Russia has called for urgent U.N. Security Council (UNSC) talks on the spiraling diplomatic crisis sparked by the spy poisoning scandal as a group of expelled U.S. diplomats left their embassy in Moscow yesterday morning.
Britain blames Russia for the March 4 poisoning on U.K. soil of former double agent Sergei Skripal with what it says was a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union, sending relations between Moscow and the West plummeting to new lows.
More than 150 Russian diplomats were ordered out of the U.S., EU members, NATO countries and other nations in the wake of the attack, a move that was met in kind by Moscow. The first of some 60 U.S. diplomats ordered out of Russia left their embassy compound in Moscow on their way to the airport. The departure came a day after Russia found itself diplomatically isolated when it lost its bid at the global chemical weapons watchdog to launch a joint probe with Britain into the poisoning. Moscow had convened a meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Wednesday. But Russia's ambassador to the watchdog said Moscow was unable to get the required two-thirds of votes from members to approve a joint investigation.
Diplomatic sources told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that six countries voted in favor of the Russian draft motion but 15 were against while 17 abstained, mainly countries from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
OPCW experts have already taken on-site samples which are being analyzed in The Hague, as well as in four other certified laboratories. The head of the OPCW, Ahmet Üzümcü, said he expected the results "by early next week."
Russia's ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko said Moscow would accept the results of tests by international chemical weapons inspectors on a suspected nerve agent used to poison a former Russian spy in England but only if the process was transparent.
Yakovenko also said he was happy to hear that Yulia Skripal, the daughter of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, was recovering after she was poisoned a month ago in England. Asked about the statement by a reporter, Yakovenko said: "I am really happy and I hope that Sergei Skripal will also recover. I am quite sure that one day Yulia will come back to Moscow," as reported by Reuters.
Yulia Skripal said in statement released yesterday by British police that her strength is growing daily and expressed gratitude to those who came to her aid.
"I am sure you appreciate that the entire episode is somewhat disorientating, and I hope that you'll respect my privacy and that of my family during the period of my convalescence," the 33-year-old said, AP reported. The British hospital treating the Skripals has confirmed that Yulia's condition has improved, while her father, 66, has remained in critical condition.