17 January 2020
Moscow: 21:49
London: 18:49

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684 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     676 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

17.03.2018

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Mail on Sunday" (full text)

Q: Bearing in mind that the US, France and Germany have said they agree with Britain that all the evidence suggests the attacks in Salisbury were the responsibility of the Russian state, what credibility can be placed on the denials issued by the Russian Government?

 A:We don't know if UK presented any evidence to US, France and Germany - highly likely none - but if they did, why not present it through the channels outlined in the Chemical Weapons Convention? Universal legal principle is presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof lies with the British Government. Its record includes the Iraq WMD dossier - you will remember that at some point doubting US and UK claims was considered a wild conspiracy theory. It is not any more.

 Q: What is your response to the claims by the British Government that the attacks were timed to boost Mr Putin’s popularity on the eve of the election in Russia?

 A: So far they have only boosted the popularity of Mrs May, as polls show. The Government has seized the opportunity to present itself as robust and competent to the public opinion. And if you look at the media, the attack is being exploited to undermine the popularity of Mr Putin and the prospects of the FIFA World Cup in Russia. 

 Q: What is your message to Prime Minister Theresa May?

 A: Highly likely the Cabinet views the crisis as a "short, victorious war" to score points at home - but it's not going to be like that. Russia has strategic patience. So the message is - Investigate before you accuse. Sabre rattling does not solve the major challenges like Brexit talks but it makes "Global Britain" less global if you cut dialogue with Russia. 

 Q:What is your message to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn?

 A: Same.

 Q:What is your response to British commentators who say that Russia has become a ‘rogue state?’

A: Russia's record is cleaner than Britain's. We didn't invade Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya. And in Syria we have helped the government to destroy ISIS (which makes no distinctions between Russian and Britons - we are all targets for them) and now work for a political solution. We don't tell other nations how to vote. We support UN peacekeeping effort around the globe and build successful alliances with most countries of the world: in Asia-Pacific, Central Asia and Middle East, Latin America, Africa, much of Europe. We have excellent relations with China and India. This is not something you would call a rogue state, right?

Q: Theresa May indicated today she is to take further steps in response to Russia’s expulsion of 23 British diplomats and other measures against the UK. What is your response?

A: In case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures – this is what the British Ambassador was told on Saturday.

 Q: She said ‘there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable’ for the attempted assassination of the Skripals. What is your response?

A: If she says that, this means she is based not on facts but on artificial conclusions, and not very logical ones. The Russian state has neither a motive nor means to commit such an act. Why should the Russian state attempt to poison an entire city with a substance it doesn’t even have, on the eve of the World Cup?

 Q: She said: ‘Russian aggression is the very antithesis of the liberal and democratic values that define the UK.’ What is your response?

A: Russia shares democratic values. This is why we have a presidential election this Sunday – and despite the expulsions the polling station at the Embassy will work as planned. We are not living in Cold War times, and while interests and policies do differ there is no ideology that separates Russia from Britain.

Q: Do you fear this dispute is escalating out of control?

A: This dispute is indeed escalating dangerously and out of proportion. Restraint is needed, and cooler heads.

Q: Some people in the UK worry that you may cut off energy supplies to the UK because of this dispute. Can you reassure them you will not do this?

A: Russia is a reliable supplier, it has never broken its contracts. The supplier depends on the customer as much as the other way round. 

 Q: Can you give an assurance you will not launch cyber warfare against the UK?

A: UN Charter forbids threat or use of force – this is an obligation for both Russia and Britain. During his visit to Moscow last December, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson received an offer from Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to hold consultations on cybersecurity, like we do with China, India and many other countries. We are keen to talk to other international players to establish rules of behaviour in cyberspace: what is allowed and what is not, what constitutes aggression, how to respond to incidents etc. No reply so far. So while Russia is being constructive, British MPs and media, and with implied connivance of the state, are suggesting cyberstrikes against Russia. You won’t hear this language in Moscow. 

Q: What do you say to those who argue that Mr Putin is acting like a gangster?

A: “Gangster” is not a Russian word. As I said, we have a different dictionary.  


This interview is published, in abridged form, in the 18 March 2018 edition of "Mail on Sunday"




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