London has received a a response to its ultimatum beforehand: Moscow will not give any explanation until it has access to the evidential materials (nerve agent samples) of the case of former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal.
On March 4, Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yuliya, 33, were found unconscious at a shopping mall in the English town of Salisbury. The two were taken to hospital in critical condition. The were reportedly poisoned following exposure to an unknown substance.
On Monday, British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Skripal and his daughter had been poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. She gave Russia time until midnight on Tuesday to explain why a Soviet-era nerve agent was used in the attack.
According to her, there are two plausible explanations of what had happened:
“Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”
In turn, Maria Zakharova, Spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, called May’s speech a ‘circus show in the British parliament’ and dropped a threatening hint.
“Bearing in mind what the president [Putin] said [about Russia’s cutting-edge weaponry], no one can appear in their country’s parliament to say ‘I give Russia 24 hours,’” Zakharova told Rossiya-1 television channel.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Russia had nothing to do with the incident.
“Before issuing ultimatums to Russia, Great Britain needs to observe its obligations in accordance with the international law, in particular, with the Chemical Weapons Convention. And speaking of manners, one needs to remember that the era of colonialism came to its end a long time ago,” he stressed.
The European Union has expressed concern over the situation and showed solidarity with the British people. Washington also voiced its readiness to support London. The White House says it is closely monitoring the situation.
Former Colonel of the Russian General Staff’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) Sergei Skripal was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) in December 2004. An investigation revealed that back in 1995, he was recruited by the British intelligence to provide information constituting state secrets. In August 2006, the Moscow District Military Court sentenced Skripal to 13 years in a maximum security correctional facility, also stripping him of his military rank and state awards.
On July 9, 2010, when Russia and the United States carried out a spy swap, Skripal was handed over to the US alongside three other convicts, while Moscow received ten Russian citizens in return.