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UK using nerve agent row to distract from Brexit: Moscow

[MOSCOW] Moscow on Thursday accused the British government of implicating Russia in the poisoning of an ex-spy to "deflect attention" from difficult negotiations with the EU over Brexit.

Britain accused Russia of involvement in the nerve agent poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal at a time when London's ties with European partners have been badly strained by Brexit.

"Perhaps it's clear that London has found itself in a very difficult situation over Brexit negotiations with the European Union," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters.

"The popularity of this government is going downwards," he said, arguing that Prime Minister Theresa May has been unable to deliver on her promises following Britain's decision to leave the bloc after a referendum in 2016.

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"And organising a provocation around Sergei Skripal deflects attention," Mr Lavrov said.

Britain faces the added difficulty with its famed "special relationship" with Washington looking increasingly weak.

Moscow has rejected Britain's demands that it provide answers as to how a Soviet-designed nerve agent ended up in Britain.

The United States said Wednesday that Russia was "responsible" for the nerve agent attack and urged the UN Security Council to hold Moscow accountable.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday reiterated Moscow's position that Britain's accusations were unfounded and that the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter had "all the signs of a provocation".

AFP