‘Propaganda fair and square’: Russia accuses Britain of using spy poisoning to ‘raise tensions’
Britain's warnings of retaliation if evidence shows Russia is behind the poisoning of a double agent are propaganda and not serious, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says.
- The Kremlin denies any involvement in the poisoning incident
- British experts identified the substance, which will help identify the source
- Mr Lavrov says Russian officials hadn't received facts about what happened to Mr Skripal
Sergei Skripal, 66, a former Russian intelligence officer now living in Britain, and his adult daughter, Yulia, 33, were critically ill in hospital after being exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury, in southern England.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said her government would respond appropriately if evidence showed Moscow was behind the attack on Mr Skripal, who served time in a Russian jail for spying for England, before he was released in a spy swap.
The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the incident and said anti-Russian hysteria was being whipped up by the British media.
British experts have identified the substance, which will help identify the source, but the police have not made the information public.
Britain has sent 100 military service personnel with expertise in dealing with chemicals to Salisbury, where they will remove vehicles and objects from the scene.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Mr Lavrov said Russian officials had not received a single fact or piece of concrete evidence about what happened to Mr Skripal and his daughter.
"What we see is only news reports … saying that if it is Russia, then a response is going to be given that Russia is going to remember forever. That is not serious," he said.
"This is propaganda fair and square and it is trying to raise tensions.
"If someone wants us to engage in an investigation, be that on the poisoning of the UK subject or the rumours about alleged interference in the electoral campaign of the US, if you really need our assistance, then we will be willing to contemplate this possibility if we have the necessary data and facts.
"But in order to have a serious conversation … you have to use the official channels."
British interior minister visits scene
On Friday, Britain's Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, visited Salisbury, including the area around a bench — now covered by a police forensics tent — outside a shopping centre where Mr Skripal was found.
Mr Skripal and his daughter remained unconscious, in a critical but stable condition, while police officer Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was also harmed by the substance, remained in a serious condition though he can now speak.
A total of 21 people had been treated in hospital following the incident, police said.
Mr Skripal betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence before his arrest in Moscow in 2004.
He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006, and in 2010 was given refuge in Britain after being exchanged for Russian spies.
Russia's embassy in London declined immediate comment.