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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

21.04.2018

Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's talking points at the Press Conference, 20 April 2018

Since we met last time a lot of events took place:

-       Military strikes of the United States, UK and France against Syria in violation of the international law

-       Mission by OPCW inspectors to Douma

-       Speech of Prime Minister May in Parliament in support of the British aggression against Syria

-       Special meeting of the OPCW Executive Council (18 April 2018)

-       New developments in the classified case of Salisbury poisoning of Skripal family

-       No meaningful developments on the Glushkov case

-       and Cyber security threats

I plan to comment all these issues. And I will be happy to answer all our questions, if you have any. 

Introductory remarks on Syria

 

- Let me start with the situation in Syria and the military action the US undertook there along with its UK and French allies on 14 April.

- The massive missile attack on the territory of a sovereign state is an act of aggression by every definition available in the international law.

- International law only allows to use force in self-defence or under a UN Security Council mandate.

- We condemn the military action by the three Western permanent members of the UN Security Council in violation of the principles of the UN Charter. It is impossible to defend international law by violating it.

- The facts presented by the Syrian government and Russia to show that the incident had been deliberately staged, have been ignored. Moreover, the missile strikes were carried out just as inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were about to head to Douma to begin investigating.

- PM May in her speech at Parliament claimed that Russia and Syria hamper the OPCW experts’ access to Douma. This statement is misleading. It was Russia that supported the request by Damascus to the OPCW Director-General to send experts to Douma and did its utmost to ensure they arrive and start gathering evidence as quickly as possible.

- It was Russia who tabled not one, but two draft resolutions at the UN Security Council with the aim to establish an investigation into what exactly happened in Douma.

- We are interested in a fair and credible investigation following OPCW chain of custody rules.

- Prime Minister May accuses us of failing to comply with the guarantees made in the context of destroying all Syrian chemical weapons.

- I would like to remind you that the process of their elimination was launched as a joint initiative of Russia, the US and the OPCW. When in January 2016 the OPCW declared the process to be successfully accomplished, no country raised any objections. And yet somehow the US, UK and France claim to find new “chemical weapons facilities” to bomb in Syria.

- If they had information about Syrian chemical facilities continuing to produce weapons, why not turn to the OPCW – the multilateral procedures for verifying these suspicions are well-established. Yet, judging by the absence of contamination and victims of chemical exposure after the strikes, the sites bombed had nothing to do with chemical weapons.

Syria air strikes: legal issues

 

Let me come back to the legal issues which were outlined by PM May in her speech on Monday.

- The UK openly claims that the legal basis for the military action against Syria was “humanitarian intervention”. The doctrine of humanitarian intervention was actively promoted by the West in the 1990s. It was plainly rejected by the international community. There is no authorization in international law to conduct such an intervention.

- But even under humanitarian intervention criteria, the arguments put forward by the UK hold no water. PM May says three conditions must be met. Let’s consider them one by one.

1) The government says there must be “convincing evidence, generally accepted by the international community as a whole, of extreme humanitarian distress on a large scale, requiring immediate and urgent relief”.

The international community is waiting for OPCW experts to perform their analysis on the site of the incident. Two days before their planned arrival, the international community could not even be sure that a chemical incident has taken place at all. Of course, this means that the international community as a whole did not consider that allegations of a chemical attack in Douma required urgent relief in the form of military action.

2) “It must be objectively clear that there is no practicable alternative to the use of force if lives are to be saved”.

Again, before we speak of lives to be saved from the chemical weapons threat, we have to make sure that the threat exists. For that, we have to wait for OPCW conclusions. More broadly, lives are being lost in Syria mostly because terrorist and other extremist groups continue fighting, being encouraged by their Western backers, instead of joining the political process.

Everybody, including the UK, is saying that there is no alternative to a political solution to the crisis. It is astonishing to now hear from the UK that there has been no alternative to the use of force.

3) “Use of force must be necessary and proportionate to the aim of relief of humanitarian suffering and must be strictly limited in time and scope to this aim”.

US, UK and France launched 103 missiles. If the Syrians didn’t intercept 71 of them we cannot imagine the numbers of possible casualties. So much for the proportionality.

- To sum up, we have a legal “justification” that is based on a non-existent rule of international law, and even within that non-rule, it is framed in completely false and inconsistent arguments based on so-called intelligence information and social media.

- Actually, we are not surprised by that. The UK and other Western bloc countries have long forgotten about their obligations under international law. Instead, they speak of a “rules-based” international order. What are those rules? I assume they mean the rules that they themselves formulate and enforce. This is not the kind of international order we want.

- We want a world based on international law. And among other things, international law, as I have said, only allows to use force in self-defence or under a Security Council mandate. Under international law, the military operation against Syria is plainly unlawful.

 

The Skripal case

 

- Nearly seven weeks have passed since the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury and more than a month since the Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of this crime.

- The situation hasn’t changed since our last briefing. The British government still hasn’t presented any evidence in support of its position.

- The British government continues to violate international law, including the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the bilateral Consular Convention. It refuses to give us an opportunity to verify the whereabouts and wishes of our compatriots.

- UK secret services have a huge track record of misleading the government and the public, with disastrous consequences. However, this time, they are offering such an unbelievable picture that nobody will be misled.

