Published: Sat, April 14, 2018
Health Care | By Oscar Goodwin

Russian envoy says United Kingdom spying claims about Skripals a "big surprise"

Russian envoy says United Kingdom spying claims about Skripals a

"We have information indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals, dating back at least as far as 2013, when e-mail accounts belong to Yulia were targeted by GRU cyber specialists", Sedwill wrote.

In a letter to Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Sir Mark also said that in the 2000s the Russians had begun a programme to train personnel from "special units" in the use of chemical warfare agents.

Officials at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation were not immediately available to comment.

Sedwill said "only Russian Federation has the technical means, operational means and the motive" to carry out such an attack.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unresponsive on a bench in Salisbury, southern England, on March 4.

It published the unusual allegations in an 8,000-word report on the incident after the Kremlin was accused of using a military grade nerve agent in Salisbury, on March 4.

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The worldwide chemical weapons watchdog has said an analysis of samples gathered from Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal, and detective sergeant Nick Bailey - who was affected during the emergency response - confirmed the U.K.'s assessment of the incident.

Sedwill said that after the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian Federation signed the Chemical Weapons Convention without reporting its ongoing work on Novichoks.

"Only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and the motive".

At a press conference arranged before the release of the letter, Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said he had not been made familiar with the allegations within it.

He said Moscow had a proven record of state-sponsored assassinations and had tested ways of delivering chemical weapons, including the use of door handles to spread nerve agents, as Britain believes was done in the Skripal case.

It is extremely rare for the United Kingdom to make such intelligence public...

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He said Russian Federation had a "proven record of conducting state-sponsored assassination" and that it was "highly likely" some defectors - like Mr Skripal, a former GRU officer who was exchanged in a spy swap in 2010 - may be regarded as "legitimate targets".

"There is no plausible alternative explanation", he added.

He briefed journalists on the latest development in Douma, a town in the suburbs of Damascus, where the alleged attack took place and where Russian military police has been deployed on Thursday.

He added: "During the 2000s, Russian Federation commenced a programme to test means of delivering chemical warfare agents and to train personnel from special units in the use of these weapons".

"We are not allowed to see our citizens, talk to doctors, have no idea about the treatment the Russian nationals receive", he said.

Yulia Skripal earlier this week was discharged after more than a month of hospital treatment following the attack.

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"We can not be sure that Yulia's refusal to see us is genuine".

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