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miércoles, 14 de marzo de 2018

Russia responds to prime minister’s ultimatum: ‘Who does Britain think it is?’

Although the Cold War ended nearly 17 years ago with the collapse of the Soviet Union, relations between the two global nuclear powers have frozen over, prompting fears that escalating tensions could lead to World War 3. After British Prime Minister Theresa May issued an ultimatum to Russian President Vladimir Putin demanding that he respond to claims that his government was responsible for the attempted assassination of a former Russian spy who sought refuge in the U.K., the Russians have responded with an ultimatum of their own.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova scoffed at the allegations of Russian complicity, asking: “Who does Britain think it is, issuing ultimatums to a nuclear power?”

Cold War 2.0

After Russia failed to respond to Britain’s Tuesday deadline, May ordered 23 Russian diplomats expelled from the U.K. the following day. The prime minister explained her decision:

All who have been identified as declared intelligence officers: they have just one week to leave. This will be the single biggest expulsion for over 30 years and it will reflect the fact that this is not the first time the Russian state has acted against our country.

A fresh round of sanctions against Russia, deployments of British forces throughout Eastern Europe, and even talks of a cyber espionage campaign targeting Moscow are all possible following the use of a nerve agent to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England.

The two were discovered unconscious on a shopping mall bench on March 4 in a town some 90 miles from London. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer, was arrested in Moscow in 2004 and later confessed to working on behalf of British spy services as far back as 1995.

The Russian expatriate was eventually convicted of espionage and sentenced to 13 years in a Russian prison. However, Skripal’s sentence was commuted after a 2010 prisoner exchange with the U.S. guaranteed his safe passage to the U.K.

“Reckless act”

May described the attack on Skripal as a “reckless act” and announced that it was “highly likely” that the Kremlin was behind it. British lawmakers have confirmed that the nerve agent used in the attempted murder is known as Novichok, a substance developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

In a series of explosive tweets responding to the British posturing, the Russian embassy in London warned that it would be unwise for Prime Minister May to enforce any “punitive measures” against the former Soviet state:

Moscow will not respond to London’s ultimatum until it receives samples of the chemical substance to which the UK investigators are referring.

Britain must comply with the Chemical Weapons Convention which stipulates joint investigation into the incident, for which Moscow is ready.

Without that, there can be no sense in any statements from London. The incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia.

Any threat to take “punitive” measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.

Today the Embassy sent a note to the Foreign Office reiterating that Russia is not involved in the Salisbury incident and outlining the above mentioned demands for joint investigation.

Rogue state

Zakharova followed up the embassy’s absurd request to take part in an investigation for which they are the prime suspect with an odious warning of her own.

“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they close Russia Today,” the foreign ministry spokeswoman said, referring to threats by British authorities to shut down a Russian media outlet with offices in the U.K.

U.S. President Donald Trump is backing his British counterpart, telling May that America is “with the U.K. all the way” and agreeing that Russian authorities “must provide unambiguous answers as to how this nerve agent came to be used.”

The alleged Russian assassination attempt is just the latest in a series of hostile acts from the rogue Eurasian state.

Russia is not the Soviet Union, and though Moscow has retained the aggressive and petulant posture of the communist empire, its officials would be wise to remember that there is only one great superpower in the world today.