Britain must prove Russia’s involvement in the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal or apologise, the Kremlin has said.
“Sooner or later these unsubstantiated allegations will have to be answered for: either backed up with the appropriate evidence or apologised for,” the presidential spokesman said on Monday.
Dmitry Peskov’s comments came as the European Union condemned the poisoning in Salisbury of the Russian former spy and his daughter Yulia, and the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, described .
“The lives of many citizens were threatened by this reckless and illegal act,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels, where they were briefed by Johnson on the latest developments surrounding the 4 March poisoning that left the pair in critical condition.
Without explicitly blaming Russia or threatening any repercussions, the ministers called on Russia to urgently address British questions over its novichok nerve agent programme, and expressed “unqualified solidarity” with Theresa May’s government.
Johnson told reporters that “Russian denials grow increasingly absurd”, with contradictory claims about whether Russia produced the novichok nerve agent used in the attack.
“What people can see is that this is a classic Russian strategy of trying to conceal the needle of truth in a haystack of lies and obfuscation.”
Johnson said many EU countries had been victims of “malign Russian behaviour” and that Moscow was “not fooling anybody any more”.
May and EU leaders are expected to discuss the attack at a summit in Brussels on Thursday night.
Peskov made his comments in response to a question about whether the exacerbation of tensions with the west had boosted Putin’s performance in Sunday’s presidential elections, which he won by a landslide.
“I wouldn’t use the phrase ‘exacerbation of tensions with the west’. It’s a question of this stream of slander, that is hard to explain and difficult to understand the motivation for, from the British side towards Russia,” he said.
Putin had rejected as “nonsense” allegations by London and its allies that Russia was behind the attack on the Skripals, which also left a British police officer seriously ill.
International chemical weapons experts visited the UK on Monday to take samples of the Soviet-designed military grade nerve agent novichok for independent testing.
Last week Britain, France, Germany and the US issued a joint statement blaming Russia for the first offensive use of chemical weapons in Europe since the second world war.