Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov © Alexander Zemlianichenko / Reuters
The UK’s failure to send a request to Moscow over the Skripal case via Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) channels points to a lack of legal basis for a proper investigation, Russia’s Foreign Minister said.
“The fact, that they [UK officials] categorically rejects to file an official request and deliberately and arrogantly fan anti-Russian rhetoric in the public sphere bordering on hysteria, indicates that they clearly understand they have no formal pretext to go down a legal road,” Lavrov said on Friday, referring to the British authorities’ allegations that Russia, and, notably, President Vladimir Putin, were behind the plot to poison the former double agent and his daughter.
Instead, UK officials have tried to "move all this to the sphere of political rhetoric, to Russophobia in the hope that, as it was in many other cases, the West will align,” Lavrov said.
The Russian top diplomat argued that British PM Theresa May’s accusatory tirade in the Parliament, as well as the summoning of the Russian ambassador in the Foreign Office, cannot serve as a substitute for the formal proceedings envisaged in the Convention for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Claims made by British authorities to the contrary are “absolutely illiterate,” Lavrov stressed, noting that the UK must file an official request in writing if it genuinely seeks to elicit the truth. For the moment being, Russia is still waiting for British authorities to submit such a request under the framework of the convention, he said.
The fact that the UK government is unwilling to question its own snap judgments should be a cause for concern in a society that prides itself as a democracy, Lavrov said. He was referring to the outrage that was sparked by Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn when he was heckled by the MP after he cautioned them against drawing instant conclusions in the case and asked for concrete evidence of Russia’s culpability.
“So I think the right approach is to seek the evidence; to follow international treaties, particularly in relation to prohibited chemical weapons, because this was a chemical weapons attack, carried out on British soil,” Corbyn’s spokesman said following the debate, which led to him being ostracized by the media.
On Thursday, Corbyn doubled down on his dissent, writing an op-ed for the Guardian that said: “To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security.”