Press Conference by First Deputy Permanent Representative Dmitry Polyanskiy on the event of anniversary of the Salisbury incident
A: One year ago there was a very busy day in the Security Council, as you might remember. The event was quite unexpected, but it got vivid media coverage and a lot of emotions. Today is exactly one year since the poisoning of former Russian Colonel of Intelligence Sergey Skripal and his daughter. We decided to speak to you today and to give our impression what we have right now as the bottom line. We can say that despite huge efforts of the UK police, it has not been able to support the political version of the incident with facts and proof. We have a lot of unconfirmed things, even mysterious facts, but no specifics and zero substance so far.
The most important thing is that we still do not know who did it, why and how. All our efforts to cooperate with the British side are being constantly rejected. They do not want to listen, they expect us only to tell them if President Putin did this himself or if he lost control over the people who did this. Only two versions are on the table, everything else is rejected. What worries us very much? We do not have any information about the Skripals. Where are they? The only thing we saw was Yulia’s video address published by Reuters, but it was quite obvious for us that she was reading a prewritten text, which was clearly a translation from English and had been initially written by a native English speaker. This adds to the questions that we have: what happened to her? Is she alive? Is her father alive? Where are they kept? We have absolutely no information about this. And therefore we have any reason to qualify the situation as a forced detention or even abduction of two Russian nationals. As you know, they both have Russian passports. In general, we can say that we have now entered a new era in international relations, because no evidence is needed, and verification mechanisms, developed under existing international laws, do not have to be activated. It is enough to use the words like “likely”, “highly likely”, “probably”, “maybe”, “there is no other plausible explanation,” and so on, and so forth.
Every one believes what is being said. And it is very important to understand that this belief is followed by very specific measures unwinding the sanctions spiral, and international stigmatization. The direct consequences are as follows: relations with Western countries have significantly worsened; dozens of my colleague diplomats were expelled from both sides, expelled without any conclusive evidence. And this fact was acknowledged by a number of Western politicians. When the Brits asked for solidarity, they could not provide actually anything substantial. I would quote here the words of Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Bartosz Cichocki pronounced on 30 March, during the most intensive British efforts to convince the others to follow them. He said: “The depth of UK’s information was not critical, because we have been observing patterns of Russian behavior, and what happened in Salisbury fitted into that pattern”. I think this is very illustrative. This raises questions about this so called “pattern of behavior”, but we hear the same things: “highly likely”, “Russia did it”, “who else could” and so on and so forth. We also are quite confident now, for one year on, that the UK has launched an unprecedented anti-Russia information campaign a year ago. In recent history there has hardly been a case, when high-ranking officials would render a guilty verdict against another State for an alleged crime, without even bothering to give the public at least some kind of reasoning or evidence for it.
We also understand that the topic of the Skripals, Salisbury and Amesbury became the only unifying agenda in the UK right now. It is the very consensus, around which Theresa May’s government is unified, including the political establishment. I can also a little bit question the behavior and the interests, or rather lack of interest of some British journalists, who usually like investigative journalism, but it seems they do not want to delve into numerous inconsistencies that are issued by the media or by official sources. There is a big number of these inconsistencies; I can announce that my colleagues in our embassy in London yesterday published a report “Salisbury One Year After”. It is available at the website, we also twitted it in our account. There you can find exhaustive information about what happened, what were the allegations, what Russia tried to do to help the British investigation, how these efforts were rejected, etc. I advise you all to read this document. I could speak more, but I imagine you might have some questions, I encourage you to limit them to the Salisbury case, and I will try to do my best to answer them.
Q: You said that Great Britain rejected all Russian attempts to contact and investigate the case. At this moment, we all know that something happened, we do not know if they are alive, because as far as I know nobody saw them. What else can we actually do in this situation? Maybe any UN letters or questions?
A: When you say “we” you mean journalists or the Russian side?
Q: I mean the Russian side and I mean Russia as a country in the UN. Maybe any questions during the Security Council or General Assembly’s resolutions – anything, because Russia is still being accused and there is no opportunity to resolve this problem.
