Belfast Telegraph

Russia accuses Britain of ‘fake news and lies’ over poisoning of spy

By Andrew Woodcock

Russia's foreign minister has accused the UK of "putting all decency aside" over its claims that Moscow is to blame for the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Sergey Lavrov appeared to suggested that UK secret services may have been involved in the March 4 attack in Salisbury, which he said may have been "beneficial" to the British government to distract attention from Brexit.

Mr Lavrov said that it was "outrageous" that Britain had failed to provide consular access to Yulia Skripal (33) since it emerged that her condition was improving.

His comments came as the Russian Embassy in London issued a series of what it termed "questions without answer" about the Skripal case - including whether the UK had ever produced the Novichok nerve agent believed to have been used in the Salisbury poisoning.

Britain has said that Russian state involvement is the only plausible explanation for the attack and has led a worldwide reaction involving the expulsion of more than 100 diplomats.

But Mr Lavrov accused Western countries of "playing children's games", according to reports from Russian news agency Tass.

"Today, our Western partners, and I first of all refer to the Great Britain, the United States and some other countries, which are blindly guided by them, put all of their decency aside and resort to bold lies and fake news," said Mr Lavrov.

"Our responses to all of this are calm and weighted as we keep insisting that all accusations and allegations must be backed with the facts."

Insisting that Moscow "could not have a possible motive" to attack Mr Skripal - who he said was "pardoned" at the time of a spy swap with the West - Mr Lavrov said there were other possible explanations for the poisoning.

"Experts say this may be rather advantageous for Britain's special services, which are known for their ability to act with a license to kill," he said.

"This can be also beneficial to the British government which found itself in an inconvenient situation after failing to fulfil its promises to voters on Brexit's conditions."

According to Tass, Russia's top diplomat said: "I want to reiterate that Russia has no relation to the Skripals' poisoning, but we are very interested - probably more than anyone else - in establishing the truth about our citizens' fate."

The Russian foreign minister said he hoped that Mr Skripal would recover in the same way as his daughter Yulia, adding: "I consider this is outrageous that so far our multiple requests demanding access to our citizens have been rejected or have remained unanswered."

In a string of questions on Twitter, the Russian embassy asked: "Has the substance identified by British representatives as 'Novichok' or analogous substances been researched, developed or produced in the UK?"

Britain has previously dismissed a series of Russian comments about the possible explanation for the poisoning as efforts to distract attention from Moscow's own failure to explain its part in the events.

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