Statement by Ambassador Vassily A. Nebenzia, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations, at the Security Council meeting on incident in Salisbury
We listened attentively to the statement by our British colleague, who had promised to provide new information on the investigation of the so-called Skripal affair. We have also carefully studied the statement by Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, to Parliament on the same topic. To be frank, we had very much hoped that today we would hear something convincing that could shed light on this mysterious incident.
Unfortunately, our hopes were once again disappointed. In today’s statement we heard the same litany of lies about so-called double agents being legitimate targets for murder by Russian special intelligence services; about the training of Russian special services in the handling of toxic chemicals; about Russia’s development of military-grade chemical agents in Russia; about cyberattacks and attempts to engineer a coup d’état in Macedonia, and a whole lot more. I will not list this whole crazy cocktail of unfounded lies. Similar insinuations were heard from the British Prime Minister yesterday.
We learned only yesterday that the heroic British investigators released photographs of two individuals suspected of poisoning Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Today the British authorities are trying to proclaim it a sensation and a turning point in the investigation. Those individuals supposedly have Russian surnames and citizenship, and with that degree of certainty that is now so familiar to us, it is said to be “highly likely” that they are part of Russia’s intelligence services.
At the same time, it was immediately assumed that the names given were aliases. Furthermore, unlike in the situation with the previous unsubstantiated provocation of this type, the Litvinenko affair, the British have stated that they do not intend to request the suspects’ extradition from Russia. Just as they have no intention of cooperating with the Russian authorities. Indeed, why bother with that? It does not suit London’s game plan. In their statements today, many delegations urged Russia to cooperate with Great Britain. But in actuality the situation is precisely the opposite. It is we who are asking London to cooperate, not London asking us. And London is refusing that cooperation. London needs this affair for one reason and one reason only, which is to unleash hateful anti-Russian hysteria and drag other countries into it. The number of inconsistencies and open questions in connection with Britain’s new so-called evidence is off the charts. For example, the stamps on the photographs of the suspects supplied by London in which they are shown walking along an identical corridor, allegedly at Gatwick Airport, are timed to coincide to a fraction of a second.
According to the data cited by Theresa May, the suspects appeared at the Skripals’ house around noon on 4 March, although all the earlier police reports stated that the Skripals had left the house early that morning and did not return. So how did they come in contact with their house’s allegedly poisoned doorknob? It is also hardly convincing that the suspects transported the mythical Novichok in an ordinary perfume bottle. According to the published reports of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) specifically with regard to the incident in Amesbury, the substance is so toxic and dangerous that special protective containers have to be used to transport it, or the person carrying it would inevitably be the first to fall victim to it. There is a popular joke in Russia about a character named Uncatchable Joe. He is uncatchable not because no one can catch him but because nobody needs him or is even looking for him.
I have a distinct feeling that we have been presented with two such uncatchable Joes, allegedly acting on orders from Moscow. Perhaps someone here finds this play convincing, but to me this new act seems just as cooked up and far-fetched as the previous acts, some of which unfolded in this Chamber. Our British colleagues have taken a very convenient position. The verdict has been pronounced, the guilty party — Russia — has been declared, the suspects’ real names are unknown, but it is alleged that they are employees of the Russian Military Intelligence Service.
Although how that can be determined without their names is a big puzzle to us. We have been called on to cooperate. As I said, it was we who asked London to cooperate, which was categorically refused from day one. Yesterday the British Ambassador was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry, where in answer to a request, he said that the British authorities would not hand over the information to the Russians that the suspects would have had to submit to the Embassy when applying for a visa. And yet that information even includes fingerprints, which would make identifying them much easier than from a picture on the Internet.
Not that there is anything surprising about that. In the post-truth world created by our Western colleagues, a world of delirium and fakery, it is quite sufficient to pronounce sentence before bringing a verdict and even to begin punishment. London is not about to see this affair through to the end. It does not need to. Since we have met here once again to listen to revelations from London, let us go over the broad outlines of what we have been presented with since the attempted murder in Salisbury on 4 March. We have two Russian citizens who have been exposed to a mysterious nerve agent, who are being held somewhere and to whom neither Russian consular employees nor close relatives are permitted access, in violation of all sorts of international legal and humanitarian norms. That is a fact.
All we saw was Yulia Skripal’s television appearance, which aroused a lot of questions and suspicions about the possibility that she was under serious moral and psychological pressure. There is a letter in the form of an ultimatum to Russia demanding that it admit to the attempt on the Skripals’ lives. There are also several letters from Russia to the British authorities proposing that it be included in the investigation and with an impressive list of specific questions that have gone unanswered. Lastly, there is the conclusion by the OPCW experts that a nerve agent, whose country of origin they were unable to establish, was used in Salisbury on 4 March. They were unable to establish it because it is impossible in principle. And this is where the facts end. All the rest is mere speculation generated by the rich imagination and Russophobic fantasy of London officialdom.
