Russia on Wednesday accused British and US secret services of being behind the poisoning of a Russian former double agent as the world’s chemical weapons watchdog held a closed-door meeting on the incident at Moscow’s request.
Russian foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin in a speech in Moscow said the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a nerve agent was a “grotesque provocation… that was crudely concocted by the British and American security services” with the intention of implicating Russia.
He also warned that Moscow and the West must avoid escalating their current standoff to the dangerous levels reached at the height of the Cold War.
British and Russian officials meanwhile faced off at a closed-door meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the first time since the poisoning of the Skripals on March 4.
The meeting in The Hague was held on Moscow’s request to discuss the Skripal poisoning while an inquiry is still ongoing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday he hoped the meeting would draw a line under the incident but Britain’s foreign ministry called it a “diversionary tactic intended to undermine the work of the OPCW.”
Russia’s ambassador to the Netherlands and deputy minister for industry and trade Georgy Kalamanov attended, along with British chemical weapons expert and acting permanent representative to OPCW John Foggo.
A diplomatic source who asked not to be named told AFP that Russia had tabled a motion asking the OPCW to “involve Russia in some way or another in the investigation.”
The OPCW’s experts have taken samples from the site in Salisbury and sent them to certified laboratories for analysis but are still awaiting the results.
“But today the Russians have called a meeting of the executive council even before anything has been published,” the source said.
Under the rules of the Chemical Weapons Convention it is up to Britain to lead the inquiry, with technical assistance from the OPCW which is acting in a “totally independent manner,” the source said.