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GCHQ chief warns of Russian ‘recklessness’ after Salisbury attack

Jeremy Fleming said recent events were ‘particularly stark and shocking’.

The head of the GCHQ intelligence agency has said the Salisbury nerve agent attack shows how “reckless” Russia is as international watchdogs release a report into the incident.

Ex-MI5 agent Jeremy Fleming described recent actions by Moscow as “particularly stark and shocking”.

The comments came as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is to issue an executive summary of its findings relating to the Salisbury poisonings.

It demonstrates how reckless Russia is prepared to be Jeremy Fleming

Speaking at a conference in Manchester hosted by the National Cyber Security Centre, Mr Fleming said of the Salisbury attack: “It demonstrates how reckless Russia is prepared to be.

“How little the Kremlin cares for the international rules-based order. How comfortable they are at putting ordinary lives at risk.

“The robust response from the UK and from the international community shows the Kremlin that illegal acts have consequences.

“And it looks like our expertise on Russia will be in increasing demand.”

Former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent thought to have been ordered by Moscow more than a month ago, leaving the pair seriously ill in hospital.

The release of the OPCW’s report comes as Ms Skripal, 33, revealed she has rejected assistance from the Russian embassy, adding: “I want to stress that no-one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves.”

She said she has found herself in a “totally different life” as she continues to recover from the attack.

The Russian embassy said that it doubted the authenticity of the statement and suggested it had been crafted to support Britain’s version of events.

It is believed that British authorities immediately spirited Ms Skripal away to a secure location when she was discharged from hospital earlier this week.

The Russian embassy reacted angrily, suggesting in a series of tweets that the Russian national had been taken against her will.

The embassy is perturbed by a refusal from UK authorities to grant Ms Skripal’s cousin Viktoria a visa to visit her family.

It escalated the war of words on Tuesday, saying in a series of statements posted on social media: “Secret resettlement of Mr and Ms Skripal, barred from any contact with their family will be seen as an abduction or at least as their forced isolation.”

I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being Yulia Skripal

But Ms Skripal said in a statement: “I have specially trained officers available to me, who are helping to take care of me and to explain the investigative processes that are being undertaken.

“I have access to friends and family, and I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can.

“At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.

“Most importantly, I am safe and feeling better as time goes by, but I am not yet strong enough to give a full interview to the media, as I one day hope to do.

“Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves.

“I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being.

“Her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father’s.”

The Russian embassy later said that the statement “raises new questions rather than gives answers” as it was unable to verify it.

“The text has been composed in a special way so as to support official statements made by British authorities and at the same time to exclude every possibility of Yulia’s contacts with the outer world – consuls, journalists and even relatives,” the embassy said in a statement.

“The document only strengthens suspicions that we are dealing with a forcible isolation of the Russian citizen.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said it had asked the OPCW to distribute the report to all state parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention, including Russia.

This transparent and open approach, which we have pursued from the outset, is in sharp contrast to the Russian state’s ongoing tactics of obfuscation and distraction Foreign Office

“This transparent and open approach, which we have pursued from the outset, is in sharp contrast to the Russian state’s ongoing tactics of obfuscation and distraction,” the spokesman said.

The Kremlin has repeatedly attempted to challenge Britain’s claims that it was responsible for the poisoning of the Skripals.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that UK military experts at Porton Down found that they were poisoned by Novichok, a nerve agent developed by Russia, and that the only plausible explanation was that the Russian state was responsible.

Despite the denials from Moscow, Britain has received strong diplomatic backing from western allies for its stance, with more than 20 countries expelling in excess of 150 Russian diplomats in protest at the Russian actions.

Last week, a Russian call for a new joint investigation was voted down by 15 votes to six at a meeting of the OPCW executive council in The Hague.

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