Britain and Russia traded a volley of words at the UN Security Council, with the UK presenting “evidence” that Russia carried out the Salisbury chemical attack in March.
Britain said two Russian military intelligence operatives were behind the deadly nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal, his daughter, Yulia, and a local police officer, seriously injured, on March 4.
The charges were, however, categorically refuted by Russia, which instead accused the UK of trying to sow “anti-Russian hysteria.”
The Security Council meeting was requested by the UK, following evidence it released on its investigation into the Salisbury incident against Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer.
Several other Council members, including the U.S. and France, extended their support for the UK investigation and its findings.
However, Bolivia said that there needed to be restraint by members, warning against “slinging allegations” in the chamber.
It called for the use of diplomatic channels to ensure cooperation in resolving the dispute over the Salisbury chemical weapons incidents.
The UK had alleged that the deadly chemical was the Soviet-era nerve agent, Novichok, and in April, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons agreed with that assessment.
In July, two additional people living in the Salisbury area were exposed to the chemical and one of them died as a result.
The UK Permanent Representative, Karen Pierce, told the Council that her country’s investigation had identified two Russian nationals, who travelled under the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
She said Petrov and Boshirov, both members of the Russian Military Intelligence Service (known as the GRU) – were those behind the nerve-agent attack.
She said the UK had issued international arrest warrants against them.
Pierce also said that the five permanent members of the Security Council – China, France, Russia, UK and the U.S. – bore an important responsibility to uphold international law, especially against weapons of mass destruction.
“One P5 member has not upheld these important norms and played dice with the lives of the people of Salisbury,” she said.
The British envoy noted that her country had no quarrel with Russia but that the UK would “respond robustly when our security is threatened and the lives of our citizens are endangered”.
Forcefully denying and rebutting the investigation’s findings, Russia’s Permanent Representative, Vassily Nebenzia, said the UK had not provided any convincing evidence relating to the incident.
Nebenzia said instead, there were only lies concerning double agents, cyberattacks and military-grade chemical agents.
“I am not going to go through the list of this unfounded and mendacious cocktail of facts,” he said, claiming Russia had offered to help the investigation but the UK denied.
“London has been refusing us this cooperation. London needs this story for just one purpose – to unleash a disgusting anti-Russian hysteria and to involve other countries in this hysteria,” Nebenzia added.
Citing several inconsistencies in allegations against his country, he said it remained impossible to know the real names of the suspects and whether they were connected to the Russian Military Intelligence Service.
He claimed that the charges were yet another part of the “post-truth world” crafted by Western countries and described UK’s disclosures as unfounded.