A: Yes, this is a very strange situation, because it is not necessary to prove Russian involvement in this crime as the Brits put it, because everybody understands this. Same as everybody understood that Russia is involved in Litvinenko poisoning for example, but actually the result was the same – there was no conclusive evidence. The whole process was put top-secret, and right now we do not know what has happened. We have not seen any proofs that Russia did it, but we are ready to cooperate. Maybe you remember at the initial stage of this discussion in the Security Council, when the British representative Mrs.Pierce was asked why actually Britain did not request Russia to participate in their investigation, she said, if my memory does not fail me, that “the arsonist cannot be involved in the investigation of the arson”. That was the metaphor, but how do you know who is the arsonist if you are investigating the arson? My impression is that right now the British side got everything it wanted. It created the impression that Russia is behind this.
There are a lot of mysteries about it, so there are no other proofs, but the public opinion. If you ask people in the street, if you ask politicians, they will say: “Yes, of course, it is proven that Russia was behind the Salisbury attack”, but there are no concrete facts, no concrete evidence. What can we do in this regard? We repeatedly advised our British colleagues that we are ready to participate in their investigation. There are mechanisms for this, there are mechanisms within the Chemical Weapons Convention, there are bilateral mechanisms. We said that we are ready to study and to cooperate on any request for legal assistance from the British side. We sent them, I do not even know how many, diplomatic notes with questions that we wanted to clarify.
If you study the document that I pointed out. I mean the work of my colleagues from the embassy in London, in the annex you will see all the questions that the Russian side put forward to the British side, and which remain unanswered. I can assure you that there are not two, but maybe ten pages of these questions and they are still unanswered, they are hanging in the air. What can we do in this situation? We see that there is less and less public interest towards this topic. First of all, I can imagine how tired people are of this. Secondly, there is a kind of understanding, kind of consensus on the fact that Russia is behind this attack. That is what the Brits really need. You see that now they are not very much active on bringing any other documents, any other pieces of information. There are so many things that do not fit, do not match in the “official narrative”, if there is such official narrative. As for the official part, it is really very awkward to comment on this. I encourage those of you who are interested in investigations to dig further, because there are so many things that are not on the surface and, I do not know, maybe they will be embarrassing for the British side, maybe they will help to discover the truth, but we do not know the truth. We are very much far from knowing the truth. What we really want to do and what we will try to achieve – we want to have information and access to our citizens. Britain is obliged to give us this access under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and other documents.
In fact, we are being denied access to our citizens for one year. As I told you, the only thing we saw was video address by Yulia Skripal, but it was in May, almost one year ago. What do we know now? There are certain written documents, attributed to them, like: “We do not want to speak to the Russian side, we are OK, do not bother us”. But who knows who wrote these documents? This is contrary to any practice. The absolute must in such situation would be to initiate a contact with Russian Consul. If a Russian Consul faces a Russian citizen and the latter says: “Well, I do not want to deal with the Russian side any more,” than okay, it is their right. But there should be such a contact. A visual contact. Not through video, not through documents. This is kind of basics of international relations, and this basics is being violated. We do not know, whether the Skripals alive, whether they are in Britain or elsewhere. We do not know anything.
Our British colleagues consider this situation to be normal, but it is not normal for us. Skripals have relatives in Russia. They have Victoria Skripal, who repeatedly tried to get a British visa, but was denied. She wanted to go there and see her cousin. There is the elderly mother of Mr. Skripal, she is in Russia, she is not aware about the fate of her son. These things are being tolerated as if nothing happens, but for us things are happening. We will try to use official channels to get access to these people. We do not know what is happening with them. We do not know what kind of information they receive about this case, if they are alive. We assume it might be very much distorted. But again, we do not know anything. We will push this issue, but without help of the media and civil society, I do not think we will attain anything. As long as the public opinion tolerates such kind of things, there are no prospects for such cases.
