If CIA relocates Skripals in the US 'we may not see them again' – Russia's UN envoy
Media reports that the US is ready to shelter the Skripals under new identities point to the CIA's role in the poisoning saga and mean they may now vanish for good, without providing key evidence, the Russian envoy to the UN said.
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia's UN envoy, was commenting on the report by The Sunday Times that intelligence officials at MI6 have been discussing, with their American colleagues at the CIA, a potential resettlement of former Russian-UK double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who are now recovering from a poison attack that British authorities have blamed on Russia. The relocation scheme would include, according to a senior Whitehall source cited by The Times, both father and daughter being provided with new identities.
The US is reportedly one of four countries that are being considered by the British authorities as a future safe haven for the Skripals, the others being Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, according to an intelligence source cited by the paper, the US seems like "the obvious place" to choose "because they're less likely to be killed there and it's easier to protect them there under a new identity."
Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting on Monday, Nebenzia said that the reported involvement of the CIA in the case "itself speaks volumes."
"However, this also means that we possibly perhaps will never see these people, [who are] key witnesses of what took place," he added.
The Russian embassy in the UK also commented on the reports. It said that, in the case of "such a secret relocation," the Skripals' version of what happened in Salisbury would likely never be heard. If, as a result, they would be cut off from the outside world, Russia "will have grounds to consider this situation as an abduction of two Russian citizens, or at least as their isolation," the embassy's spokesperson told Sputnik.
A recent report by the Mail on Sunday, that the Skripals' house at Christie Miller Road in Salisbury will likely be razed to ground, and the Mill public house and the Zizzi restaurant may also be demolished, is another warning sign, the spokesman said. "Such steps prove that the United Kingdom has started pursuing a policy of destroying important evidence," he said.
"We have seen the same in the case of Sergei Skripal's pets, with a bench in the park, where Sergei and Yulia Skripal have been found, and so on," he noted.
The British authorities confirmed last week that the Skripals' two guinea pigs had died, reportedly from dehydration, and a cat was put down after it was found "distressed" by a vet brought to the house by officials. Moscow previously disputed the UK's version of events, arguing that the analyses of the pets' condition might have provided a valuable insight into the agent allegedly used to poison the Skripals.
"We have an impression that the UK government makes intentional attempts to destroy all possible evidence, to classify all the existing materials and to remove the possibility to hold an independent and transparent investigation," the embassy spokesperson said.
The embassy also dismissed as "very unpersuasive," reports of a string of mysterious messages allegedly intercepted by the UK's Royal Air Force (RAF) based in Cyprus, with one of the messages saying "the package has been delivered." The information on the message, which is presumably highly classified, was provided to the Sunday Express by anonymous "insiders." The message, which is said to have been delivered from Syria, was allegedly intercepted on March 4, and later linked to the Skripal case for no obvious reason. However, it then became one of the main arguing points used by the UK to persuade more than a dozen countries in Europe to expel Russian diplomats.
"The reports that the Cyprus-based RAF analysts intercepted certain messages on March 3 and March 4 look very unpersuasive. So do the attempts to link these messages with the Skripal case,” the embassy said, adding that the fact that it was used to prompt the UK's allies to follow suit in expelling Russian diplomats proves that the UK's entire case against Russia is "based only on assumptions."