Belfast Telegraph

Russian envoy defends the expulsion of Irish diplomat as ex-general fears row could spark ‘mankind’s last war’

By Michael McHugh

Russia's ambassador to Ireland has defended the expulsion of an Irish diplomat.

Yury Filatov said the measure was a principle of diplomacy after the Republic ejected a Russian representative over the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning.

He urged the Dublin authorities to use common sense.

The Republic was among several EU countries to take action in solidarity with the UK following the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The pair were poisoned on March 4 in Salisbury with what UK investigators have concluded was a Russian nerve agent called Novichok.

Mr Filatov said: "Nobody will doubt the leading principle of diplomacy, which is reciprocity. Basically you have to assume that every action finds its counter action, that is the way it is."

He expressed optimism it would not damage the positive relationship between the two countries where close ties exist in areas such as business and agriculture.

Mr Filatov also suggested that some who took solidarity action with the UK harboured doubts, alleging the general public in Europe and some states and nations did not buy the claim put forward by London blaming Russia for Salisbury.

He added: "Even countries which took part in the so-called solidarity demands have doubts and they acted, as we know, on grounds which have nothing to do with Salisbury but mainly to do with some other agenda bilaterally or multilaterally."

Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney has described the Salisbury attack as an affront to international law and order.

Mr Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33) remain in hospital. Mr Filatov said the expulsion of a Russian official from Ireland was "unfortunate" but did not have any bearing on the "real state of things".

"It is not the end of the world and we have a very positive agenda." His comments came as a retired Russian general warned the fallout from the Salisbury poisoning could lead to the "last war in the history of mankind".

Relations between Russia and the West could become "worse" than the Cold War and "end up in a very, very bad outcome", Lieutenant-General Evgeny Buzhinsky said. Responding to arguments that many countries across the world believed the Kremlin was responsible for last month's attack, Mr Buzhinsky, who heads international security think tank the PIR Center, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Please, when you say the world, you mean EU and United States and some other countries.

"You see it's a cold war, it's worse than the Cold War because if the situation will develop in the way this (is) now, I'm afraid that it will end up in a very, very bad outcome."

Asked to spell out what this would mean, he said: "A real war, worse than a cold war is a real war, it will be the last war in the history of mankind."

He added: "You're saying that the pressure will continue - what are you going achieve? If you are going to achieve (the) regime change, it's useless, you don't know Russians. The more external pressure (there) is, the more the society is consolidated around the President."

Mr Buzhinsky accused the West of "cornering" Russia, which he argued was a "very dangerous thing".

He said: "You don't want to discuss, you say Russia should change its behaviour. It's not the kind of talk, it's not the kind of compromise we need."

Belfast Telegraph

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