Czech foreign minister rejects Russia's nerve toxin origin claim

Kommersant  Yuri Senatorov via Reuters FILE

Earlier Russia made a decision to expel 23 British diplomats as a reaction to Britain's actions.

Ahead of the vote, a new crisis broke out with the West as Britain implicated Putin in the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal with a Soviet-designed nerve agent.

When Moscow finally made its announcement Saturday, it went slightly beyond strictly reciprocal measures.

British ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, leaves after a meeting at the Russian foreign ministry building in Moscow, Russia, Saturday, March 17, 2018. Russian Federation has consistently denied any culpability, accusing Britain of refusing to hand over samples of the poison used.

Greenblatt suggested that Putin's comments sounded as if it was ripped from the pages of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", a text that, according to the New York Times, was mentioned in Russian Federation numerous times in the 19th century as anti-Semitic propaganda.

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Russian Federation has called the charges "groundless accusations" and says British authorities have refused to provide samples of the nerve agent used.

The Russian ministry also said it was ordering the British Council in Russia to cease operation and that a British consulate in St. Petersburg would not reopen.

"But Russia's response doesn't change the facts of the matter - the attempted assassination of two people on British soil, for which there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable", she said.

Asked whether he was saying that Porton Down was responsible, Chizhov replied: "I don't know". The pair remain in critical condition.

Soon after the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury, the British government accused Moscow of poisoning them with a powerful chemical nerve agent known as Novichok.

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July 2007: Britain expelled four Russian diplomats and hit Moscow with visa restrictions after Moscow refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the main suspect in the murder of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.

"This crisis has arisen as a result of an appalling attack" in the United Kingdom involving "a chemical weapon developed in Russian Federation and not declared by Russian Federation at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, as Russian Federation was and is obliged to do", Bristow told reporters in televised comments as he left the ministry.

"We said it right away", he said. Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky called it an "absurd accusation".

"That's making a lot of people anxious, more worried than it was before", said Russian exile and former cell phone magnate Yevgeny Chichvarkin.

Russia's attacking the wrong target with its "misguided" decision to close the council, Clementine Cecil, executive director of the Pushkin House center in London, which promotes Russian culture, wrote on Facebook.

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Putin, who has ruled Russian Federation for nearly two decades, stood against seven other candidates, but his most vocal critic Alexei Navalny was barred from the ballot for legal reasons and the final outcome was never in doubt. Their joint statement said there was "no plausible alternative explanation" to Russian Federation being to blame for the attack.

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