On March 17, Russia announced its decision to expel 23 British diplomats and to shut down the British Council in Russia, as countermeasures to the actions taken by the UK following the poisoning in Britain of the former GRU Colonel and double agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter.
On March 15, UK Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson urged Russia to "go away" and "shut up". Major General Igor Konashenkov, an official representative of the Russian ministry of defense, said that Williamson's remarks are "insolent", and represent the rhetoric of a "bazaar khabalka ( i.e. a shrewish woman, who insults sellers and customers in the street by using obscene language). According to Konashenkov, Williamson's remarks "perfectly characterize the extreme level of his intellectual impotency".
Russian FM Sergey Lavrov also mocked Williamson's statemen: "I guess he wants to go down in history with some bombastic statements."
Former Russian intelligence chiefs were heavily involved in the rebuttal campaign. They claimed that exchanged spies and their families were untouchables and that from Russia's standpoint, assassinating Skripal on the eve of presidential elections and just before the World Cup, made absolutely no sense.
In a related development, on March 16, the UK police launched a murder investigation in the death of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov, whose lifeless body was discovered on March 12 in South West London. Glushkov was a friend of Boris Berezovsky, another Russian business oligarch who ran afoul of Putin, and was found dead at his British home in 2013.
Below are official reactions to the Skripals' case:
Sergey Skripal (Source: Liga.net)
Former FSB Director Kovalev: An Unwritten International Code On Exchanged Spies Exists; The Spy's Family Is Inviolate
The former director of Russia's Federal Security Service Nikolay Kovalev said that intelligence agencies worldwide adhere to an unwritten code that extended immunity to the family members of spies, who were uncovered or exchanged. Kovalev stated it cannot be put on paper, but almost all the agencies adhere to this unwritten code.
"In particular, the intelligence operator’s family is inviolate, because if they start acting through their wife, through children, this process will become irreversible, it can turn into a virtual blood feud," continued Kovalev.
The former FSB director also added: "After all, everything is taken into account in the exchange, every detail, including a potential danger from the actions of this person." The procedure for the exchange of Skripal was preceded by an analysis by the special services that reached the conclusion that Skripal posed no threat. "Taking that into consideration, no one has ever touched the exchanged persons. Moreover in cases like this, the [other side] always initiates a witness protection program."
(Rbc.ru, March 13, 2018; Crimerussia.com, March 3, 2018 )
Kovalev also stated:
"Taking into consideration all the deaths of the traitors on English soil, I've got the impression that - this is my version – the British, after having used this traitor or another for their purposes, make him a sacrificial victim. Then they say that Russia did it". Kovalev added that the British version of Russia's involvement is "insane ": "To wait for 14 years in order to take a revenge on Skripal just in the eve of the Presidential elections while politically harming Russia to a maximum of extent? For what? To make the world shout – after the British and American prodding– that Russia is involved in a political assassination? You have to be half-witted insane people [to do something like that]."
(Ria.ru, March 13, 2018)
Former FSB Director Stepashin: This Is A Primitive Provocation By The British Intelligence
Former FSB director Sergey Stepashin said: "Russia is heading to presidential elections, and in any case they blame Russia for all deadly sins. Tell me, which idiot in Russia, would decide to do such a thing? Where is the logic? It's obvious to me, that probably this is a primitive provocation by British intelligence. Who in Russia needs this traitor at all? There is one more reason aside from the elections: the World Soccer championship. The English simply hate us for the reason that the Championship is taking place in our country."
(Interfax.ru, March 13, 2018)
Former GRU Head Ladygin: Russia Never Resorted To Such Heinous Nonsense
Fyodor Ladygin, who led the Russian General Staff's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) between 1992-1997, told the Defense Ministry’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper: "Russia’s intelligence agency, where I had the honor to work for many years, has never, I repeat, never resorted to such heinous nonsense, which the UK tries to attribute to it." Ladygin also said that Skripal was of no interest to the Russian intelligence. "For us the fate of traitors is a matter of indifference. For an intelligence officer, traitors die immediately - they absolutely stop existing in the memory, they are expunged from it," Ladygin said.
(Tass.com, March 17, 2018)
Duma Speaker Volodin: It Is Absolutely Clear That The British Authorities And Intelligence Service Are Involved In This Case
The speaker of the Russian State Duma, Vyacheslav Volodin, said:
"Prime-minister Teresa May is trying – most amateurishly– to divert suspicions against the British side itself. It would be highly desirable if our British colleagues do not follow that path, because the entire responsibility for the situation that has arisen regarding Russian expatriates rests with the British side…. ". He added that precisely at the moment when some Russian citizens abroad were thinking of returning to their homeland, "various accidents started happening to them".
