NEWS
12/10/2018 16:51 BST | Updated 12/10/2018 19:08 BST

Russia's Press Conference Denying Sergei Skripal Poisoning Was As Bizarre As You'd Expect

"I cannot provide the evidence."

The Russian Ambassador to the UK has defended his country against accusations its government attempted to murder the former double-agent Sergei Skripal, and hacked various international bodies – by offering no alternative explanations whatsoever.

In a wide-ranging press conference in London, Alexander Yakovenko deflected numerous questions and instead blamed everything on a “deep establishment” conspiracy against the Kremlin, orchestrated by the Conservative Party and UK media.

He repeatedly asked the UK Government to provide evidence of its claims, despite a growing body of work implicating Russian military intelligence (GRU) in a number of plots.

The UK named Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov as the primary suspects in the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury earlier this year. The pair later appeared on Russian state media channel RT to claim they were in fact tourists on a short holiday.

Referring to the interview, Yakovenko said: “They were asked ‘do you work for the GRU?’ and they said ‘no’.”

He then said this was their “official statement”.

REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

The website Bellingcat later claimed the two men were undercover GRU agents, Dr Alexander Yevgenyevich Mishkin and Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga.

When asked directly whether he accepted the British accusation GRU agents were behind the attack, Yakovenko said: “No we don’t accept that.”

Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News asked why Russia couldn’t simply present all four men, to prove the story given to RT was true.

Yakovenko deflected the question and instead attacked Bellingcat, saying: “Bellingcat is not the media, it is a tool of the deep state.

“You think they publish the truth? We do not believe it.”

When asked to provide evidence for his claim, he said: “I cannot provide the evidence but it is something we are keeping in mind.”

He then went further, saying that any report in the UK media citing “sources” from “authorities” is mostly “fake” but again, provided no evidence.

When addressing accusations another GRU cell had hacked organisations across the world to undermine Western democracies, Yakovenko once again denied it.

“Of course I deny it because this is part of a general campaign launched in Britain and supported by the United States... to discredit my country,” he said.

The Ambassador insisted the alleged four-man hacking team was merely on a “routine assignment” to “check communication lines” in the Russian embassy in the Netherlands.

He did not explain why they were caught red-handed next to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) headquarters with a car boot full of hacking equipment, had taxi receipts from the GRU barracks to Moscow airport, or why they attempted to destroy their mobile phones when caught.