Russian ambassador slams Boris Johnson for 'insulting' Hitler jibe
The Russian ambassador to the UK today blasted Boris Johnson for his "unacceptable and totally irresponsible" comparison between Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler.
Alexander Yakovenko said the suggestion the president would “glory” in this summer’s World Cup like the Nazi leader did during the 1936 Olympics was “insulting” to the Russian people.
And he suggested the UK could not be trusted in its claims on the Salisbury nerve attack case because it had a history of "misleading the international community".
It is the latest twist in the diplomatic war between the UK and Russia after ex-double agent Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a police officer ended up in hospital after the potentially fatal incident earlier this month.
At a select committee hearing yesterday Mr Johnson agreed with a comparison put to him by Labour MP Ian Austin between the upcoming World Cup and the 1936 event.
He said said it was an “emetic prospect” that the upcoming tournament would be used as a propaganda exercise to "gloss over" the country’s "gross human rights abuses".
But at a press conference in London today Mr Yakovenko said the comments went "beyond common sense".
“I am authorised to say that Moscow considers these kind of statements, made at the level of Foreign Secretary, in any way unacceptable and totally irresponsible,” he said.
“The British government is free to make a decision about its participation in the World Cup. But nobody has the right to insult the Russian people, who defeated Nazism and lost more than 25 million people, by comparing our country to Nazi Germany.
“That goes beyond common sense and we don’t think British war veterans, including those of the Arctic convoys, would share this opinion."
BRITISH CLAIMS 'MUST BE VERIFIED'
Mr Yakovenko also accused Britain of having a “bad record of violating international law” and “misleading the international community” including the invasions of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya under “false pretexts”.
“I would like to quote President Ronald Reagan, who frequently referred to the Russian proverb ‘trust but verify’. History shows that British statements must be verified," he said.
And he suggested that the UK could have developed the Novichok nerve agent itself, as it was identified so quickly and as the attack was carried out so close to the Porton Down plant.
“Britain has, without any evidence, blamed Russia of poisoning of three people and continues to refuse to cooperate. We cannot accept that,” he said.
“I would like to say that the burden of proof lies with the British authorities. By now no facts have been officially presented either to the [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons], or to us, or to UK’s partners, or to the public.
He added: “We do not have any access to the investigation. We were blamed that Russia did it, we want to know who was behind it and we are happy to investigate together as these are Russian citizens, but so far we don’t have any cooperation with the UK on that matter and it really puzzles us why.”
His intervention comes as Theresa May visits Brussels for the EU summit, where it is expected she will press for other nations to stand together against the threat posed by Russia "for years to come".
When asked if Mr Johnson's comments could make it harder for the Prime Minister to build an EU-wide coalition, Mrs May's spokesman said earlier today: “The PM will tell the European Council this incident has shown the threat that Russia pose to our national security.
"We want to work with our EU allies to uphold and protect the international rules-based order."