Embassy comment on the refusal by the UK to fulfil Russian requests for legal assistance in the Skripals poisoning case

After numerous reminders, on 25 September, the Embassy received a reply from the Home Office informing us of a refusal to fulfil the requests for legal assistance made by the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation on 29 March and 17 April. The requests were made within the framework of the investigation of the criminal case opened in Russia following the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

In refusing cooperation, the UK is referring to Article 2(b) of the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. According to that article, assistance may be refused if the requested Party considers that execution of the request is likely to prejudice the sovereignty, security, ordre public or other essential interests of its country. The Home Office letter specifies that the decision was taken at the highest political level.

In practice, this means that the UK is refusing to provide the Russian investigation with any information or evidence gathered by British Police when working on the Salisbury incident. This position has now been officially approved at the highest level and acquired a legal form. We would like to remind that earlier the British authorities had announced that they did not intend to pursue extradition of the “suspects” and made it clear that they were not interested in submitting their own requests for legal assistance, which could be provided by means of interrogation of certain persons, provision of access to documents, etc.

Such position of the British authorities does not allow to bring the investigation to its logical end in either the Russian or the British legal framework.

Thus, the British side has confirmed that from the very beginning the aims of its campaign around the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal lay exclusively in the field of politics and propaganda. It has nothing to do with aspiration to establish the truth and bring those responsible to justice. The fact that the decision to refuse the legal assistance has been made at the highest level is jet another evidence of political control being exercised over the investigation.

The refusal to fulfill the request of the Office of the Prosecutor General amounts to another violation by the UK of its obligations under international law. London continues to forcefully detain Sergei and Yulia Skripal, deny their rights, including the freedom of movement, speech, contacts with relatives, in violation of the universally recognized human rights standards. The Russian side has been denied a consular access to the Skripals in violation of the existing Consular conventions. The investigation has been classified in violation of the principle of freedom of press and the right of the public to get access to information. Meanwhile, the accusations, not supported by proof, are used to whip up anti-Russian hysteria in the UK and are aimed at isolating our country on the international arena.

We are convinced that responsible members of the international community will judge the current policy of the Conservative government towards Russia on its merits. It illustrates the real value of official statements on UK’s leading role in supporting the “rules-based international order”, as well as those regarding a “Global Britain” striving for constructive cooperation with the outside world. after “Brexit”.