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United Nations to hold special meeting on poisoning of former Russian spy

The Russian ambassadors is asking for the meeting after being shut out from a joint investigation at a chemical weapons watchdog

Mythili Sampathkumar
New York
Thursday 05 April 2018 02:19 BST

The United Nations is set to hold a special meeting on the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, UK.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called for the open meeting of the Security Council at the end of a meeting regarding chemical weapons use in the Syrian conflict. He said the use of such weapons anywhere "is not acceptable and must be investigated and perpetrators punished, and that impunity is unacceptable”.

The request for the meeting comes the same day the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) rejected Moscow’s request to in the loop regarding the investigation into the Salisbury nerve agent attack, which had left the small town reeling with fear about exposure. Russia has denied any involvement in the attack.

The Security Council meeting will take place later this week and appears to be another attempt for Russia to be involved in a joint investigation.

Syria’s Deputy Ambassador Mounzer Mounzer echoed the need for a call for the emergency meeting on the Salisbury incident as well. Russia has been accused previously of condoning the regime of President Bashar al Assad’s use of chemical sarin gas in attacks in Syria and having knowledge or proof of it.

Karen Pierce, the UK Ambassador to the UN, said at the same meeting that "it is not just through actions in Syria that Russia's disdain for the international system manifests itself. The poisoning in Salisbury of two people with a military grade nerve agent endangered anyone who chanced to be in the vicinity”.

The UK did not invite Russia to be part of the OPCW investigation, the results from which are expected to be made public next week.

Boris Johnson says Porton Down told him 'categorically' the Novichok nerve agent used in Salisbury came from Russia

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was quick and unwavering in her assessment of Russia’s role in the incident which had left the town of Salisbury a "ghost town" as The Independent previously reported.

She called it a "brazen" act, expelled 23 Russian diplomats, and cut high-level contact with Moscow for the attack on UK soil.

“We consider this hostile action as totally unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted,” the Russian Embassy to the UK said in a statement, adding that “all the responsibility for the deterioration of the Russia-UK relationship lies with the current political leadership of Britain.”

"Our lack of action has consequences. When we let one regime off the hook, others take notice," US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said, adding that "the use of nerve agents in Salisbury and Kuala Lumpur proves this point and reveals a dangerous trend."

US President Donald Trump’s initial comments were not so forceful. It was not until after US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said during a prior Security Council meeting that the US "stands in absolute solidarity" with the UK, that the White House issued a statement echoing the sentiment.

Mr Trump then later said that it "certainly looks like the Russians were behind" the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in the UK.

"That is very sad," Mr Trump said about the incident, adding that it was "something that should never, ever happen and we're taking it very seriously". Mr Trump’s move to expel 60 Russian diplomats and close the consulate in Seattle, Washington, closely followed US sanctions placed on 19 Russian nationals, including President Vladimir Putin’s personal chef, for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US election.

Mr Skripal and his daughter remain in critical condition and have likely suffered brain damage according to doctors.

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