MPs shocked as Russian ambassador blames UK for Salisbury attack
MPs were stunned today when the Russian ambassador to Britain said the UK security services carried out the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.
Alexander Yakovenko said the UK had done “something extraordinary” in order to convince the British people Russia is “enemy number one”.
The near-fatal attack in April this year left ex-spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a police officer fighting for their lives in hospital - although all three have since been recovering.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and other top Moscow officials have previously hinted that the UK may have been to blame for the Novichok poisoning.
But appearing in Parliament today, Mr Yakovenko appeared to go further, agreeing with Labour MP Chris Bryant that Russia believed the attack was carried out by UK “security services”.
Amid palpable surprise and laughter in the committee room, Mr Bryant asked: “On what is that based? Why would we do that?”
Mr Yakovenko answered: “Because there is a public opinion and also a general opinion that Russia is enemy number one."
He said the Government was trying to approach Russia with a policy of hostility and that “to do this you need the support of the people”.
“The people don’t buy this kind of policy and what happened next?” he went on at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Russia hearing.
“In order to get the support, something extraordinary should be done in this country in order to make people believe that this is the Russians who did it, who basically poisoned the Skripals.
“And that’s exactly what happened.”
The UK government has directly blamed Vladimir Putin for the attack, while UK chemical experts have confirmed the substance used was from the Novichok family.
Mr Bryant lamented that UK-Russia relations were worse than at any time in the last decade, and told Mr Yakovenko: “You’ve blown it.”
“We would want to have as strong a relationship with you as possible,” he went on, before turning to the Kremlin's backing of the Assad regime in the Syrian civil war.
“The thing that hurts me most is the people of Syria are paying the greatest price of this cold war at the moment,” the Rhondda MP added.
And he warned that there was a danger “of creating a real live war, which nobody in this room or in this parliament wants, absolutely nobody, nor in the government”.