The Latest: Britain and Russia clash at UN over poisonings
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in Britain (all times local):
Britain and Russia are again clashing over the UK’s allegation that two Russian military intelligence officers poisoned an ex-Russian spy and his daughter, with Moscow’s U.N. envoy dismissing Britain’s evidence as an invention from “thin air” and London’s envoy saying the government is confident of its facts.
British Ambassador Karen Pierce and Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia traded accusations at a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday called by Britain to update members on its investigation and Wednesday’s announcement of charges against the two Russians.
Nebenzia said Russia “categorically rejects all unfounded accusations,” saying the UK still has “no evidence” of Russian involvement. He accused Britain of using the poisoning to create “anti-Russia hysteria.”
Nebenzia said there are many inconsistencies and unresolved issues including Britain’s refusal to agree to a joint investigation and hand over fingerprints of the two accused Russian men. He urged all countries to support Russia’s appeal to Britain to begin consultations in the framework of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Pierce said after the poisonings in March the UK asked Russia to cooperate but received a negative reply. She said Russia asked to join the investigation once it was under way and repeated: “You don’t recruit an arsonist to put out a fire — you especially don’t do that when the fire is one they caused.”
Russia’s U.N. ambassador is accusing Britain of producing an “unfounded and mendacious cocktail of facts” and refusing to cooperate on the investigation of a poisoned ex-Russian spy for one purpose — “to unleash a disgusting anti-Russian hysteria and to involve other countries in this hysteria.”
Vassily Nebenzia told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that Britain’s claim that two agents from Russia’s special intelligence services tried to murder Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern England town of Salisbury with a military-grade nerve agent is an invention “out of thin air,” riddled with inconsistencies.
He says British authorities “still have no evidence that Russia is responsible for Salisbury or any kind of a clear version of what happened.”
Nebenzia says that for Russia, “the only issue is what kind of ploy London will invent in order to avoid a truly serious rather than a politically motivated investigation of the case.”.
Britain’s U.N. ambassador is accusing Russia of failing to uphold the ban on using chemical weapons by recklessly using a military-grade nerve agent to try to murder a former Russian spy and playing “dice” with the lives of the people of the southern England town where he lived.
Karen Pierce told the U.N. Security Council Thursday that the international community must take steps to safeguard people against the use of chemical weapons and “the threat of hostile foreign interference.”
She told reporters that Britain will be discussing next steps with its allies, stressing that the issue goes beyond Salisbury.
“We and our allies will want to think about how we push back on this sort of Russian activity which is not only malign, it’s also reckless,” Pierce said.
She said Britain is calling for the Chemical Weapons Convention and its watchdog agency to be strengthened, for a light to be shone on the use of state agencies to undermine the rule of law, and for sanctions and other measures to be used “to curb threats to our societies.”
The U.S., Germany, France and Canada say they back Britain’s finding that two suspects in the poisoning of a former spy were Russian military intelligence officers.
In a joint statement, leaders from the four countries joined Britain in reiterating their “outrage” at the use of a chemical nerve agent, Novichok, in March in the southern England city of Salisbury.
Saying Britain’s finding has been independently verified, they urged Russia to provide “full disclosure of its Novichok program.”
In addition, they said the operation was “almost certainly approved at a senior government level” and pledged to “continue to disrupt together the hostile activities of foreign intelligence networks on our territories.”
The Kremlin says Russia is not investigating the two men that Britain has named as suspects in the nerve agent attack on a Russian ex-spy.
Britain on Wednesday announced charges in absentia against two alleged Russian agents, and British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the Russian government of orchestrating the March attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday that May’s accusations are “unacceptable” and that “no one in the Russian leadership” has anything to do with the poisoning.
Peskov said Russia “has no reasons” to investigate the two individuals charged on Wednesday because Britain has not asked for legal assistance on the case.
Britain’s security minister says Russian President Vladimir Putin bears ultimate responsibility for the Novichok nerve agent attack carried out in England.
Ben Wallace told the BBC on Thursday that Putin and his government “controls, funds and directs the military intelligence” unit known as the GRU that Britain believes used Novichok to try to kill ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Britain plans to press its case against Russia in the U.N. Security Council Thursday. Many Western countries have already imposed sanctions on Russia because of the attack.
Walls said the GRU is directly linked to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the Kremlin and Putin’s office.
Britain on Wednesday announced charges against two suspected Russian agents in the March 4 attack on the Skripals in the city of Salisbury.