Embassy response to Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s remarks at the Andrew Marr Show, 9 September 2018

Sajid Javid: This [the Salisbury incident] was the act, we now know unequivocally, crystal clear, this was the act of the Russian state.

Comment: If Mr Javid has evidence that allows him to make this kind of direct accusations, why wouldn’t he share it with the public? So far, what the public has seen is nothing but photos of two Eastern-European-looking men walking around Salisbury on two different days. Everything else, including exact dates and names, let alone these gentlemen’s involvement in the Skripals poisoning and their links to the Russian state, is only assertions based on unverifiable “intelligence” and on the “lack of alternative explanations”. If the “crystal clear”-level evidence exists, it is in everyone’s interest for it to be published.

Sajid Javid: Russia is against the International Rules-Based System. The same system by the way that since the end of the Second World War has brought us prosperity and peace, relative peace throughout the world. Russia doesn’t like that system.

Comment: The “international rules-based system” is not what was agreed at the end of the Second World War. It is a recent invention by the West aimed at distorting the real UN-centered international system based on International Law. The notion of a “rules-based system” allows Western countries to pick and choose whatever “rules” suit them (regardless of whether they have been agreed universally, regionally or have only been proposed) and to try to make them pass for something universally recognized. 

For its part, Russia has always been, and remains, a staunch supporter of International Law as agreed between all states. We cherish the unique legitimacy of the United Nations, as opposed to the numerous “global alliances” and “groups of friends” created by proponents of the “rules-based system” in order to achieve aims which don’t find enough support at the UN.

The difference between the universally accepted International Law and the “rules-based system” is well known to the people of Iraq, Libya or Syria: where International Law would have protected them from armed aggression, the “rules-based system” has, on the contrary, encouraged foreign intervention under false pretexts and with disastrous consequences. It may have brought “peace and prosperity” to “us”, as Mr Javidputs it, i.e. to the West. But for many, it has only brought war and devastation.

So the Home Secretary is right: Russia does not like the “rules-based system” as long as that systemaims at arbitrarily dismantling International Law, agreed and developed by all states ever since the Second World War. 

Sajid Javid: We have enormous capability to defend ourselves. […] We have considerable powers and we’ll bring all those powers, both covert and overt to bear on Russia and what it represents today.

Comment: Mr Javid knows full well that Russia represents no threat from which Britain needs to be defended. We don’t intend to kill British people, to grab British territories, to harm British infrastructure, to disrupt British trade. It is a pity that more and moremembers of the UK Government and Parliament are joining the large-scale anti-Russian propaganda campaign which essentially intimidates the British people. This is another Project Fear, aimed at securing popular support for the Conservative Government, budgetary allocations for defence, and UK’s continued standing in NATO and vis-à-vis EU partnersat risk because of Brexit.

At the same time, Mr Javid and the whole Government must realize the unhelpful nature of their provocative rhetoric which may be seen as preparing the public for aggressive actions against Russia under the disguise of “defending ourselves”. It is worth recalling that back in March, we invited the UK Government to confirm that they are not planning cyber attacks against Russia. No such confirmation has been forthcoming. 

Sajid Javid: Russia has no extradition treaty with the UK. It has a history of not extraditing its citizens.

Comment: This is a relatively minor point, but one that aptly demonstrates the level of competence of the British government and civil service. 

Actually, Russia and the UK do have an extradition treaty. It is called the European Convention on Extradition, 1957. It does not only exist on paper but is a working instrument, with the two countries occasionally extraditing suspects to each other (even if the level of UK’s compliance with Russia’s extradition requests leaves much to be desired). 

True,Russia does not extradite its own citizens. That is not because we have “a history” of refusing to do so, but because this is directly prohibited by the Russian Constitution, in the chapter on human rights that cannot be amended except through adoption of a fully new Constitution. 

Yet, this does not preclude Russia-UK cooperation on a particular criminal case, even when the suspects are Russian. Alongside the European Convention on Extradition, there exists the European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, 1959. Assistance under that Convention might include taking evidence from a witness, servicing a writ etc. We fail to understand why the UK excludes the possibility of seeking Russian cooperation within the framework of that Convention. This would be the natural course of action for a country genuinely interested in a progress of its investigation. 

Furthermore, given that competent Russian authorities have opened a criminal case of their own, the existing cooperation framework might lead to suspects being brought to court in Russia. Quite obviously, this is impossible without evidence being transferred from the UK to Russia. Again, the Britishrefusal to explore this avenue only testifies to the lack of evidence capable of standing up to judicial scrutiny.