Charges Part of ‘Post-Truth World’ Moscow’s Representative Asserts
The United Kingdom’s delegate, in an emergency session today, briefed the Security Council on her country’s decision to bring charges against two nationals of the Russian Federation in connection with the reported Salisbury nerve agent attack, prompting the latter to reject those allegations as a vehicle for “anti‑Russian hysteria” and part of a “post-truth world” crafted by Western countries.
“We have clear evidence of Russian State involvement in what happened in Salisbury,” said Karen Pierce (United Kingdom), outlining new information recently announced by an independent investigation carried out in her country. Reviewing the events in Salisbury in March — during which Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, along with one other individual, were found unconscious and the Novichok nerve agent was identified as the cause of their condition — she said that, in July, another couple came into contact with a counterfeit perfume bottle and similarly fell ill. One of them died as a result of her exposure.
Since that time, she said, prosecutors have concluded that enough evidence exists to bring charges against two nationals of the Russian Federation — identified as officers of the Russian Military Intelligence Service — including on conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal, attempted murder and the illegal possession of the Novichok agent. Listing evidence including closed‑circuit television footage, photographs and chemicals founds in the men’s hotel room, she said a European arrest warrant and an International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Red Notice have been issued for the suspects. She also condemned the Russian Federation, a permanent Council member, for having “played dice with the lives of the people of Salisbury” instead of upholding critical international norms.
The representative of the Russian Federation said those allegations only amount to more lies on the part of the United Kingdom’s delegation. Emphasizing that Moscow has sent numerous requests to the United Kingdom inviting cooperation on the investigation — which London has only refused — he stressed that British authorities care little about the real facts of the case. In fact, they only seek to sow anti-Russian hysteria. Citing inconsistencies in the new allegations, he said it remains impossible to know the real names of the suspects and therefore whether they are connected to the Russian Military Intelligence Service. The charges are yet another part of the “post-truth world” crafted by Western countries, he stressed, rejecting today’s sensational disclosures, as well as all unfounded allegations about his Government’s involvement in the Salisbury events.
Several other Council members, condemning the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances, voiced their support for the findings of the British investigation. France’s representative, extending his country’s solidarity with the United Kingdom, commended that Government and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) for the way in which the investigation was conducted. “The facts are clear,” he said, noting that such an operation as the one in Salisbury could only be launched and approved at a very high level of the Russian State. The use of chemical weapons cannot be considered an option at the beginning of the twenty-first century, he stressed, voicing support for the development of a European Union sanctions regime to prevent the proliferation of such materials.
The representative of Sweden called on the Russian Federation to change course and fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation and prosecution. Agreeing that the latest information from the British investigation provides further evidence of the high likelihood of the Russian Federation’s responsibility for the attack, he reiterated his country’s strong condemnation of the use of a nerve agent on British soil. “Once again, in this Chamber, we condemn in the strongest terms all use of chemical weapons, strictly prohibited under international law,” he said.
Bolivia’s delegate struck a different tone, joining those speakers who emphasized the need for restraint in levying accusations against Council members. Reiterating the need for a transparent, apolitical and impartial investigation into the Salisbury incident, she warned against “slinging allegations” in the Chamber and called on the concerned parties to use diplomatic channels to ensure mutual cooperation and dialogue to resolve the issue.
Also speaking were representatives of Peru, Poland, Kuwait, Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, China, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea and the United States.
The meeting began at 11:38 a.m. and ended at 12:55 p.m.
KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), recalling that the Security Council last met on the Salisbury incident on 18 April, said further significant conclusions have now been reached in that case. Reviewing the March events — during which Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, along with one other individual, were found unconscious in Salisbury and the Novichok nerve agent was identified as the cause of their condition — she said that, in July, another couple came into contact with a counterfeit perfume bottle in Salisbury and similarly fell ill. One of them, Dawn Sturges, sadly died as a result of her exposure.
Noting that the high purity of the nerve agent indicates that it was likely made by a State, she said the substances in the two Salisbury cases have now been identified to be identical. In the United Kingdom, where the police act independently from the Government, investigators carried out painstaking and methodical work. Prosecutors from the Crown Prosecution Service Counter Terrorism Division have considered those finding and have concluded that enough evidence exists to bring charges against two nationals of the Russian Federation, namely: conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal; the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey; use and possession of the Novichok agent contrary to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention; and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey. The investigation into the murder of Ms. Sturges remains ongoing.
Closed‑circuit television footage identified the arrival of the Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, and photographs put them at the site of the nerve agent attack, she continued, adding that evidence of the substance was also found in their hotel room. The two individuals have been identified as officers from the Russian Military Intelligence Service, known as the GRU, and arrest warrants have been issued, despite the fact they are no longer in the United Kingdom. As the Russian Federation does not permit the extradition of Russian nationals, a European Union arrest warrant has also been issued, as well as an International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) Red Notice. Should the two ever travel within the European Union, they will be apprehended and arrested. “We have clear evidence of Russian State involvement in what happened in Salisbury,” as well as the use of chemical weapons, she said, which clearly violates several international prohibitions.
