Mar 29 2018

Turkey acted responsibly with Skripal poisoning stance - Russia

Turkey has “acted responsibly” by abstaining from reprisals against Russia, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, after a host of Turkey’s Western allies expelled Russian diplomats in response to Moscow’s alleged involvement in a nerve agent poisoning in the United Kingdom.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer turned British spy, and his daughter Yulia were discovered on Mar. 4 unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, where Skripal had been living since his release in a prisoner exchange in 2010. The chemical used to poison the pair was discovered to be the military-grade nerve agent Novichok, developed in Russia during the Soviet period.

In the aftermath of the attack, UK Prime Minister Theresa May and NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg led the condemnation of Moscow, and over 20 of the UK’s Western allies expelled more than 115 Russian diplomats in “the biggest concerted blow to Russian intelligence since the Cold War.”

Turkey maintained its silence on the issue until last Monday, when a mild statement from the foreign ministry condemning the use of chemical weapons was followed by government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ's declaration that Turkey would refrain from “making any kind of decision” on Russia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan followed this up on Thursday, with a statement to reporters that reflected a widely-held attitude of disbelief in pro-government circles that Russia was behind the attack. “Just because some countries took steps based on a claim, we are not in a position to take a similar step,” he said.

The decision not to take action was greeted warmly by Russia, according to a statement by Zakharova during a press conference in which she also promised a Russian response against “each country that expelled Russian envoys.”

“Those countries which have refused to bow to pressure (from the United States and UK) and take action against Russia have acted responsibly, with regards to both their relations with Russia and international law,” said Zakharova.