UN debate on Salisbury incident: UK envoy recalls Putin’s threats to ‘traitors’

At Wednesday’s emergency UN Security Council summit, British ambassador Jonathan Allen accused Russia of violating the UN Statute and the Chemical Weapons Convention. In turn, Russia’s representative Vasily Nebenzya called the Salisbury incident a ‘provocation’.

The meeting was called byBritish Prime Minister Theresa May following Russia’s refusal to explain the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former colonel of Russia’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GRU).

“We have asked Russia for an explanation. Their response was to say they considered our request null and void. One of the key tactics in the Russian playbook is to delay, delay, delay. We know that from the sad, tragic Litvinenko case,” Allen said.

According to him, as Russia failed to provide any alternative version about the nerve agent, the UK had no choice but to conclude this was a state-sponsored act against the prohibition and use of chemical weapons and in defiance of international law.

In a statement on behalf of the US, ambassador Nikki Haley expressed ‘absolute solidarity’ with Great Britain.

“This is a defining moment. Time and time again, member states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance. Now, one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable,” she stressed

In response, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said that Russia had nothing to do with the incident. According to him, London’s ultimatum is ‘void’.

“We expect the United Kingdom to act in strict compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention and other international acts, including the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, and to provide for a joint investigation samples of the substance the British investigators are citing, as long as they claim it is of the Russian origin,” he said at a United Nations Security Council meeting,” he said.

Interestingly, when Nebenzia compared the UK to Conan Doyle’s Inspector Lestrade, ambassador Allen said: “My Russian colleague quotes fiction, let me quote Putin: ‘Traitors will kick the bucket, believe me.’”

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, 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. But Moscow said it would not give any explanation until it has access to the evidential materials (nerve agent samples) of the Skripal case. Moreover, Maria Zakharova, Spokeswoman for Russia’s Foreign Ministry, called May’s speech a ‘circus show in the British parliament’ and dropped a threatening hint.

Sergei Skripal was arrested by Russia’s 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.