Kremlin condemns British ambassador’s decision to skip spy briefing

FILE PHOTO - British Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow leaves the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow, Russia March 17, 2018. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The Kremlin said on Wednesday that a decision by the British ambassador to skip a Russian briefing on the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain showed London was unwilling to listen to Moscow’s side of the story.

The nerve agent attack in England has plunged ties between London and Moscow into their worst crisis since the Cold War. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack, something Moscow denies, and both have expelled diplomats in the standoff.

A British embassy spokesman said on Wednesday that the UK ambassador, Laurie Bristow, would not attend the briefing with arms controls experts at the Russian Foreign Ministry, but that London was considering sending someone else.

“It’s another vivid example of the absurd situation when questions are asked and an unwillingness to hear even any answers is demonstrated,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

Russia, which has so far refused to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent first developed by the Soviet military, was used to strike down Skripal, had invited foreign ambassadors to attend the briefing later on Wednesday to discuss the case.

It was unclear who, if anyone, Britain would send.

“The ambassador will not attend and we are considering whether to send a representative at working level,” a British embassy spokesman said.

Russian news agencies reported that other ambassadors, including that of the United States and France, would not attend either.

Speaking on a visit to Japan, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Wednesday that Russia wanted Britain to tell it where Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were currently located.

Lavrov said Moscow also wanted to know why the British government had accused Russia of responsibility when the police investigation into the Salisbury incident was incomplete.

“Overall there is no doubt that the current British leadership has consciously taken a course to undermine Russian-British relations,” Lavrov said at a news conference with his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono in Tokyo, according to a transcript on the Russian foreign ministry website.

“If this will continue in the form of any tangible new anti-Russian actions then of course nobody has cancelled the principle of reciprocity. It would be good for everyone and for (the British government) if they stopped getting agitated and calmed down.”

Additional reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Editing by Richard Balmforth