Russian Federation sensationally claims Skripals are 'being held prisoner' by the UK

Hannah Rogers
April 14, 2018

It published the unusual allegations in an 8,000-word report on the incident after the Kremlin was accused of using a military grade nerve agent in Salisbury, on March 4.

Russia's ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, said on Friday that the claims that his country's intelligence agencies spied on the Skripals were a "big surprise", but added that he had not yet seen Sedwill's letter.

The report concluded: 'The situation around the Skripals looks more and more like a forcible detention or imprisonment'.

Sir Mark Sedwill, the prime minister's national security adviser, said Russia had been testing nerve agents on door handles - which is how police suspect the pair were poisoned - and email accounts belonging to Yulia Skripal had been targeted by Russian intelligence as far back as 2013.

In his letter, Sir Mark argued that only Russian Federation had the "technical means, operational experience and the motive" to carry out such an attack.

The codeword for the offensive chemical weapons programme (of which Novichoks were one part) was FOLIANT.

"The British Government still hasn't produced any evidence in support of its position that would confirm their official version", he told a news conference at the Russian embassy in London.

He said Moscow had a proven record of state-sponsored assassinations and had tested ways of delivering chemical weapons, including the use of door handles to spread nerve agents, as Britain believes was done in the Skripal case.

On March 4, Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russian Federation of spying for Great Britain, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury.

Yulia Skripal, 33, has been released from the hospital.

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Sir Mark said Russian Federation had a "proven record of conducting state-sponsored assassination" and that it was "highly likely" some defectors may be regarded as "legitimate targets".

In his letter, Sedwill outlines how the Soviet Union "developed a new class of "fourth generation" nerve agents, known as Novichoks" during the 1980s and Russian Federation was probably the only former Soviet republic to pursue "an offensive chemical weapons programme after independence".

The Soviet Union developed fourth-generation nerve agents known as Novichoks in the 1980s, Sedwill said.

He said cyber specialists from the GRU - Russian military intelligence - targeted Yulia's email accounts as far back as 2013.

Russia's ambassador to the United Kingdom said the claim that Russian intelligence had been interested in the Skripals since at least 2013 came as a "big surprise".

Russian Federation has continued to deny any involvement in the poisoning of the former spy and his daughter, asking for further investigation into what Sir Mark describes as an attack. Her father remains in the hospital but British health officials say he is improving.

The letter comes as British officials try to consolidate European support for united actions against Russian Federation. It demanded access to her and prodded Britain to share evidence in the case.

"I want to underline: the OPCW only has confirmed the composition of the chemical agent", he said.

Police officers guard the cordoned off area around the home of former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, Britain, April 3, 2018.

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