Q: I am interested to hear whether Russia has reached any conclusions as to who you think might be highly likely responsible for this incident. Also there are some reports out of Russia that have been picked up by British papers, talking about President Putin dressing down the head of the GRU over this incident, for bungling this incident. So perhaps you could respond to that as well.
A: What I can tell you absolutely definitely is that we have nothing to do with this accident or incident or attack. We are absolutely sure of this in Russia. Of course, we need more information, because it is very difficult to act or not to act in these circumstances. We all get reports from the media, but we are not part of the investigation, though we should be part of it. We also have different reports from the papers, which are very contradictory. They bring about new and new theories about what has happened, and the British side does not even bother to deny or to confirm them. We do not have a clear picture of what has happened. They highlighted two people, who were in Salisbury at that time. They indicated their names, but they did not provide anything for us to make a conclusion about their wrongdoings. They said: “There were two people in Salisbury at that moment. They allegedly went to the house of Skripal, they allegedly put this substance on the door handle. However, things do not match. If you analyze the timetable, you see that they physically could not have done it, because according to police reports the Skripals had left the house earlier. Which means they were not in contact with this door knob. Again, what was the substance? We do not know, because initially the Western side actually said that it was kind of Novichok. This is the Western classification of this substance. It was absolutely clear from what the Western experts said that this is highly toxic, so any person who got in contact with this substance would get killed within seconds or minutes. There were a lot of people who came in contact with this substance, but they are still alive. So many people could have contacted with the Skripals initially, and they are alive. There are no answers to these questions.
Again, at the initial stage there was absolutely clear information that the substance was very much afraid of wetness and water, and that it would be dissolved, so it would not be present in the atmosphere after several hours already. However, we see that different places in Salisbury and Amesbury are being cleared for contamination. Even now, one year after! So we do not know anything about the substance. We could have been very helpful and useful to the investigation if we were given the samples of this substance, but we were not. Everything else is kind of speculations. “Putin did or did not scold someone” – these are all media reports. Since the very beginning, we clearly stated our position: “Please give us concrete proofs, give us concrete information, answer our questions, let us cooperate. If you want to conduct a joint investigation, if you want to ask questions in Russia to these Petrov and Boshirov, you are welcome, no problem. But they do not ask for this, they do not ask for anything. They say they had the picture, they did not need the Russian side to establish its fault. That is the problem. There are many media reports. I have a big file of what was there, but I do not think it is worth even citing them, because one of them contradicts another. Yesterday there was one version of them, tomorrow there will be another, they change very soon. They are nothing but just media reports. They are not even being commented on. To establish what has happened we need information, clear information. To find somebody who was allegedly involved in this case from the Russian side, from my country – if the British side insists that there was such a case – to do this we need proofs that there were wrongdoings.
We need some clear logical picture of what happened, but we do not have this picture, because the facts do not match. They do not explain what has happened in Salisbury. They do not publish a lot of information that should be there. For example, video camera coverage. A lot of data is missing that could have shed light on what has happened. This information is not there. They are only cherry-picking. They choose some kind of information that is useful to them. They say: these two persons were in Salisbury, so of course they went to the Skripal house, and of course they poisoned them, but facts do not match. They do not match even theoretically, and practically nobody bothers to sit down, put them on the table and ask themselves a question: Is this logical? Is it possible? Is it feasible? How can we react to any criticism, personal criticism against some Russian individuals, if we do not see proofs of any wrongdoings from their side? This would be very strange. They could pick up any passenger from Aeroflot flight to London and say that he might be implied. And so what? This is not serious. This is ridiculous. We ourselves have a lot of questions. Again, there are more and more questions about this case.
For example, in January, not that long ago, it was published that the first person to help the Skripals after they lost consciousness was Colonel Mccord, Chief Nursing Officer of the Army, and her daughter Abigail. How come they were on the spot? Was it a coincidence? They were the people who could really determine this fact and who could give the best assistance possible. We do not believe in such coincidences. But there is no explanation.
