• Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Russia to ignore UK ultimatum on ex-spy, demands 'poison' evidence

Moscow, March 13 : Moscow will not respond to UK's demand for information on a "Russian-made" nerve agent used in a suspected assassination attempt on a former double agent in England, until the country is provided access to a sample of the substance, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday.

Lavrov was responding to British leader Theresa May's ultimatum to hand over information regarding a supposedly Russian-made Novichok nerve agent that the UK believed was used to poison Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, who remained in a critical condition after they were found slumped over a park bench in Salisbury on March 4.

"We have certainly heard the ultimatum from London," Lavrov told press in Moscow. "As soon as the rumours arose that the poisoning of Skripal involved a Russian-produced agent, which are being fanned by the British leadership, we immediately requested a sample in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention," he said.

So far, the UK government has denied Russia access to the nerve agent, he was quoted as saying by Tass News agency.

Russia has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the Skripal case but, on Monday, British Prime Minister May told members of Parliament that it was "highly likely" that Russia was behind the attack.

The attack also left a policeman in a serious condition and forced authorities to cordon off the area around the restaurant and pub where police suspect the alleged poisoning took place.

"Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others," May said.

Vice President of the European Commission Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU stood by the UK in the case. The commissioner for economic and financial affairs, Pierre Moscovici, said the issue was being followed closely by the bloc.

Amid the ongoing investigation, the UK's foreign office summoned Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko while the Russian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it too had summoned UK Ambassador Laurie Bristow.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US supported the UK's assessment that "Russia was likely responsible".

Novichok is a series a group of military-grade nerve agents known to have been developed by the Soviet Union.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Skripal case and had put it down to anti-Russian sentiment in the UK.

Skripal was a retired Russian Colonel who went on to to work as a double agent, supplying state secrets to British intelligence agencies. He was convicted of high treason in Moscow in 2004 but released in a prisoner swap in 2010 and granted asylum in the UK.

The Skripal case has brought UK-Russia relations to its lowest ebb in years.

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Russia to ignore UK ultimatum on ex-spy, demands 'poison' evidence

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