Moscow: Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov today said statements by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tying Russian President Vladimir Putin to the attack on an ex-double agent were “shocking and unforgivable”.
Mentioning Putin in the context of Sergei Skripal’s poisoning “is nothing but shocking and unforgivable behaviour from the point of view of diplomacy,” Peskov said.
Speaking of Putin, Johnson on Friday said: “We think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War.”
But Peskov repeated that “Russia has nothing to do with this story,” in comments carried by Russian news agencies.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia are in critical condition after being exposed to a Soviet-designed nerve agent on 4 March in the English city of Salisbury.
Earlier Friday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had said the alliance did not want a return to Cold War hostilities with Russia while expressing support for Britain’s strong stance on the nerve agent attack.
He said the targeting of former double agent Sergei Skripal fit a “pattern of reckless behaviour” to which the US-led military alliance had responded, but insisted political dialogue must also continue.
“We don’t want a new Cold War, we don’t want a new arms race, Russia is our neighbour therefore we have to continue to strive for an improved better relationship with Russia,” he told BBC Radio.
He noted that NATO allies have in recent years imposed economic sanctions on Kremlin and deployed more troops in eastern Europe in response to the “changed security situation”.
But he stressed: “To isolate Russia is not an alternative.”
He added: “At some point, Russia will understand that it is in its interests not to confront us but to cooperate with us, and we are ready to do so if they respect some basic norms and rules for international behaviour.”
NATO has backed Britain following the March 4 attack in the southwestern English city of Salisbury, which left Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition.
“We have no reason to doubt the findings and assessments made by the British government, not least because this takes place at the backdrop of a pattern of reckless behaviour by Russia over many years,” Stoltenberg said.
The cautionary remarks by the NATO secretary general followed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s statement that Moscow would expel British diplomats in response to London’s move to kick out 23 Russian officials.