Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko's interview for "Salisbury Journal"
The Russian Ambassador said he stands together with the people of Salisbury in a meeting with the Journal last week, as the United States announced new sanctions against the country.
Speaking at his official residence in Kensington Palace Gardens on Thursday, Alexander Yakovenko said: “We are together with the people of Salisbury.”
And he said he wanted to tell the city that Russia “has nothing to do with” the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March: “We want to cooperate on that matter [the ongoing investigation] in order to find the truth and in order to protect the life of Russian citizens.
“In the long term, we are expecting Britain will punish the ones who did it. We really wish success to the investigation.”
And he expressed frustration over new sanctions imposed by the USA that day, after President Trump said he too believed Russia was behind the poisoning. Mr Yakovenko said: “Our diplomats who were summoned to the State Department asked, could they present any evidence or any facts? They were told that this information was classified.”
The Ambassador maintains that Russia will cooperate with the UK government’s investigation if evidence is shared with Moscow.
And he said the message from President Trump was “a gesture and political statement”, but that Britain “didn’t present any credible information to its allies”.
Mr Yakovenko said the amount of time the investigation, nearing its sixth month, was taking was putting Britain in “a difficult position”.
“From my point of view, certain things are being distorted,” he said. “There are so many stories but no facts.
“Many people believe, based on the newspapers, that it was done by Russia, and that’s completely unacceptable to us.”
Mr Yakovenko said Russia would need to see the “results of the investigation” in order to “know the real story”.
He said Theresa May’s assertions that the attack was carried out by Moscow was “just a political statement” as part of an “anti-Russian strategy” with no evidence to back it up.
“She said Russia is the only country that could produce this poison, it’s called A234, or they put the label Novichok.
“We said that any modern lab, all around the world, could make this type of poison,” he said, including Porton Down.
“The only thing that we’re asking is please present the evidence, and we’ll be happy to answer it.”
“We want to know the truth,” he said. “As I understand it the people of Salisbury who are suffering from that situation also want to know the truth.”
Mr Yakovenko said Russian citizens are also “keeping the story quite close to their hearts”.
He said he had received “no information” about the Skripals’ current condition, but said he believed they were “isolated”.
“We were told that they don’t want to see us,” he added, but said under law he had the right to meet with them and check they are not being put “under pressure” by the government.
“If we can do something together, I think everyone will be happy.”
“Once we understand where we stand, it will unfreeze the whole story. To solve the problem of Salisbury is in the interests of both countries.
“The job should be done together.”