If we speak about this, again, there is no explanation of the presence at the Salisbury hospital at the time the Skripals were admitted of staff trained to deal with nerve agent poisoning. This is a very specific area of medicine. You will not find them in whatever hospital you ask. But all of a sudden in Salisbury hospital there happened to be people who had this knowledge. Again, there are questions, and questions, and questions, and questions.
I think, investigative journalists could write really good books about this. The fact is that unfortunately nobody is bothered by this. It seems to us, that everybody is satisfied with the official version, that Russia “highly likely” did it, there is no other plausible explanation. But where are the proofs? We asked this question one year ago. I remember this meeting of the Security Council. We said together with Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia: “Please, give us proofs! We are ready to cooperate!” However there is no evidence, and this is disappointing.
Q: Who Russia believes could have attacked the Skripals?
A: We do not have any motif, we are not interested in this, we know nothing about the reasons.
Q: But who you believe might have wanted to attack them?
A: As the British side puts it: “who else”? “Russia has a track record of all these numerous crimes”, every one of which we can question, by the way. Who else was interested? This might have been a provocation. There are a lot of people who believe, that it was a provocation. But it is very difficult to answer this question. Again, if we come a little bit to this issue, why would Russia really poison the Skripals? Why would we seek to get this man, who was eight years in our prison, to whom we had access? Why would we target him and his daughter? It is such a strange way, again, to kill. And if we tried to kill him, why didn’t we kill him, actually? Were these agents a kind of newcomers? Were they interns? I don’t know, why didn’t they do it, if they were asked to do it? There are thousands of different methods, as you know from crime movies and novels, to fulfill this job. Why would we choose such a strange thing, such a strange method? And why would we need it before the presidential elections in Russia and before the World Cup in Russia? It would be an absolutely foolish thing to do.
Even from the logical point of view, we had absolutely no motive and no reason to get the Skripals in Britain in such a strange way. We do not know who did it. Again, we do not have access to the information we need. If we had, maybe we would have established it easily. But we have to consume rumors from newspapers that are neither confirmed nor denied – that is all we have! Now as you see, the interest of the British side to this case is really not very high. One year on, this morning I did not come across any publication, any sensation, because, well, everything is achieved. Everybody believes, that Russia is behind this. So, what else? Why should we prove it?
This is a new method of international relations – accusing somebody. You know about presumption of innocence. In this case, there is presumption of guilt. You are being accused of something and, please, prove, that you did not do it. We do not need to prove that you did it, but you prove that you didnot do it. Please, prove to us, that you are not a murderer. This is absurd from any point of view and, to put it mildly, it is absolutely unprofessional.
Q: I wanted to go back to the proofs that you keep speaking about. Obviously, the wire is elusive, but the British side has laid out a pretty detailed explanation of “how” and “who”. Both in your presentation today and in others that I have heard from Ms. Zakharova, Mr. Lavrov and your colleagues in Britain, you sort of seized at some initial confusion about what the substance was and about the timing, and have put that forth as evidence of some kind of conspiracy. When you step back and look at the whole picture, at the narrative, albeit with holes, still you see that though there was some initial confusion about what the substance was, the OPCW backed the British findings on that. You have got the CCTV coverage of these individuals arriving in the UK and traveling together to Salisbury. It was assumed that they used other identities, their real identities were published by another organization, its name I am sure you know.
Could you drill down into some of this narrative, presented by the British side about what happened here and sort of address the specifics of the case? The substance was used, the OPCW did back it up, these two individuals appeared to be in vicinity of the Skripals’ home on the day that the poisoning is said to occur. I am curious: given those facts, what more evidence do you think British should provide to you to feel more comfortable with how the investigation is proceeding?
A: Frankly speaking, with all due respect, in what you said I have not heard a single evidence, a single proof. Because anything that is being enumerated like this can be questioned by a serious investigation. I will answer your question. First of all, I would like to remind what the British side’s detailed explanation and reasoning was. The only narrative that we had was Prime Minister Theresa May's statement on 12th March which has not actually changed during the year. I will quote it: “Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassination and our assessment that Russia use some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations made us conclude that this is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. There are therefore only two plausible explanations of what happened in Salisbury on 4th March: either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country or the Russian government lost control of their potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of the others”. That is it. It has not changed since then. Nothing new was given.
