© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Russian diplomat Vassily Nebenzia
Russia lashed out at Britain tonight, warning: “You are playing with fire, and you’ll be sorry.”
Speaking at a special meeting of the UNSC, called by Moscow, permanent representative Vassily Nebenzia claimed the only way victims Sergey and Yulia Skripal could have survived a novichok attack was if an antidote was available nearby.
He told the council it was “lucky” that Porton Down, which he claimed was “well know for producing chemical weapons” was nearby.
Mr Nebenzia claimed Britain was waging a “coordinated campaign – prepared in advance – to discredit and delegitimize Russia.”
And he branded claims Russia was behind the attack, a “theatre of the absurd”, asking British representatives: “Couldn’t you come up with a better fake story?”
It comes as poisoning victim Yulia Skripal today said her strength is “growing daily” after the nerve agent attack which left her and her father in intensive care.
In her first comments since the shock chemical weapon atrocity, Russian citizen Yulia said the past month had been “somewhat disorientating”.
And British officials she had so far rejected the Kremlin’s offer of help.
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On a day of dramatic developments, Russia’s ambassador to the UK suggested Britain could be behind “strange” Russian deaths on UK soil.
Alexander Yakovenko denied the Kremlin was behind the Salisbury chemical weapon atrocity.
Speaking at a bizarre 90-minute press conference: “We are not trolling, we are puzzled.”
Meanwhile, UK spooks are confident they have pinpointed the location of the Russian chemical weapons lab that manufactured the nerve agent used in the attack.
A Whitehall source told The Times: “We knew pretty much by the time of the first Cobra (the emergency co-ordination briefing that took place the same week) that it was overwhelmingly likely to come from Russia.”
Security Minister Ben Wallace insisted it was beyond reasonable doubt that Russia was behind the assault.
He told the BBC: “That nerve agent has been identified as being manufactured, we believe, in Russia and we believe that the Novichok type of nerve agent is only capable of being produced by a nation state – and then we add that to intelligence we hold, we add that to some of the police investigations that’s going on right now, and we can say that roads lead to Russia, that we are beyond reasonable doubt of the view that the Russian state is behind this.”
He also said that while Jeremy Corbyn had seen more intelligence “than the average backbench MP” through a Privy Council briefing, the Labour leader had been denied access to some material.
He added: “The circle of who gets to see very sensitive information is very small because if you leak it or it gets out, people’s lives are put at risk.”
Labour accused Mr Wallace of “playing party politics” by suggesting Mr Corbyn could not be trusted.
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“This is completely irresponsible and another attempt by the Tories to deflect criticism from Boris Johnson’s blatant attempt to mislead the public,” a spokesman said.
“Ben Wallace should be acting in the national interest, not playing party politics with the country’s security.”
While the Kremlin stepped up efforts to undermine the UK’s case, Yulia Skripal revealed she was getting better following the March 4 attack.
In a statement issued by Scotland Yard, she said: “I woke up over a week ago now and am glad to say my strength is growing daily.
“I am grateful for the interest in me and for the many messages of goodwill that I have received.
“I have many people to thank for my recovery and would especially like to mention the people of Salisbury that came to my aid when my father and I were incapacitated.
“Further than that, I would like to thank the staff at Salisbury District Hospital for their care and professionalism.
“I am sure you appreciate that the entire episode is somewhat disorientating, and I hope that you’ll respect my privacy and that of my family during the period of my convalescence.”
Moscow has offered consular assistance to Yulia.
But a Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are pleased that Yulia’s condition has improved and paid tribute to the medical staff who have been treating her and Mr Skripal since they were attacked.
“We have conveyed to Ms Skripal the Russian Embassy’s offer of consular assistance.
“Ms Skripal is now able to choose if and when to take up this offer, but to date, she has not done so.”
Russian ambassador to London, Alexander Yakovenko denied that Russia had ever produced the nerve agent used in Salisbury.
He told a press conference at its London outpost: “The whole story about Novichok started in the United States in the ‘90s.
“It is nothing to do with Russia. We never produced it, we never had Novichok.
“This is a creation of some other countries and some scientists.”
And he raised fresh fears over the deaths of a string of Russian citizens on British soil over the past decade, some of which are set to be re-investigated by police.
Highlighting the March 12 killing of Nikolay Glushkov, 68, who was found dead at his home in south-west London after “compression to the neck”, the envoy said: “If we take the last 10 years, so many Russian citizens died here in the UK under very strange circumstances.
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“The last one was Glushkov.
“He was strangled – as it was said officially – on March 12.
“He was a Russian businessman – a Russian citizen, not a British citizen – and his case is also classified. We don’t have any access to the investigation, we don’t know anything. We want to know the truth.
“My question is ‘Why is it happening here?’.”
Earlier, Russia’s foreign minister blasted the probe into the Skripals’ poisoning – comparing it to a “fairy tale” from children’s fantasy book Alice in Wonderland.
Sergei Lavrov likened the “unsubstantiated accusations” against the Kremlin to a scene in Lewis Carroll’s classic novel.
He said: “In Carroll’s book, the Queen demands that first the accused be sentenced and then the jury will make their verdict.”
He added that “adult people do not believe in fairy tales.”
Mr Lavrov spoke out as US officials were pictured leaving their Moscow embassy after being booted out in the latest tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.
The envoys and their families, along with pets, were seen boarding coaches at their compound before setting off for the airport. (Mirror)