Britain and Russia clash at UN over poisonings

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LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in Britain (all times local):

9:05 p.m.

Britain and Russia are again clashing over the UK's allegation that two Russian military intelligence officers poisoned an ex-Russian spy and his daughter, with Moscow's U.N. envoy dismissing Britain's evidence as an invention from "thin air" and London's envoy saying the government is confident of its facts.

British Ambassador Karen Pierce and Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia traded accusations at a U.N. Security Council meeting Thursday called by Britain to update members on its investigation and Wednesday's announcement of charges against the two Russians.

Nebenzia said Russia "categorically rejects all unfounded accusations," saying the UK still has "no evidence" of Russian involvement. He accused Britain of using the poisoning to create "anti-Russia hysteria."

Nebenzia said there are many inconsistencies and unresolved issues including Britain's refusal to agree to a joint investigation and hand over fingerprints of the two accused Russian men. He urged all countries to support Russia's appeal to Britain to begin consultations in the framework of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Pierce said after the poisonings in March the UK asked Russia to cooperate but received a negative reply. She said Russia asked to join the investigation once it was under way and repeated: "You don't recruit an arsonist to put out a fire — you especially don't do that when the fire is one they caused."

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7:05 p.m.

Russia's U.N. ambassador is accusing Britain of producing an "unfounded and mendacious cocktail of facts" and refusing to cooperate on the investigation of a poisoned ex-Russian spy for one purpose — "to unleash a disgusting anti-Russian hysteria and to involve other countries in this hysteria."

Vassily Nebenzia told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that Britain's claim that two agents from Russia's special intelligence services tried to murder Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern England town of Salisbury with a military-grade nerve agent is an invention "out of thin air," riddled with inconsistencies.

He says British authorities "still have no evidence that Russia is responsible for Salisbury or any kind of a clear version of what happened."

Nebenzia says that for Russia, "the only issue is what kind of ploy London will invent in order to avoid a truly serious rather than a politically motivated investigation of the case.".

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6:25 p.m.

Britain's U.N. ambassador is accusing Russia of failing to uphold the ban on using chemical weapons by recklessly using a military-grade nerve agent to try to murder a former Russian spy and playing "dice" with the lives of the people of the southern England town where he lived.

Karen Pierce told the U.N. Security Council Thursday that the international community must take steps to safeguard people against the use of chemical weapons and "the threat of hostile foreign interference."

She told reporters that Britain will be discussing next steps with its allies, stressing that the issue goes beyond Salisbury.

"We and our allies will want to think about how we push back on this sort of Russian activity which is not only malign, it's also reckless," Pierce said.

She said Britain is calling for the Chemical Weapons Convention and its watchdog agency to be strengthened, for a light to be shone on the use of state agencies to undermine the rule of law, and for sanctions and other measures to be used "to curb threats to our societies."

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4:45 p.m.

The U.S., Germany, France and Canada say they back Britain's finding that two suspects in the poisoning of a former spy were Russian military intelligence officers.

In a joint statement, leaders from the four countries joined Britain in reiterating their "outrage" at the use of a chemical nerve agent, Novichok, in March in the southern England city of Salisbury.

Saying Britain's finding has been independently verified, they urged Russia to provide "full disclosure of its Novichok program."

In addition, they said the operation was "almost certainly approved at a senior government level" and pledged to "continue to disrupt together the hostile activities of foreign intelligence networks on our territories."

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The Kremlin on Thursday rejected accusations by British authorities that Russian President Vladimir Putin is ultimately responsible for poisoning a former spy in England, and said Russia is not going to investigate the suspects.

Britain's security minister on Thursday called out Putin over the nerve agent attack targeting Sergei Skripal and his daughter and also warned that the U.K. would counter Russian "malign activity" with both public and covert measures.

Ben Wallace told the BBC that Putin and his government "controls, funds and directs" the military intelligence unit known as the GRU , which Britain believes used the Soviet-developed Novichok nerve agent to try to kill ex-Russian spy Skripal.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were hospitalized for weeks in critical condition after they were exposed to Novichok in the city of Salisbury on March 4. They are now recovering in a secret location for their own protection.

Local woman Dawn Sturgess died and her boyfriend Charlie Rowley was sickened after they came across remnants of the poison in a discarded perfume bottle in June.

Britain on Wednesday announced charges in absentia against two alleged Russian agents, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — names that are likely aliases. The murder attempt was approved "at a senior level of the Russian state," British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday.

Moscow strongly denies involvement in the attack, and Russian officials said they didn't recognize the suspects.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the accusations leveled against Putin and the Russian government "unacceptable."

"Neither the Russian leadership nor its representatives have anything to do with the events in Salisbury," he said.

Peskov also said that Russia "has no reasons" to investigate the two individuals charged on Wednesday because Britain has not asked for legal assistance in the case.

Britain has said it is not going to seek the men's extradition because Russian law does not allow for the extradition of its nationals to be tried abroad.

Russian officials have been vehemently denying the fresh accusations. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova went on national television Wednesday evening, claiming that the security camera footage of the two suspects arriving at Gatwick Airport released by the British authorities has been doctored because it shows them at the same time in the same place. A closer look, however, shows that the men were walking in different gate corridors.

Zakharova on Thursday accused Britain of "concealing the evidence," and demanded that Britain share the suspects' fingerprints and other data.

The Skripals' poisoning ignited a diplomatic confrontation in which hundreds of envoys were expelled by both Russia and Western nations. But there is limited appetite among Britain's European allies for further sanctions against Moscow.

Sergei Skripal's niece, Viktoria, on Thursday called on British authorities to allow her to visit her family in Britain after her visa application was denied.

She said that she does not know the men Britain suspects of being behind the poisoning.

Skripal also said that she doubts that the former Russians spy is still alive because he has not communicated with the family since the poisoning.

Britain plans to press its case against Russia at the U.N. Security Council later on Thursday.

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Lawless reported from London.