Q: I mean, they did identify two people who were involved, and they provided a fairly detailed timeline – albeit with some holes in it – about the whereabouts of the two individuals as well as found traces of the substance in the hotel room where the individuals were supposed to stay at. So they haven't provided nothing since that statement by Theresa May.
A: It is something, but again I told you that they could identify any person from the Aeroflot flight, but it happened that these two came to Salisbury, which is not a crime as you would admit. As you put it, there are some holes, but these holes explain everything. For example it is absolutely known, that they could find themselves in the vicinity of Skripals’ house, which is not proven, by the way. They just went in this direction, but there is no CCTV coverage provided to us. It is very hard to believe that, for example, Sergei Skripal being in such a situation and knowing that he could raise some interest, did not have a CCTV system in his house, but okay. It is up to British side to tell us. It is also hard to believe that there were no CCTV cameras in the neighborhood of the house, but okay. We could buy it. Even theoretically, if we imagine that they are the assassins, they could have found themselves in the vicinity of Skripals’ house at around 1 p.m. This is according to the police. It is not my data, it is the police data, according to which the Skripals left their house at around 9 by car and never turned back. This is a small hole, but it is very important to bridge this gap, because otherwise you do not understand. If we imagine that they were the assassins, if we imagine that they put this substance on the door knob, how would the Skripals get in contact with this? What kind of substance was this?
You mentioned OPCW. Okay, we all trust the OPCW, but the OPCW procedures were broken by the British side. Since the very beginning there should have been a joint investigation and Russia, as the accused side, should have been given a specimen of this substance. The OPCW team got the specimen of the blood in the hospital several days after the incident. It did not take it on the spot. Again, I would also quote that it was taken in a very pure form, which is very suspicious, because after several days it should have interacted with blood or something else. Even from this point of view, this analysis is very questionable. There a lot of things like this. Who could trust this expertise when people bring it to the hospital, say: “Okay, there are two people there. They were poisoned. Take their blood samples.” You do not know what was injected to them. I think at that time, I may be mistaken, but it was said that they were unconscious at that time. What could have happened to them? Who would trust this kind of things? This is very important. These are neither details nor holes, these are things on which the whole theory against Russia is based.
They tell us: “You have these two people who committed this crime.” We ask them a question: tell us how they did it. What were they doing in Salisbury? Show us the CCTV footage. Explain to us how could the Skripals get in touch with the substance, if they had left the house earlier. Explain to us this inconsistency. They do not do this. How come that on the one hand this substance is very stable and keeps intact for several weeks or months, but on the other hand it flies away, so those people who got in contact with the Skripals outside the place and in other zones were not affected? It is not logical. Either there are many substances or there is something missing in this.
Q: Just a quick follow-up question, which is a more global question. You have the British side who sort of insists that the two officers from the Russian GRU came to Salisbury last year with the intent to assassinate a former GRU officer. The British side is sticking to that. There does not seem to be a chance that they will be away from that any time soon. You have the Russian side saying that it absolutely did not nhappen. Based on things you said, suggest that there is some kind of a conspiracy involved to make it look like the Russians might have carried this out. How do Russia and Britain move forward beyond this? And maybe not just a theoretical or a hypothetical question: have you seen any contacts re-emerge in the year, diplomatic contacts or any sort of back-channel contacts re-emerge between the British and Russian governments in the year since the Scripals poisoning happened? Would you suggest that the relations are sort of settling back into some kind of normalcy?
A: It takes two to tango, you know. We are ready to dance, no problem, but we do not have a partner. I can assure you that there are no backstage contacts whatsoever. The only two questions the British side wants us to answer are as follows: Has Putin himself poisoned them? Or did he lose grip of some group of individuals or of the substance? That is the only thing the Brits are interested in. There are no contacts whatsoever. Again, if you bother to read this document that I'm mentioning, this compendium prepared by our Embassy in London, you will see that in the annex, there are a lot of notes that we were sending with a request to let us get involved in this investigation. We want to answer any questions, any serious questions about the investigation. But again, you cannot pinpoint, all of a sudden, two individuals that happened to be in Britain. No matter where they work or where they worked before. You cannot say that these people are to blame only because they happened to be in Salisbury.
