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Russian poisoning denials 'increasingly absurd': British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Moscow's denials over its involvement in the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain are growing "increasingly absurd", British foreign minister Boris Johnson said.

Published: 19th March 2018 03:04 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th March 2018 03:04 PM   |  A+A-

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (File | AP)

By AFP

BRUSSELS: Moscow's denials over its involvement in the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain are growing "increasingly absurd", British foreign minister Boris Johnson said Monday.

The Kremlin has rejected allegations by London and its allies that Russia was behind the March 4 attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury as "nonsense".

As international chemical weapons experts were due to arrive in Britain to investigate the incident, European Union foreign ministers voiced their support for Britain as they gathered for a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

"The Russian denials grow increasingly absurd," Johnson said as he arrived for the meeting. 

"This is a classic Russian strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation."

London says the Soviet-designed military grade nerve agent Novichok was used to target Skripal and on Thursday Britain, France, Germany and the United States issued a joint statement blaming Russia for the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War 2.

"What really strikes me, talking to European friends and partners today, is that 12 years after the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London, they're not fooling anybody any more," Johnson said.

"There is scarcely a country round the table here in Brussels that has not been affected in recent years by some kind of malign or disruptive Russian behaviour."

Russian dissident Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive agent polonium in London in 2006 in an attack Britain also blamed on the Kremlin.

Johnson will update his European counterparts on the investigation, but Monday's meeting is not expected to agree any measures targeting Russia, which is already under heavy EU sanctions over its annexation of Crimea and meddling in Ukraine.

The EU's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said the bloc stood in "full solidarity" with Britain over the incident, which she called "completely unacceptable".

EU leaders are also set to discuss the issue at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats and suspended high-level contacts, including announcing that British royals and ministers would boycott this summer's football World Cup in Russia.

Moscow has expelled 23 British diplomats in a tit-for-tat measure and said it would halt the activities of the British Council in Russia.



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