Briefing by Director of the Foreign Ministry Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Vladimir Yermakov, Moscow, March 21, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen, colleagues, friends,
We are glad to see you at the Foreign Ministry on this cold wintry day that nevertheless carries a promise of spring.
We are grateful to you for responding so quickly to our invitation, which we issued only yesterday.
The situation is indeed unusual. There is an urgent need for a non-politicised and highly professional discussion of the Skripals’ poisoning case. We have distributed a position paper. We ask you to bring it to the notice of your governments.
The language of this position paper, just as any other such paper, is dry legalese with technical details.
It would be wrong to invite you here just to say this. I propose that we hold an open discussion in this closed diplomatic group.
Let us look at hard facts, beginning with the humanitarian aspects of the case at hand.
On March 4, 2018, two people, one of them Russian citizen Yulia Skripal, were attacked in Salisbury, a flourishing city in the south of England.
Various versions of the circumstances of this tragedy have been voiced in the UK. They highlight the use of chemical agents, which the British call Novichok, for some reason. All of these versions do not stand up to any criticism.
In this situation, UK officials have laid the blame on Russia hastily, hysterically and without presenting any evidence, and demanded explanations from us.
I would like to repeat that it was a Russian citizen who has been attacked in the UK. Logic suggests two possible variants. Either the British authorities are unable to ensure protection against such terrorist attacks on their territory, or they were directly or indirectly involved in the preparation of this attack on a Russian citizen. There is no other alternative.
We are surprised, to put it mildly, that the British authorities had denied even consular access to the Russian citizen who has been attacked contrary to the elementary norms of civilised interstate relations. They are prevaricating, but at the same time they distribute video footage from the hospital where the Skripals are allegedly being treated. But this only raises more questions.
The British have refused to share the information obtained by their investigators and have not replied to the Russian requests regarding Yulia Skripal. We have no reliable information about what happened to this Russian citizen over the past two weeks and why this happened to her. This is hard to comprehend: these events are unfolding in the 21st century in a country that is considered civilised.
Naturally, demanding any explanations from Russia in this situation is simply absurd. Russia does not owe anything to anyone in this context, and it cannot be held accountable for the activities or inactivity of the British authorities in their national territory.
We see that the British authorities are becoming increasingly nervous, which is logical. The clock is ticking. They have driven themselves into a corner. Ultimately, they will have to answer a growing number of questions, but they have no answers.
The inference that they have made a mess of things but Russia is responsible anyway and must be held accountable is the wrong kind of logic. This logic may be good for a British or US movie, but it does not work in real life, especially in relations with Russia.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the attack on the Skripals in Salisbury is most likely a clumsy staged provocation. We must expose those who have orchestrated this attack and the reasons behind it.
To be continued…