Senior Russian diplomatic and military officials have accused the United Kingdom of hiding and possibly planning to destroy evidence in the investigation into the Salisbury nerve agent attack.
The comments came during a briefing at Moscow’s foreign ministry given for all foreign ambassadors in Russia, to lay out the country’s argument for why it is not responsible for the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, on March 4, The Guardian reported.
Speaking to diplomats, Vladimir Yermakov, deputy head of the ministry’s department for non-proliferation, suggested that the United Kingdom was “hiding facts” about the case that may later “disappear”.
Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Russia, did not attend and the ambassadors of other major allies, including the United States, Germany and France, also boycotted the briefing.
23 Russian diplomats moved out of the United Kingdom embassy on Tuesday, following expulsion over the Salisbury spy poisoning claims.
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, on March 14, had ordered the Russian staff to pack their bags amid heightening tensions with Moscow, claiming London diplomats were ‘undeclared intelligence officers’, according to The Independent.
Yesterday, a plane carrying Russian diplomats and their families departed London’s Stansted airport, after they were expelled from Moscow’s Kensington embassy following the Salisbury poisoning.
Earlier last week, Russian Ambassador in London Alexander Yakovenko denied the allegations by United Kingdom, saying, “It is nothing but a fable, absolute nonsense”.
He added that nearly half of the embassy’s employees were to leave the country.
“These people are regular diplomats, 40 percent of the embassy’s staff. The embassy has never been overmanned since the Britons have always been practising expulsions. So, the staff has constantly been decreasing,” Yakovenko had said.
“Naturally, further expulsions will reduce the embassy’s possibilities, first of all, as far as consular services are concerned. It will create certain problems but most of us understand where we are working and in the current situation each diplomat is ready for any unexpected developments,” he added.
The British Prime Minister gave a week’s time to the diplomats for leaving the country.
Britain will also cancel high-level contacts with Russia, May had said.
Retired military intelligence officer Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on March 4.