- For example, if the British government had information about Russia’s alleged secret chemical programme, why didn’t they raise the matter when the OPCW was certifying the destruction of Russian chemical weapons in 2017?

- If the UK has for years had information on Russia “investigating ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles”, why didn’t the Salisbury investigation team check the door handle on Mr Skripal’s house in the first instance?

- How could British intelligence possibly learn that “GRU cyber specialists” targeted Yulia Skripal’s e-mail accounts in 2013? Does this mean that they had been monitoring her communications ever since her father moved to the UK?

- The British government claims that Russia hasn’t responded to its original requests, but the situation is totally different. On 13 March we sent a note verbale which said thatthe Russian Federation was not involved in any way in the incident that took place in Salisbury on 4 March”. On the other side, the UK is refusing to address our concerns regarding the incident and to reply to numerous very specific questions that we have asked.

- The Foreign and Commonwealth office is continuously ignoring our legitimate requests and questions concerning the condition of Mr and Ms Skripal.

- We get the impression that the British government is deliberately pursuing the policy of destroying all possible evidence, classifying all remaining materials and making an independent and transparent investigation impossible.

- The so-called decontamination, which includes "incinerating of potentially contaminated objects", is an element of the strategy aiming to destroy the important and valuable evidence. Similar approach has already been used in the case of putting down Mr Skripal’s pet animals.

 

OPCW

- OPCW experts worked in the UK not in accordance with standard CWC procedures, but in the bilateral format with the UK, which lacked transparency.

- The work of the OPCW experts was conducted under control of the British side. Pressure on them can’t be ruled out. They checked only the sites designated by the UK beforehand. They were looking only for the substance identified by the UK. So, the format chosen could not guarantee impartiality and the comprehensive nature of the verification.

- The information in the full version of the OPCW report is insufficient for making any final conclusions. Moreover, according to our experts, the report is full of inconsistencies.

- The report is confidential, and you and me are not professional chemical experts, so I won’t be going into technical details. But for your understanding of the situation, I would like to point out some general questions and observations of the Russian experts.

- The fact that the identified toxic substance discovered was of high purity might mean that it was synthesized in a laboratory and not on an industrial plant. This is in line with the well-known fact that it can be made and researched in any modern chemical laboratory.

- It is possible to identify the chemical so quickly only if a sample for comparison was made available or had been synthesized beforehand. This might mean that the UK could have handed over its own sample of the substance for comparison.

- Some samples contained the pure toxic chemical without any signs of decomposition. This is strange given that 18 days had passed between the poisoning and the arrival of the OPCW team to the UK. This might mean that the chemical was intentionally injected just before the blood samples were taken.

- These are just a few examples. The most important point is that the report contains very little detail. Russia will not take at face value any conclusions until our experts will be provided with access to the victims, as well as to all materials of the OPCW expert analysis and the entire volume of the real information regarding this incident the UK has at its disposal.

 

* * *

- Yesterday we sent a request to the British side to allow medical examination of Yulia Skripal to be conducted by Russian specialists.

- Considering all the facts, now we have more reasons to qualify the situation as an abduction of the two Russian nationals.

- More questions arise as to the possible involvement of British secret services. We will continue to seek truth, demand answers from the British side.

 

The Glushkov case

 

- Let’s turn to another case, namely the murder of Mr Nikolay Glushkov, which happened more than a month ago, on 12 March. Nothing has changed since our last briefing.

- On 6 April FCO invited us to contact the Metropolitan Police directly. On 9 April I sent a letter to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ms Cressida Dick with a request for a meeting in order to discuss this case in details. Today is 20 April. No reply has been received.

- The Embassy is unsatisfied with the current level of interaction with the authorities.

- The current situation is a clear violation of international law in defiance of the legitimate right of Russian authorities to receive information about a Russian citizen.  

 

Cyber security

 

- The British government has been constantly blaming Russia for various kinds of cyber attacks in the West, without presenting any evidence to support these claims.

- In February, the United Kingdom blamed the Russian Government for NotPetya cyber attacks of June 2017.

- More recently, Home Secretary Amber Rudd (11 April in Manchester) claimed that “over the past six months, the National Cyber Security Centre has responded to 49 incidents associated with Russian cyber groups”, which allegedly targeted the energy, telecoms and media sectors.

- In connection with the poisoning in Salisbury we have witnessed an unprecedented campaign in the UK calling upon the government to use its own offensive cyber capabilities against Russia.

- In recent days there have been numerous calls in the British media to prepare for an inevitable cyber attack from Russia.

- We are disappointed by the fact that such serious claims have been made publicly, without any proof being presented and without any attempt by the United Kingdom to clarify the situation with the Russian side in the first place.

- In December 2017, during Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s visit to Moscow, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov proposed to launch a serious dialogue on cybersecurity. Unfortunately, all our proposals have been ignored.

- Prime Minister Theresa May did not reject the possibility of a “deployment” of UK’s “offensive cyber capabilities” against Russia during her statement in the House of Commons on 14 March. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also failed to deny that in official correspondence, despite our direct requests.

- Impression grows that the British public is being prepared for a massive cyber attack by the UK against Russia, which will be presented as a response but will in fact constitute unprovoked use of force.




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