Australian Officials Meet with Russia in Moscow Over Spy Poisoning: Julie Bishop

Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal
A senior Australian official has met with Russian Foreign Ministry counterparts in Moscow to highlight concerns amid the row over the poisoning of a former spy in Britain.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the meeting, adding that Australia supports a “full and thorough” investigation into the March 4 poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Both were found unconscious, slumped on a seat in the British city of Salisbury, where they now remain in hospital in a critical condition.

Ms Bishop said the Australian senior official “highlighted the concerns of the highest level of the Australian Government” amid growing tensions over the incident.

“UK authorities are working with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to analyse the substance involved,” Ms Bishop said in a statement.

Britain said the nerve agent Novichok — a chemical weapon developed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s — was used in the attack.

Russia has denied any involvement in the attack.

Several days ago Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke to British Prime Minister Theresa May and said the UK had made a compelling case the nerve agent was Russian.

But the Russian Ambassador to Australia, Grigory Logvinov, argues the UK had more of a motive to poison the pair.

“Russia would be the last country to have any motive. For what purpose?” Mr Logvinov asked.

“What’s the use for Russia to assassinate him in this way, just on the eve of presidential elections and when the world soccer championship is approaching?”

Mr Turnbull expressed Australia’s full support for and solidarity with the UK in relation to the chemical weapon attack.

Ms May has expressed her gratitude for Australia’s strong support and explained the UK’s response, including expelling 23 undisclosed Russian intelligence officers — the largest expulsion in 30 years.

“There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter — and for threatening the lives of other British citizens,” Ms May said.

The Russian foreign ministry has since said that 23 British diplomats would be expelled from Moscow within a week in response to Britain’s expulsion.