Russia accuses UK of hiding evidence in Skripal case


Senior Russian diplomatic and military officials have accused the UK of hiding and possibly planning to destroy evidence in the investigation into the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The comments came during a remarkable briefing at Moscow’s foreign ministry given for all foreign ambassadors in Russia, to lay out the country’s argument for why it is not responsible for the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, on 4 March.

Britain says they were poisoned with a nerve agent known as novichok and has blamed Russia for the attack, but Moscow has fiercely denied any involvement. The case has prompted the two countries to expel diplomats in a tit-for-tat dispute.

Speaking to a lecture hall of diplomats, Vladimir Yermakov, deputy head of the ministry’s department for non-proliferation, suggested that the UK was “hiding facts” about the case that may later “disappear”.

Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Russia, did not attend and the ambassadors of other major allies, including the US, Germany and France, also boycotted the briefing.

But one British diplomat did go. Emma Nottingham condemned the “disinformation” coming from the Russian government during the briefing, which was closed to the press but streamed live online.

“Russia has offered us so far no explanation of how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom and no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law,” Nottingham told the five-person panel.

“We are not obliged to give anything to Great Britain,” Yermakov replied to Nottingham. “It is an attack on Russian citizens on the territory of Great Britain, so why don’t we carry out a joint investigation?”

Yermakov also suggested that Russia may not accept the conclusions of an investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as fact.

“It is not possible to evaluate what happened in Salisbury within the framework of the convention and within the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” he said in remarks translated by Interfax. “Deeper expert evaluations will be needed, and in any case we need to conduct our own investigations for Russia to be able to draw any conclusions.”

The briefing lasted just under two hours.



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