Russia ‘expels’ 23 UK diplomats, terminates British Council

By Monitoring Desk
Sunday – March 18, 2018
MOSCOW (Russia): United Kingdom (UK) ambassador Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Russian foreign office (FO) on Saturday and was handed over the “expulsion letter” of 23 diplomatic staff of the UK embassy in Moscow, declaring them “persona non grata” and whom are to be expelled from Russia within a week.

According to an official statement, Bristow was instructed that due to the “unregulated status” of the British Council in the Russian Federation, its activities are ‘terminated’.

UK ambassador was warned that the British side has been officially alerted that in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further “retaliatory measures”.

Taking into account the disparity in the number of the two countries’ consular missions, the Russian Federation recalls its agreement on the opening and operation of the consulate general of the UK in St Petersburg.

Respective procedures will be followed in accordance with international legal practice.

The note handed over to Bristow cleared it out that in response to the “provocative actions” of the British side and “groundless accusations” against the Russian Federation with regard to the incident in Salisbury, UK on March 4, 2018, the Russian side has taken the retaliatory decisions.

On the alleged Russian chemical weapon attack on a former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, who now has been a UK resident, and his Russian national daughter Yulia Skripal, leaders of France, Germany and the United States (US) in a joint statement on Thursday abhorred the attack that took place against Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, UK, on March 4, 2018.

According to details, a British police officer who was also exposed in the attack remains seriously ill, and the lives of many innocent British citizens have been threatened. We express our sympathies to them all, and our admiration for the UK police and emergency services for their courageous response.

This use of a military-grade nerve agent, of a type developed by Russia, constitutes the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since the second world war. It is an assault on the UK’s sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the chemical weapons convention (CWC) and a breach of international law.

It threatens the security of us all. The UK thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that “Russia was responsible” for the attack. We share the UK’s assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia´s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the UK further underlines Russia’s responsibility.

We call on Russia to address all questions related to the attack in Salisbury. Russia should, in particular, provide full and complete disclosure of the Novichok program to the organisation for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW).

Our concerns are also heightened against the background of a pattern of earlier irresponsible Russian behavior. We call on Russia to live up to its responsibilities as a member of the united nations (UN) security council to uphold international peace and security.

Meanwhile, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday responded, Russia not only can but actually is doing more than anybody else, including the UK. When the man was discovered with his daughter, UK claimed that it was poisoning and that they had carried out an investigation and come to the conclusion that the toxic agent was made in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and accessible to Russians because not all of their chemical weapons stockpiles had been eliminated.

This led to the conclusion that Russia was behind this incident and that it was either ordered by the country’s leadership or resulted from failure to control its chemical weapons stockpiles. Even in the second scenario, Russia was still to blame for the attack, since its chemical weapons had to be eliminated in their entirety.

Almost every word in these accusations requires supporting evidence. Nothing is transparent here. When the British parliament debated this issue, the labour leader Jeremy Corbyn requested that the investigation results be made known to parliament. His request was denied. This in itself would be enough to raise flags in traditional well-established democracies.

As for the rest of it, we are waiting for the UK to submit an official request using the procedure set forth in the CWC. But we are being told that this official request consisted of the statement made by UK prime minister (PM) Theresa May in parliament and the summoning of the Russian ambassador by UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

This is not the way things are, and this statement does not make any sense. In accordance with the CWC, the party that seeks to understand what happened on its territory must do so officially and in writing.

I have no doubt that our British colleagues know this very well. They have very smart people working for them. The fact that they adamantly refuse to file an official request and intentionally fan the “anti-Russia rhetoric” in the public arena, with much arrogance and to the point of hysteria, shows that they understand all too well that they do not have any formal pretext for legal action.

They are trying to shift the conversation into a political dimension and invoke ‘Russophobia’ hoping that, as in a number of other cases, the West will follow obediently in their footsteps, especially since the US fully supported UK.

We have put forward many facts that cannot be ignored, including data from western research magazines over the last 15 years. Let me reiterate that I am referring to Western publications on toxic agents that UK decided to call Novichok.

When the Russian federation eliminated its chemical weapons stockpile, this work continued and continues to this day, according to western publications in the US, UK, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

It all started in 1991−1992 with the dissolution of the USSR. A number of laboratories that made the toxic agents that are now referred to as Novichok remained in several former Soviet republics, including the Baltic States and Uzbekistan, beside the Russian federation.

The laboratory in Uzbekistan and the country’s stockpiles were eliminated with assistance of US experts. Now it is hard to tell exactly who saw, took or put what in their pocket. But the fact is that a famous chemistry researcher who now lives in the US and who left the USSR, Vil Mirzayanov (and not just him, there were two or three other chemists there), took his documents with him when he somehow landed up in the West.

We provided all this evidence. It makes you wonder why they are not willing to discuss it or deny its validity.

In addition, Russian FO spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Thursday noted that Russian embassy in the UK has sent several diplomatic notes to the FO with the aim of starting an active dialogue with London concerning the situation involving the use of chemical agents in UK territory.

The notes called for the beginning of concrete joint work towards providing material and all possible information. They also spoke of the need to engage the CWC and the OPCW institutions and capabilities and contained a strong request for Russia to be allowed access to Yulia Skripal, a Russian citizen.

The FO was sent a separate document regarding the broadcast and published information on the likelihood of official UK structures launching a cyberattack against the Russian federation. There were four notes all in all.

In response, we received meaningless non-committal messages. As of Thursday, the UK is refusing to cooperate with Russia on its obligations under the CWC and as an OPCW member State.

Among other things, this was stated to the OPCW. We tried to make London revert to legality so as to address the existing matters and serious problems.

We are extremely concerned over the developments that took place in the UK several days ago. It is with much concern that we accept the entire incoming information on the use of chemical weapons in the UK. I can officially confirm that as of now London is refusing to provide any factual information on the case in hand.

The possibility of making samples of the substance discovered at the scene of the crime available to Russia is not even mentioned. I can also officially confirm that London has failed to provide Russia any details, data or information capable of shedding at least some light on this tragedy either through bilateral channels or at international organisations.

We can see the continuation of this information and political show as well as an obvious information and political campaign. We are witnessing an attempt to use, among other things, the mechanisms of the UN Security Council in order to stoke with a renewed force the anti-Russia hysteria and campaign. I think that many members of the international community have drawn conclusions on the degree of trust that London deserves.

We once again officially call on the UK to provide all available material related to the incident (as they describe it) involving proliferation of chemical weapons on the territory of this country.

From the very beginning, we requested all available information on the circumstances of the incident. From the very beginning, we proposed using international law documents and mechanisms not just for settling the issues (which are impossible to settle in one or two days) but for beginning a thorough analysis of what happened.

As a reminder, in an extraordinary event that occurred in Europe, according to the British side (and we still have not received any official data), a chemical poisoning agent was used to attack a citizen of Great Britain and a citizen of Russia.

Everything that was required to be done from the Russian side was done. In response, we received zero information, zero data and a clear unwillingness to cooperate.