LONDON: Relations between Britain and Russia have taken a new soar turn and the Kremlin on Thursday slammed Britain’s raft of punitive measures against Moscow over the poisoning of a former double agent as “absolutely irresponsible”.
“The position of the British side appears to us absolutely irresponsible,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. He said retaliatory steps would soon follow, with Putin likely to chose the option that “most suits Russia’s interests”.
On Wednesday, Britain said it would expel 23 diplomats and suspend high-level contacts with Russia, with other measures to follow. The announcement came after British authorities said Russia was “culpable” of the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a Soviet-designed nerve agent called Novichok on March 4.
Peskov reiterated Moscow’s position that Britain’s accusations were unfounded and that the attack on Skripal had “all the signs of a provocation”. “The accusations are not backed up by anything and have been voiced before any information about the used substance could appear,” Peskov said.
Britain is to kick out 23 Russian diplomats, the biggest such expulsion since the Cold War, signaling a plunge in relations to their lowest point in decades in the wake of a chemical attack on a former Russian spy in southern England.
Prime Minister Theresa May pointed the finger of blame firmly at Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday as she outlined a series of retaliatory measures in parliament. Russia denies any involvement in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who have been critical in hospital since they were found unconscious on March 4 on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury.
May announced measures including the potential freezing of Russian state assets that pose a security threat, new laws to counter hostile state activity and a downgrading of Britain’s attendance at the soccer World Cup in Russia. She had given Moscow until midnight on Tuesday night to explain how the Novichok nerve agent came to be deployed on the streets of Salisbury, saying either the Russian state was responsible or it had lost control of a stock of the substance.