Citing a clear pattern of malign behaviour by the Russian Federation oversees, including perpetrating serious cyberattacks and interfering in democratic elections, she said the Council’s permanent members bear a particular responsibility to uphold critical international norms. One such member, however, has failed to do so, but rather “played dice with the lives of the people of Salisbury” by attempting to invert the international norms that have kept the world safe since 1945. Summarizing steps that should now be taken, she said the international community must work to strengthen the Chemical Weapons Convention and strengthen the capability of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to uphold its terms. Established methods, including sanctions, should be used against those who violate such important international treaties. While the United Kingdom has no quarrel with the Russian people, it will not hesitate to defend itself when attacked in such a brazen manner. “We protect our citizens,” she underscored.
GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), expressing deep concern over the use of a nerve agent in a public place and noting that it had led to the deaths of multiple people while also putting others at risk, condemned any use of chemical weapons. He underscored that such actions constituted a threat to international peace and security and called on all the concerned parties to cooperate fully with the investigation. Further, it was necessary to identify the people responsible and punish them, in line with international laws.
FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France), extending solidarity with the United Kingdom in the wake of the hostile actions that took place in March, commended the British Government and OPCW for the way in which the investigation was conducted. “The facts are clear,” he said, stressing that such an operation could only be launched and approved at a very high level of the Russian State. The use of chemical weapons cannot be considered an option at the beginning of the twentieth century. The majority of the international community shares those concerns, he emphasized, including France, which was committed to protecting the regime on chemical weapons. He encouraged the European Union to develop a sanctions regime to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons.
JOANNA WRONECKA (Poland), expressing solidarity with the British people and their Government, condemned the unprecedented attack, “the first of this kind in Europe after [the Second World War]”. Calling on the Russian Federation to extend full cooperation with the British Government and OPCW, she said that her country had full confidence in the professionalism of the British police and investigating authorities. The actions taken by that country constitute a significant step towards ensuring that use of chemical weapons will not be left unanswered, she emphasized.
MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait), condemning the use of chemical weapons by anyone at any time, said those perpetrating such crimes must be held to full account. Kuwait joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997, he said, expressing full confidence in OPCW in investigating the use of such weapons and identifying the perpetrators. All States must uphold international norms, he stressed, urging all concerned parties to fully cooperate with investigators.
LISE GREGOIRE VAN HAAREN (Netherlands), voicing her condemnation of the use of chemical weapons anytime, anywhere and under any circumstances, emphasized that the issuing of criminal charges is an important step that “brings us closer to establishing the full truth, so that justice can be served”. She expressed full confidence in the investigation carried out by the British authorities and in the fairness and impartiality of the British justice system. Now that the perpetrators of this horrendous act have been identified, she called on all States to cooperate to ensure that the two suspects have their day in court in the United Kingdom and to bring the full truth to light about how the attack was carried out. On 22 March, European leaders agreed unanimously with the assessment of the British Government about the responsibility of the Russian Federation. This assessment has now been confirmed by the criminal investigation, which has led to criminal charges against two Russian nations.
DESIRE WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), reiterating his delegation’s strong condemnation of chemical weapons use by any one — whether at a time of war or peace — said the Skripal affair demonstrates the need to strictly comply with international rules prohibiting the stockpiling of such weapons. Voicing support for the work of OPCW, he called upon Member State to preserve unity with the Council despite the matter’s contentious nature.
OLOF SKOOG (Sweden) called on the Russian Federation to change course and fully cooperate with the ongoing investigation and prosecution. This latest information from the British investigation provides further evidence of the high likelihood of Russian Federation’s responsibility for the attack. He reiterated his country’s strong condemnation of the use of a nerve agent on British soil and expressed full solidarity with that country. “Once again, in this chamber, we condemn in the strongest term all use of chemical weapons, strictly prohibited under international law,” he stated.
ZHANG DIANBIN (China), expressing his country’s categorical opposition to the use of chemical weapons by any State or individual for whatever purpose, voiced support for a comprehensive and fair investigation of the alleged incident. The relevant issue should be handled in accordance with the procedures of the Chemical Weapons Convention, he stressed, adding that a widely accepted conclusion on who is responsible was not yet available. The parties concerned should work on a basis of mutual respect and resolve the issue through dialogue. Encouraging the parties to avoid politicization of the incident, he encouraged the members of the Council to be united in a common effort to maintain international peace.
KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan), expressing appreciation for the United Kingdom’s diligent work and information sharing, said that any review of the available results of the British investigation would take more time. It is difficult to arrive at an objective assessment with regard to the conclusions, he said, requesting more concrete data before reaching any conclusions. While actions should be taken, decisions should not be taken with haste, he cautioned, encouraging the Council to remain consistent in acting on solid facts and take transparent decisions.
MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia), taking note of the statements and documents circulated in the Council on 5 September, condemned the use of chemical weapons by any country or non-State actor. While that constituted a serious violation of international law, there are still a number of issues that require further clarification. “We do not have all the necessary information,” she said, adding that cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Russian Federation was absolutely vital and should be done in good faith.
VERÓNICA CORDOVA SORIA (Bolivia), reiterating the need for a transparent, apolitical and impartial investigation into the Salisbury incident, said the parties involved must use diplomatic channels to ensure mutual cooperation and dialogue. She also warned against “slinging allegations” in the Council Chamber, in particular without any appropriate basis.
ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), strongly condemning the Salisbury attack, said his delegation stands in solidarity with the United Kingdom and the victims’ families. The parties involved should exercise restraint and try to reach a resolution to the issue with an aim to upholding the principles of the United Nations Charter, he said.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said he still has not heard any convincing evidence relating to the Salisbury incident, but only further lies about double agents, cyberattacks and the development of military grade chemical agents, among others. On 5 September, it was learned that photographs of individuals — who allegedly have Russian last names and work for the GRU — were provided by British authorities. The United Kingdom claims that it does not seek extradition of those individuals from the Russian Federation, nor does it plan to cooperate with his country. “We have been calling London to cooperate,” he said, emphasizing that the United Kingdom authorities refuse to comply with that request. In fact, they only seek to sow anti-Russian hysteria, not to follow through with a real investigation. Citing several inconsistencies in London’s allegations — including the fact that transporting a Novichok agent in an ordinary perfume bottle would be absolutely impossible — he said the new allegations levied by the United Kingdom are just as false as the last round.
Emphasizing that the real names of the two suspects identified by the United Kingdom are unknown, he said it is, therefore, impossible to know if they work for the GRU. In addition, British authorities failed to provide his delegation with crucial information about the suspects, including fingerprints obtained when they entered the country. Decrying the new allegations as yet another part of the “post-truth world” crafted by Western countries, he outlined some of the real facts of the case, noting that OPCW experts have not been able to determine the source of the Novichok agent found in March. That should have been the end of the situation, as London lacks any clear evidence of who is guilty. Rejecting today’s sensational disclosures, as well as all unfounded allegations of the Russian Federation’s involvement in the April incident, he called on the United Kingdom to act with moderation. The Russian Federation has never developed, stockpiled or used chemical weapons including the so-called Novichok agent, which was in fact developed and even named by Western countries, he said.
NIKKI R. HALEY (United States), condemning the use of chemical weapons in Salisbury or anywhere else, said “we stand firm with the British people”. While expressing outrage was easy, it was more difficult to find solutions, she said, adding that the United Kingdom Government was pursuing accountability for that act in the only way in which accountability can be accomplished, namely in accordance with the rule of law. Each step of the investigation detailed hundreds of hours of footage and documents have been examined, she noted. Thanks to the careful methodical work of the British authorities, no one should have any doubt about who was responsible. This was a highly planned attack and everyone in the world “should be chilled to the bones”. It now fell on the international community to do its part. The Russian Federation has only offered denials and counteraccusations, she said, noting the expulsion of 153 Russian officials in response to that attack. Who is to say this incident couldn’t have happened in Paris or Amsterdam, she asked, calling on Moscow to “turn over these murderers to the British Government”.
Ms. PIERCE (United Kingdom), taking the floor a second time, thanked colleagues for expressing solidarity with her country and responded to various questions Council members had raised. Noting that the police are independent of the Government in the United Kingdom, she said she was happy to share relevant closed-circuit television footage. The Russian Federation Ambassador mentioned that the timestamps in the corridor were the same, but, she noted, there are multiple identical corridors in Gatwick Airport. We are confident in our evidence, she stressed, adding that her Government had approached Moscow for cooperation, but that had resulted in diversion into avenues that were not relevant to this case. The Russians had also asked to join the investigation, but “you don’t recruit an arsonist to put out a fire”, she said. Regarding the Douma incident — the April chemical attack in Syria — she said that it was clear that many Russian authorities work in a parallel universe where facts and international norms are inverted.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), also taking the floor again, said the United Kingdom’s second statement once again revealed nothing new. Regarding consular access for Yulia Skripal — which has been denied by the United Kingdom — he said that country has also twice denied a visa to Ms. Skripal’s sister, who lives in the Russian Federation and wishes to visit her. As for the so-called “cooperation request” allegedly sent by the United Kingdom to the Russian Federation following the April incident, he said that request was, in fact, a demand from then-Foreign Minister Boris Johnson that Moscow acknowledge its responsibility for the crime and explain how it was committed. In contrast, the Russian Federation has offered to cooperate meaningfully on the matter many times. Regarding the more than 40 questions sent by his delegation to the United Kingdom — most of which have gone unanswered — he said that, instead of addressing reality, London preferred to accept journalists’ versions of the events.