Give us proofs, give us some plausible explanation of how it could be done. I am not speaking about why they could do it, because this is another hole. Why would Russia seek to do it if we had Mr. Skripal in our possession for 8 years. What is the value of Mr. Skripal after all this time? You know that all these secrets have the trend to expire after some time. What is the point of getting him in Britain? What is the point of getting Yulia Skripal in Britain when she lives in Russia? What is her connection there at all? Would it not be easier to get rid of one person and do it in an easier way I would say? This is from detective stories as all of us know. They do not explain this kind of thing, they just say Russia is behind this, because nobody else could have done this. If you buy this – okay, continue to believe in this, but we do not buy this, we need proofs. They absolutely do not cooperate with us.
The fate of this investigation, I am quite sure, would be the same as the fate of Litvinenko investigation. Everything will be made top-secret, they will say: “The truth is established, we know that Russia did it.” But we cannot tell you and we cannot tell anybody, because this is top-secret. Maybe in 30 or 50 years we will learn some details about this, when they are de-classified. Still, the fate of the investigation is the same. Now nothing is happening, everybody is satisfied that people and experts believe that Russia did it, but no proofs are on the table.
Q: Can you tell us what you know about the two men who were accused by the UK authorities? I speak about Mr. Petrov and Mr. Boshirov. Are they under a protection program or are they free to move around in the country or to travel from and into Russia? And of course the solidarity with the United Kingdom came from many Western countries. Is there any progress on this issue with any other country in Europe or Western country in general from your side?
A: Well, on the first question: Why should they be protected? These two individuals are Russian citizens. We do not accuse them of anything, because we do not have the reason to accuse them of anything. Somebody said on TV and somebody showed the pictures that they were seen in Britain near Salisbury, does it mean that every Russian citizen who comes to Salisbury should be a suspect immediately?
I know that they are free people, they are kind of businessmen and I heard that they were participating in some events. I read yesterday that they were planning to participate in some seminar at Moscow State University about this information campaign against Russia, so I do not think that they really hide their whereabouts, because I do not know what they can be afraid of. They do not have the status of accused in Russia for the reasons I have explained to you. There is no logic behind this kind of allegations that we hear. You cannot accuse a person on the basis of such pathetic lies or fakes. Maybe they are not fakes, maybe they are not lies. We do not know. Give us proofs. We are ready to work.
As for other countries, well, everybody's position is like, you know, “Brits know it for sure and we should display solidarity with them so we do not raise these issues in bilateral contacts, not following our initiative. Other countries are also not very much eager to raise this issue. The damage has been done, the diplomats have been expelled, the sanctions were introduced, and nobody questions whether they were introduced and these measures were taken because of some good reasoning or because of some bad reasoning. For them it is a matter of history. The Brits are satisfied with this. They still maintain that they know that Russia is behind this, but I quoted one European politician from Poland, we have more quotes of others that really reflect the level and the depth of British reasoning for the allies of Russia’s alleged guilt in this situation. They are not different very much, so we can easily understand that it is a kind of solidarity, blind solidarity.
We do not get in contact with any other states on this issue. Not only with Britain, but with any other European or American country. This issue is kind of away from our diplomatic contacts. It is about not to exist, so it exists only in press. We see in British press from time to time new sensations about this, which are neither confirmed nor denied, and which only seem more bizarre day to day, and that is it. There is no other way that we discuss it with somebody else. My press conference is a good opportunity to raise awareness about this situation. It is an illusion to imagine that there is a kind of dialogue between Russia and somebody, between Russia and Britain about this. No, there is no dialogue. They are satisfied, they achieved what they wanted, they created this illusion that Russia is behind this crime and they do not bother to produce any other proofs. That is why I am here, that is why I am speaking to you.
