News Analysis |
In what appears to be denting the UK-Russia ties, the world’s chemical arms watchdog endorsed Britain’s findings on Thursday that the nerve agent used in the attack on a former double agent and his daughter in England last month originally came from Russia.
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) “confirms the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical,” stated a summary of the report released in London adding that “the toxic chemical was of high purity”.
The OPCW after bolstering Britain’s position, did not name the chemical or pinpoint the suspects behind the attack carried on March 4 on the former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England, saying that information and its structure is part of a full classified report available to signatory states of the organization.
Following the release of the report, Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said there was no doubt Russia was responsible for the attempted murder of the former Russian spy.
Britain and allies including the United States had blamed Moscow for the attack, however, Kremlin denied any such move. The spy spat also led to an escalation in diplomatic tension as diplomats from all sides were expelled in a tit for tat move.
Despite OPCW’s silence regarding the nature of the chemical, Britain named it as Novichok which is a class of deadly chemical compounds believed to be developed by the Soviet government in 1970-80s.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government alleged that Russia was known to have used Novichok, mentioning the country’s pattern of ‘reckless behaviour’, criticizing it for the annexation of Crimea.
On the other hand, Russia, which was defiant in the face of international pressure and advocated vehemently that it was not behind the attack also demanded that the organization take over the investigation from Britain.
Moscow quickly dismissed the findings with Maria Zakharova, the spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, telling the newsmen that the report was part of a continuing British plot against Russia.
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“We are all simply drowning in a torrent of misinformation that is in one way or another supported by official London. There are no grounds to believe that all of this is not the continuation of a crude provocation against the Russian Federation on the part of the British special services,” she said.The spy under question moved to Britain in a spy swap in 2010 and settled in Salisbury, and his daughter Yulia was visiting from Russia when they were poisoned, prompting a trade of barbs between London and Moscow.
Initially, it was believed that both the victims would not survive, however, YuliaSkripal was released from hospital – to an undisclosed location earlier this week – and her father was also said to be recovering at a rapid pace.
In a statement released by the London’s Metropolitan Police, Yulia expressed that she was not yet strong enough to give a full interview to the media, but hoped that one day she would do.
“Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves.” added the 33-year-old woman.
The ‘nerve agent attack’ had triggered mass expulsion of diplomats as NATO expelled seven Russian diplomats on March 27th while Britain handed out the same treatment to 23 diplomats. Just three days after the expulsion, Kremlin asked the UK to reduce its diplomatic staff in Russia to the same level as Russian diplomatic missions in the host state.
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The fallout of the alleged nerve agent attack became severe for Russia as the US also expelled 60 of its diplomats while Ukraine showed the door to 13 diplomats.
In total, more than 150 Russian diplomats have been expelled from two dozen countries, however, Moscow retaliated in the same coin and expelled diplomats from 23 countries as it gave official notice to 60 US diplomats – 58 serving at the US embassy in Moscow and two at the US consulate in Yekaterinburg – to leave the country by April 5.
Though the spy skirmish was originally between UK and Russia, it seemed that Moscow was settling the scores with Washington as it revoked the permit for the US consulate in St Petersburg; meaning it must shut down, besides issuing a protest note to the US ambassador to Moscow, Jon Huntsman.