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Russian Embassy lashes out at UK government over investigation into poisoned spy

In a 2011 photo, Queen Elizabeth II receives current Ambassador of the Russian Federation, Alexander Yakovenko at Buckingham Palace in London. The Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom sharply criticized the U.K. government for demanding that the Russian Federation explain how its nerve agent wound up poisoning a former spy on British soil. (2011 file photo/Lewis Whyld - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In a news release and a series of tweets, the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom sharply criticized the U.K. government for demanding that the Russian Federation explain how its nerve agent wound up poisoning a former spy on British soil.

British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the Russian ambassador on Monday to explain his country’s role in the situation by the end the day Tuesday.

The embassy called May’s demands “evidence free” and “a clear provocation.” The Russians also raised suspicions about the honesty of British investigators and threatened a response to any “punitive” measures taken by the U.K. “The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the U.K. authorities to discredit Russia,” the statement added.

The news release was also tweeted out by the embassy, with a series of illustrative images for each of the seven tweets in the series. The tweet about “punitive” measures contained a diagram of a bouncing ball that read “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” The tweet about the “crooked attempt to discredit Russia” had a big circle with a slash through it and the words “FAKE NEWS” with a question mark.

The embassy also demanded that British investigators hand over samples of the nerve agent, citing the Chemical Weapons Convention guidelines.

What's the back story?

Russian defector Col. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on a bench outside an English shopping mall on March 4. The two had been poisoned by a nerve agent that was later revealed to be Russian made Novichok. Novichok had been developed by the Russian government during the 1970s and 1980s. Nerve agents like Novichok are difficult to produce, which often keeps them out of the hands of criminals and terrorist groups.

Earlier in the investigation, the Russian Embassy tweeted that Skripal should be referred to as a “British spy” rather than a Russian one, and accused the U.K. government of covering up the details of similar incidents in the past. Skripal was a Russian military intelligence officer before defecting and passing information to MI6.

In a speech before Parliament Monday, May laid out her rationale for accusing Russia of “likely” being behind the attack. The nerve agent was “a type developed in Russia,” she argued, adding that “Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations, and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations” was also a factor in the decision.

May explained that there were only two ways that this attack with a Russian-made nerve agent could have taken place: “Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent, and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

She then said that she had asked the foreign secretary to summon the Russian ambassador  “and asked him to explain which of these two possibilities it is.”

Since May's announcement, both the European Union and President Donald Trump have voiced their support for the United Kingdom in its handling of this attack.

“It sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all the evidence they have,” Trump said to reporters this morning. “As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be."

One last thing…
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