The UK is “playing with fire” over its charges that Moscow used a nerve agent to poison a former Russian spy on British soil, Russia’s UN envoy said Thursday.
“You are playing with fire, and you will be sorry,” Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council, claiming the UK is “poisoning” Russia’s relations with other countries.
London accuses Moscow of orchestrating the March 4 chemical attack on a former Russian spy in the English city of Salisbury, a claim Moscow has denied. Key to the British case is the alleged use of a Soviet-era nerve agent made by Russia called Novichok.
In retaliation, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats following the attack. And 26 western countries expelled 140 Russians in an orchestrated reaction in late March in the biggest ever single mass expulsion across the world.
Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he was serving 13 years in prison for leaking information to British intelligence.
Thursday’s Security Council meeting on the attack was at Russia’s request. Nebenzia claimed London lacks “enough facts or evidence” to make a thorough case against Moscow.
Nebenzia said Novichok was not solely Russian, claiming it has been created by other countries as well.
“It’s some sort of theater of the absurd. Could you not come up with a better fake story?” he asked Britain.
In response, Karen Pierce, London’s UN envoy, said Russia is seeking to “undermine the international institutions which have kept us safe since the end of the Second World War”.
She cited “Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations”, noting “Russia views defectors as suitable targets for assassination, and indeed there are public statements from Russian leaders to that effect”.
“We believe that the UK’s actions stand up to any scrutiny,” Pierce said.