Q: Thank you Mr. Polyanskiy. There are a lot of questions that Russia has not been providing answers to. Main question is why since the day one Russia has been trying to discredit the British investigation or undermine the British judicial system and also the OPCW norms? Russia has not been accepting at the notion of accountability when it comes to chemical weapons used not only in Salisbury case, but also in other cases, say in Syria. I do not want you to talk about Syria, but what is the explanation that you can provide to us to believe that Russia is on the right side of the history?
A: I would not actually share your assessment. It is very difficult for me to answer the question in the way you want me to answer it, because we questioned the British investigations since very beginning, because there was no investigation. There was no credible investigation. Since the very beginning, they introduced this political context that Russia was behind this and all the so-called “proofs” were kind of targeted and curtailed to fit into this picture. But we don't buy any such proofs. If this is an investigation, then it should be a real investigation. People should ask questions, people should be ready to answer our questions, people should be ready to take us on board to share information with us. This is what an investigation is. And again, there should be very clear answers to the questions. The questions are – “Who did this?” “How?” and “Why?”
The most important question is “Why?” I do not buy the reasoning that was initially put forward by the British side, I explain to you why it is not credible. Again, they pinpointed certain people but they did not explain how they did it. They said they were in Salisbury and that is it. This is not the proof. This is not the way an investigation is being conducted. We know how efficient British police can be in other cases. We know how detailed investigation can be held, but not in our case.
OPCW procedure was broken since the very beginning. We had to be a part of this investigation with OPCW. There are provisions of OPCW that clearly demand Britain to act in this way. I explain to you why we question the specimen that was taken from the Skripals, because we do not know what happened to Skripals for at least 2 days. This is not that we do not trust OPCW, but the chain of custody should be respected. By the way, it is the same thing in Syria, since you mentioned it.
It is not that we do not trust OPCW, but we want OPCW to stick to its rules and to stick to its chain of custody. It is not happening with Salisbury incident. Again, Russia should be a part of this investigation, should have been since the very beginning, including within the OPCW.
Our first note that was sent was the request for us to be part of this investigation in accordance with the OPCW rules, which was ignored, because the arsonist cannot be added to the investigation of the arson. There are a lot of questions, a lot of things that are not being clarified and you will see this in this material that I mention. How could the Porton Down laboratory identify this substance if the only way could be that they had a sample of this substance within their possession? There is no other way they could give the exact formula of this substance. How can they get it into their possession? This would be again the breach of the OPCW rules, but if they had it in their possession, where is the guarantee that they could not use it? Salisbury is very close, 8 miles from the Porton Down laboratory. These all questions are unanswered, because they say “No, no, no. This is something you do not even ask about, because everybody knows Russia is too blame. So why are you asking about Porton Down?” It does not matter for them that the head of Porton Down at some point acknowledged that they had not given Boris Johnson any indication that it was of Russian origin.
It does not matter to them. They just delete these tweets after some time, when they see that they are not credible. Just like this. Nothing matters, only Russian guilt matters for them. Everything that does not fit into this picture is being rejected. It is very simple. I do not buy this logic.
Q: How do you want to press on this issue from now on? Since they do not buy your logic, you do not buy their logic.
A: We do not want to press, it is up to them to prove. They do not bother to prove. The only thing we are worried about is the fate of our two citizens. We insist that we should be given consular access to those citizens if they are alive, or be given explanation of what has happened to them. That is the only thing we can do. Everything else is the headache of the British side. But they do not seem to worry. They are quite okay and comfortable with this. Why should we press with this?
Q: Let us get back to what you said earlier about forced detention. What in your mind makes you think that they are forcibly being detained? What kind of evidence do you have? What would be the reason for forcibly detaining them?
A: I do not know the reasons of the British side. Again, as I told you, we never saw Sergei Skripal after this attack. We have conflicting information. We had information that he was on the brick of death. Then, all of a sudden, he is cured but does not speak to press. He is not shown. The only video we saw was the video of Yulia Skripal which I have mentioned, but to put it mildly, it is very suspicious.
