‘RUSSIA had nothing to do with’ the nerve attack in Salisbury, Russian ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov insisted yesterday. He went on to tell the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that it was more likely that the British state was involved.
Dismissing UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson and PM May’s claims, Chizhov said: ‘Well, this whole case is based on assumptions, based on suspicions, fuelled by emotions. ‘You rightly referred to Mr Skripal as a traitor, as a defector, but you know, I can assure you that he’s almost forgotten in Russia. He has been living in Britain for eight years now.
‘Before that – I think I should stress the point – he was officially pardoned by presidential decree. Which means that whatever one can think of him in the moral sense, but from the legal point of view the Russian state had nothing against him.
‘And also that his daughter Yulia is a Russian citizen. That’s why among the many violations by the British authorities in this case, I will cite that it is a blatant violation of the bilateral consular convention by not allowing Russian diplomats and consular officials access to a Russian citizen currently in hospital.’ In answer to a further question, the Russian ambassador said: ‘Actually Russia has stopped production of any chemical agents back in 1992. So we cannot even talk about any chemical agents produced by Russia.’
He went on to say: ‘There is only one country today which hasn’t done so, which is still retaining its chemical stockpiles, and that is the United States of America.’
Marr pressed: ‘Can I be absolutely clear then, Russia has no stockpiles of any nerve agents whatever?’ Chizhov said: ‘Indeed. No stockpiles whatsoever.’ He added: ‘Why don’t you ask yourself the question why – how can the British authorities so quickly manage to designate the nerve agent used as something called Novichok? It can only mean that they had some standard…’
Marr interjected: ‘It has a signature, I think. It has a chemical signature.’ Chizhov continued: ‘But when you have a nerve agent or whatever, you check it against certain samples that you retain in your laboratories. And Porton Down, as we now all know, is the largest military facility in the United Kingdom that has been dealing with chemical weapons research. And it’s actually only eight miles from Salisbury.’
Marr responded: ‘You’re not suggesting that Porton Down is responsible for this nerve agent?’
Chizhov replied: ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t have any evidence of anything having been used. And of course, I exclude the possibility of any stockpiles of any chemical weapons fleeing Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
‘But there were certain specialists, including scientists who today claim to have been responsible for creating some nerve agent that have been whisked out of Russia…Currently residing in the UK.’ He pointed out that ‘actually Russia has offered to cooperate on the Salisbury incident from the very outset. But we didn’t get any answer whatsoever from the Foreign Office, or any other government agency.’
• Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell yesterday said he ‘agrees with the prime minister’ that the Russian state is ‘responsible’ for the Salisbury spy poisoning. He told ITV ‘whichever way you look at it’, Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘is responsible and all the evidence points to him’.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is under an all-out attack for refusing to take up the same position.
However, public support for Corbyn’s opposition to Cold War fever is growing rapidly.
Salisbury resident, Jessica McCarnun heckled PM May during her visit to Salisbury last week and told Sky News ‘people want to see the evidence’. On Thursday during the prime minister’s visit to the area around The Mill pub McCarnun shouted: ‘How can you accuse Russia when you have no clear evidence?’
McCarnun told Sky News: ‘It isn’t good enough – it’s not how we conduct matters in our own courts where you present evidence to the people. ‘We need to know why she is so sure she hasn’t jumped the gun.’