PARIS, (BSS/AFP) – Since the poisoning of Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England on March 4, a war of words has escalated between London and Moscow.
Here are some of the key fiery declarations:
– ‘Circus number’ –
On March 12 British Prime Minister Theresa May tells parliament it is “highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act”. She gives Moscow 24 hours to explain.
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova describes May’s intervention as a “circus number before the British Parliament”.
A day later Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Moscow is “not guilty” and the British claim “is yet another dirty attempt by British authorities to discredit Russia”.
– Russia ‘culpable’ –
“There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter,” May says on March 14.
“Many of us looked at a post-Soviet Russia with hope. We wanted a better relationship and it is tragic that President (Vladimir) Putin has chosen to act in this way,” she adds.
She announces the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats, the suspension of high-level diplomatic contact with Moscow and says she will keep royals at home during the 2018 football World Cup.
Russia’s foreign ministry slams London’s “choice for confrontation”, adding retaliation will follow shortly.
– ‘Shocking and unforgivable’ –
On March 16, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says “we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was (Putin’s) 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”.
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says the accusation against Putin is “shocking and unforgivable from the point of view of diplomacy”. – ‘Haystack of lies’ –
On March 18, in his first direct comments on the incident and after winning a fourth term as president, Putin describes the British accusations as “complete drivel, rubbish, nonsense that somebody in Russia would allow themselves to do such a thing ahead of elections and the World Cup”.
A day later Johnson responds that Moscow’s denials are growing “increasingly absurd”.
“This is a classic Russian strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation.”
– ‘Island mentality’ –
On March 21, as the war of words escalates, senior Russian diplomat Vladimir Yermakov says “the British authorities are either unable to ensure protection from such a…terrorist attack on its territory, or they directly or indirectly — I am not accusing anyone of anything here — directed the attack on a Russian national.”
Yermakov also criticises Britain’s “Russophobia”.
“Pull yourselves away a little bit from your Russophobia, your island mentality… I am ashamed for you,” he says in response to a question from a British official at a briefing on the affair to representatives of foreign diplomatic missions.
The British embassy in Moscow responds via Twitter that “Russia continues to spread lies & disinformation.”
Johnson agrees with a suggestion that Putin would exploit hosting the 2018 football World Cup as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler did the Berlin Games.
“I think the comparison with 1936 is certainly right,” he tells a committee of MPs.