The U.S. called on the U.N. Wednesday to hold Russia accountable for the chemical poisonings of two individuals, including a former Russian spy, on British soil.
Nikki Haley, the U.S.’s UN envoy, said the council has reached a “defining moment”.
“Time and time again, member states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance,” she said. “Now, one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this Council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable.”
Earlier Wednesday, Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats in the ongoing row with Russia over the attempted killing of former spy Sergei Skripal.
Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious in the southern English city of Salisbury last week.
Since then, British officials have determined it is “highly likely” Moscow was behind what they describe as a chemical attack, in part because they have determined the nerve agent that was used is from the Novichok group of chemical weapons developed by Russia during the Cold War.
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Skripal was granted refuge in the UK following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Convicted by a Moscow military court of "high treason" after admitting to leaking information to British intelligence, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Emergency services said in an initial statement they believed the father and daughter had been exposed to an unknown substance.
Russia has denied any involvement in the case, a claim repeated by its U.N. ambassador Wednesday.
Vassily Nebenzia told the Security Council Russia has “nothing to do with it”, saying Russia is ready to participate in a joint investigation.
He maintained that the accusations against Russia are irresponsible and a threat to Russian sovereignty.
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But the U.S. remained in lockstep with Britain, its closest ally, stressing that it shares the U.K.’s assessment that Russia is to blame, “for the reckless nerve agent attack on a British citizen and his daughter”.
“We support the United Kingdom’s decision to expel Russian diplomats as a just response,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes.”
Haley was more specific, pointing to past assassinations blamed on Russia as well as alleged chemical weapons use by its ally in Syria.
“If the Russian government stopped using chemical weapons to assassinate its enemies; and if the Russian government stopped helping its Syrian ally to use chemical weapons to kill Syrian children; and if Russia cooperated with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by turning over all information related to this nerve agent, we would stop talking about them,” she said.
“We take no pleasure in having to constantly criticize Russia, but we need Russia to stop giving us so many reasons to do so,” she added.
In addition to the Skripal case, Russia is accused of poisoning a former intelligence agent who died in 2006 after drinking radioactive tea.
Many have drawn comparisons between Skripal and the death of KGB defector Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed in London.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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