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UK says Russia 'targeted' Yulia Skripal email

By CECILY LIU | | Updated: 2018-04-14 03:08

Russia’s Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko expressed surprise over Britain’s accusation that Russian intelligence agencies had been monitoring the emails of a former double-spy’s daughter as early as 2013.

Yakovenko made his comment to media in London on Friday hours after UK National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill revealed that Britain believes Russian military intelligence agencies have targeted email accounts of Yulia Skripal
Former double agent Serge Skripal, who has lived in Britain since he was part of a spy swap in 2010, and his daughter Yulia were hospitalized on March 4 after being poisoned in Salisbury, southern England.

Britain and some other countries have blamed Russia for the act, but Russia denies any involvement.

On Thursday, the international chemical weapons watchdog Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons issued results of tests carried out by four affiliated laboratories, which “confirm the findings of the UK relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury”.

Previously, UK Prime Minister Theresa May had said the victims were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group, which Britain claims was developed by the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Yakovenko denied that Russia had ever produced or stockpiled Novichok nerve agents.

Russia has repeatedly pushed Britain for more transparency in its investigation process, but until Friday the UK has declined to publish fuller details of its case against Russia.

On Friday Sedwill said Russia has a “motive” for the attack, citing as evidence the suspected email account monitoring.

Sedwill made the accusation in a letter on Friday to the Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Other evidence cited in his letter include Britain’s belief that Russia holds a small stockpile of Novichok and that Russia has a track record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations.

“It is highly likely that the Russian state was responsible for the Salisbury attack. Only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and the motive,” Sedwell wrote.

Yakovenko rejected the new claims, saying: “If someone was spying, why were the British services not complaining about that. They always complain if something goes wrong. We didn’t see any signs, any applications from the British side that they are not happy with the way Skripals were living in Salisbury.”

Skripal remains seriously ill in a hospital while his daughter has been released. In a statement released by the police, she rejected overtures from Russian officials who want to speak to her.

Yakovenko accused Britain of having “abducted” the Skripals. “We cannot be sure that Yulia’s refusal to see us is genuine. We have every reason to see such actions as the abduction of two Russian nationals,” he said.

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