developed by the Soviet military during the 1970s and 1980s.

May gave Putin, who faces a presidential election on March 18, until end of Tuesday to explain what happened or face what she said were ‘much more extensive’ measures against the Russian economy.

“It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” May said.

“Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

The Russian ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, was summoned to the Foreign Office and given until the end of Tuesday to provide an explanation.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US had ‘full confidence’ in Britain’s assessment that Russia was likely responsible. – Reuters

May spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron, who Downing Street said condemned the attack and offered his solidarity with Britain.

Russia, which has denied any role in the attack on Skripal and his daughter, said May’s allegations were a politically motivated circus act.

“It is a circus show in the British parliament,” the TASS news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

“The conclusion is obvious: It’s another political information campaign, based on a provocation.” — Reuters

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