Russian spy chief said UK is using Skripal case to ‘distract from shameful exit from Afghanistan’
A Russian spy chief has accused Britain of using the Novichok attack to deflect from the UK’s shambolic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On Tuesday, a third Russian – Denis Sergeev, also known as Sergey Fedotov – was charged in absentia with the 2018 attack that led to the death of a woman called Dawn Sturgess, who unknowingly put the nerve agent novichok on her skin.
In 2018, two other Russians – Alexander Mishkin, alias Alexander Petrov, and Anatoliy Chepiga, alias Ruslan Boshirov – were charged with conspiracy to murder double agent Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and a British police officer in Salisbury.
Britain has said the three men were Russian military intelligence operatives.
Metropolitan Police deputy assistant commissioner Dean Haydon told a press conference this week that the three men had come to the UK in two groups Petrov and Boshirov together, Fedotov by himself – and met in London to plot their plan to “deploy novichok to kill people in this country.”
The incident and subsequent charges led to one of the biggest rows between Russia and Western nations since the Cold War, with diplomats being expelled on both sides after Britain blamed Moscow for the attack.
Russia has continued to deny involvement.
Now, Sergey Naryshkin, the head of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), is reported to have said that Britain’s moves to prosecute the three Russians could be an “attempt to distract the public from the shameful exit from Afghanistan, primarily by the United States and its allies.”
He said: “In my view, it is an attempt to use another lie to cover up or support a previous lie.
“Besides, given the recent developments in Afghanistan, it’s also perhaps an attempt to distract the public from the shame, the escape of primarily US troops and their allies, including the UK, from Afghanistan.
“It’s an attempt to distract the public from the fact that NATO is no longer able to maintain security in various parts of the world.”
Last month, the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan amid the West’s chaotic withdrawal from the country and its extremely disorganises evacuation of Afghan allies amid deadly Isis attacks on the airport in Kabul.
Mr Naryshkin is also reported by Interfax news agency to have said: “This is an attempt to cover up another lie or to support a previous lie.”
It comes after Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that Britain was using the poisoning case to deliberately sabotage UK-Russia ties.