Q: Do you think she is dead? Do you do not believe that she is alive?
A: I do not know. The last video information that we had about her was in May. Everything else is being attributed to her, but how do we know? Those people can do anything they want to them. We do not know, maybe they asked for consular help, maybe they did not. The only way to determine it was to see the Consul or to say “No, we do not need your help.” We would be satisfied with this, but none of it has been done. It is a breach of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
How can we be sure that Skripals are alive and everything is ok with them, when we are not aware of anything about this? The only thing which has been presented is that “video interview” of Yulia Skripal which is extremely suspicious. As a Russian speaker I can tell you that we do not speak our language in such way as Julia did on that tape. The only explanation for that is that it was a text, pretranslated into Russian from English. I mean written by somebody, who is not a Russian native speaker. This is very clear, like it is also clear to you that I am not an English speaker, that English is not my native tongue. The same thing we hear when we listen to that tape.
That “interview” rose more questions than answers. Then, all of a sudden, there is no trace of them. We do not know where they are. If they are in Britain and in safety, why would the British side not provide us with consular access to them, to make us see for ourselves that the Skripals are okay and they do not want to speak to the Russian side and to cooperate. It is not the right of the British side, it is their obligation under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Now it is a clear breach of it, which has lasted for one year now.
Returning to your question - I do not know the answer, We do not know where they are and what has happened to them. I hope they are alive and in good health, but we have absolutely no good reason to believe it.
Q: Has Russia ever considered asking someone like the Secretary General or anyone else to try and mediate between your country and the UK to try and resolve this situation?
A: Mediate in what?
Q: Mediate in trying to get an investigation or to get all of the answers that would help satisfy your side.
A: Mediating in convincing the British side to give us explanations and more or less plausible versions of what has happened? I think it is a bit childish. It goes without saying. Secretary General has a lot of things to do and he has his reputation as well. I think it would be very childish to believe he could convince the British side to do something which it has to do from the point of view of elementary logic, diplomatic relations and reputation of the UK. From our perspective it goes without saying – we should not ask anybody, those are things which British side has to do.
The problem is that the British side is satisfied with everything. Everything is decided for them – Russian blame has been proven, the absence of facts does not matter. But everybody knows that there is no plausible explanation except “highly likely”. We hear about this all the time – but there are no proofs. Who could be a mediator in this situation – psychiatrist? Maybe we have not found a good one yet. Maybe you would find someone, who will be convincing for the British side.
Q: If I got you right, you mentioned that in your bilateral meeting with other countries especially when it comes to sanctions, you did not raise this issue. Could you elaborate why? Which further steps are you planning to take and is there anything at the UN level which you are planning to do?
A: Your last question echoes very much the previous question. It is very difficult to imagine what further steps we could take in such an absurd situation. The only thing we really intend to do now is to get consular access to the two Russian citizens. I have pointed it out very clearly. Everything else – it is a kind of a “Theatre of the absurd”. It is very difficult to imagine any concrete steps. We are impatiently waiting for the British side to explain, to give us the picture of why and how it has happened, who did this and who had the reason to do it. We still have no answers. Before we get those answers even from the point of view of mere logic, it would be strange for us to ask for something more.
In the annex which I mentioned, there are a lot of questions that we have asked the British side. They are all logical, we are not trolling them. We are asking for concrete information, which is indispensable for any further steps, but this is being ignored.
As for context with the third countries, I did not say that we did not raise this issue. After these diplomatic measures were taken, of course we asked all of them through the contacts that we had, why did they do it. The answer was: “We were told that they trust the Brits. If the British Side says that you are behind this, so you are behind this.” That is it. How can you discuss this situation? They just point a finger at the British side and say: “They know, that you guys are to blame. We have our discipline, our solidarity and our relations. Do not ask us, ask them.”
Thank you very much. I encourage you to be more curious and to dig deeper into this problem because if you do not, I think the British Side will stop at this stage. For them everything is clear, but not for us, and I hope not for you.