Our British colleagues simply pay no heed to the obvious contradictions in the investigation’s conclusions, leaked out in calculated doses by the media, spinning new and ever more absurd versions. I will not list them, since I value my own time and that of Council members. I will only say that six months down the road, it is impossible to comprehend why Russia might want to poison the Skripals or why it should have done it in such a strange, recherché and illogical way. We were told that a gel was applied to the handle, but now Theresa May says that apparently the suspects brought it with them and used a perfume bottle. There are a ton of such inconsistencies. The unfounded conclusions that it was Moscow that did all this were abundant, and were followed by concrete sanctions. It appears that in this continuing theatre of the absurd, the only winner is the Nina Ricci company, whose products are getting free advertising in their capacity as the container for the mythical Novichok. Anyone who has not yet lost hope of finding the perpetrators realized long ago that the British authorities still have no evidence of Russia’s involvement in the Salisbury incident, or in fact any reasonable versions of what happened at all.
To be honest, we have already lost hope. For us, therefore, the question is only what new ploys they will come up with in London in order to avoid a really serious investigation of the Skripal affair, rather than a politically motivated one. Unfortunately, the so-called sensation we were presented with today fits that simple scheme perfectly. By the way, we have no problems with ordinary English citizens, for whom we have sympathy and respect, and who were able to see that during the World Cup in Russia. Our problem is only with the British Government, which is misleading not only the international community but its own citizens.
In conclusion, I would like to switch to more formal language and, in summary form, state the following. The Russian Federation firmly rejects all the groundless accusations of its involvement in the poisoning with toxic chemicals in the city of Salisbury in March 2018 of the Russian citizens Sergei and Yulia Skripal, as was again reiterated by Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May in a speech in Parliament on 5 September. We urge the British to show restraint. We affirm our willingness to hold consultations in accordance with the bilateral Consular Convention of 2 December 1965 and the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters of 20 April 1959.
We demand consular access to Russian citizens who have been illegally detained by the British authorities. We once again in full responsibility declare that the statements by the authorities in London, misleading the international community, to the effect that Russia alone could have possessed and now possesses the technical means, practical experience and motive for the commission of such acts using poisonous substances, are groundless. The Russian Federation has never developed, produced or stockpiled the toxic chemicals referred to in the West as Novichok. The very word “Novichok”, as well as information about the structure and spectrum of this chemical compound, began to appear in foreign specialized scientific literature and applied databases based on information provided by Soviet defectors with only indirect connections to the former military chemical-weapon programme of the Soviet Union.
Moreover, similar development was also being conducted in a number of other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and other Western States, and with the direct involvement of the Porton Down laboratory in the United Kingdom. There are volumes of specialized literature in the West about this research. The involvement of Porton Down is particularly important to an understanding of what happened in the Skripal case, as used by London against Russia and in the most recent incident, in Amesbury, in which the victims were British citizens.
The Russian Federation appeals to all States to consider what has occurred with full responsibility and due understanding, and to support our call to the British Government to begin consultations with the Russian Federation in the context of the Chemical Weapons Convention and the other two aforementioned conventions. In conclusion, what is clear from London’s statement is that it already had all the information presented yesterday as long ago as May. If they had not determined the possible suspects and established the fact that they had been in Salisbury, there would have been no reason to search the hotel where they stayed.
Clarly, if all the so-called evidence were as important as is claimed, it would have been published four months ago, before the tragic events in Amesbury. We can conclude only one thing from all of this, which is that Downing Street is governed not by the interests of seeing justice done but by other motives, which we have already mentioned.
The incident on 4 March became a useful pretext to whip up anti-Russian hysteria, and was used to undermine our authority as a State party to the Chemical Weapons Convention on the eve of the staged use of chemical weapons in the Syrian city of Douma. We are seeing a similar picture today. The statement by Theresa May on 5 September took place on the eve of what we might call the new political season, and around the situation in Idlib, which is being actively discussed, and the chemical-weapon provocation that the militants, together with the White Helmets, have been preparing there, and which we have warned about more than once.
We will circulate the relevant materials on the topic of today’s meeting to the States Members of the United Nations.
The right to reply:
Unfortunately, I have not learned anything new from my British colleague’s further statement.
We heard the same set of unsubstantiated accusations that we have heard in previous meetings. I would like to mention a couple of factual things. As I said about consular access to Yulia and Sergei Skripal, we do not have that access. Another significant fact is that Yulia Skripal’s own sister, who lives in Russia and who wanted to visit her — and Yulia had given her consent to that — has twice been refused a visa for the United Kingdom by the British Embassy. Does that not tell us something?
With regard to the request that the British allegedly made to Russia immediately after the incident, we have already had the pleasure of commenting more than once on the nature of that request, which was no request at all. It was the then British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson’s demand of the Russian Ambassador in London that Russia admit to the crime and say how it was committed, whether with the knowledge of the Russian authorities or by misunderstanding or lack of oversight. That was in fact the entire so-called request for cooperation with Russia. There should be no misleading of the international community here.
There was no request from the British for Russia’s cooperation in investigating this case. On the contrary, Russia’s repeated requests, both within the framework of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and in other ways, for conducting a joint investigation with the British confirmed our readiness to engage fully in this.
Of course, I understand that our British colleague said that we live in parallel universes — and perhaps some people would like us to live on another planet — but there are no colonized planets yet, so we must live on the one we have. And on this planet we will have to cooperate, whether others like it or not. And to most of the questions we have laid out — and there are more than 40 of them — there are still no answers. Just as there are no multiple Russian versions of what happened, something that the British representative tried to say today, suggesting that journalistic versions represent the position of the Russian authorities.
We too will be happy to give a briefing to interested delegations on how we see the situation, on what has happened and what is now happening with Britain’s socalled investigation.