"The British parliament should check everything out and strongly question Teresa May about this situation. It's absolutely clear that the British authorities and intelligence services are involved in this case because Russia has nothing to do with it, and moreover if one analyzes the situation from all sides it can be established that Russia has no possible interest in this thing happening".
(Ria.ru, March 13, 2018)
MP Zheleznyak: Britain's Actions Are Against The Desire Of Europe's Peoples To Normalize Relations With Russia
MP Sergey Zheleznyak, a member of the State Duma's Committee on Foreign Affairs and deputy secretary of of the ruling United Russia party's general council, remarked:
"Great Britain's actions pose a threat to the security of our country and our citizens. This is overt political blackmail, aimed directly at destabilizing the [internal] situation in our country on the eve of the presidential elections. Britain's actions are also set against the unresolved desire of Europe's peoples to normalize the relations with our country that were messed-up by Washington".
Zheleznyak voiced his conviction that "this extremely aggressive British anti-Russian demarche will receive an appropriate response from Russia".
(Ria.ru, March 14, 2018)
Senator Klimov: This Is An Anti-Russian Conspiracy
Russian Senator Andrey Klimov, chairman of the Federation Council's Commission for the Protection of State Sovereignty: "Taking into consideration our political calendar [referring to the March 18 presidential elections], this a serious, genuine conspiracy against our country"
Russian Federation Council Speaker Matviyenko: Another Fake Aimed At Whipping Up Another Round Of The Russophobic Campaign
Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko stated:
"In Russia, a very important political campaign is underway on preparing for the presidential election. This is another fake aimed at whipping up another round of the Russo-phobic campaign… What is being done in the UK harms our bilateral relations…"
(Tass.com, March 13, 2018)
Russian Analyst Pshenichnikov: Britain's Rushed Decision To Expel Diplomats Shows That The Move Was Planned in Advance
Igor Pshenichnikov, Head of Centre for Public Relations and Media of the Russian institute for Strategic Studies (RISS is a major scientific-research and analytical center established by the President of the Russian Federation.), said:
"The speed with which London took the decision to expel Russian diplomats from Great Britain attests that this move has been planned and prepared in advance. The whole Salisbury poisoning incident is a sleazily prepared provocation, aimed at re-launching anti-Russian hysteria in the Western world."
Pshenichnikov then added: "On Monday, the U.S. House Intelligence Committee said that no evidence has been found that Russia has been meddling in the U.S. elections. The non-systemic U.S. mass media has been writing for quite some time that there is 'a British footprint' in this case [of the elections meddling], i.e. that the British intelligence has been directly involved in collecting material on the so called 'Trump's Russian dossier'". Pshenichnikov noted that the American congressmen found themselves at an impasse and were forced to report that there was no Russian interference. "This soap bubble, which they have inflated for two years, has burst. The announcement in the Congress was delivered on Monday, then on the same exact day Teresa May accuses Russian of poisoning Skripal. This is a strange coincidence," concluded Pshenichnikov.
(Riss.ru, March 14, 2018)
Skripal's biography by Reuters:
"Sergei Viktrovich Skripal was born in the Soviet Union on June 23, 1951.
"Little is known about his early life but he served in the GRU military intelligence service. He reached the rank of colonel in the GRU but left in 1999 to work in the Russian foreign ministry. He also taught at the Russian Defense Ministry’s defense academy in Moscow.
"Skripal was arrested in December 2004 by Federal Security Service agents on suspicion of treason: passing secrets to Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency. Skripal had been 'turned' by MI6 in 1995, the FSB said, and had been in contact with British agents at the Moscow embassy.
"In a secret trial at a Moscow military court, he confessed to his treachery and to selling the names, addresses and codenames of several dozen Russian agents to MI6, Russian media said when his conviction was announced in 2006.
"Many of the Russian agents he betrayed were spies in Britain and Europe. Russian media said his motivation was financial: he received more than $100,000 paid into a Spanish bank account.
"Russian state television said that Skripal had been recruited by the British when working as Russia’s military attaché in Spain and that he had handed over 20,000 pages of secret documents to London.
"Moscow’s respected Kommersant newspaper reported in 2006 that the FSB considered that the damage he had done to Russian spying operations was comparable to that caused by Oleg Penkovsky, another GRU colonel.
"Penkovsky, a friend of the then GRU chief, informed British and American spies of a Moscow operation to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. The scandal led to the 1962 Cuban crisis and the world on the brink of nuclear war for several days.
"Penkovsky was arrested in 1962 and executed in 1963 after being found guilty of high treason and espionage.
"Skripal, who was shown wearing a track suit in a cage in court during his sentencing, was jailed for 13 years in 2006.
"In June 2010, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had broken up an undercover Russian spy ring in the United States.
"Dubbed the 'illegals', some of the Russians had spent years quietly collecting information and trying to meet Americans with political ties.
"Skripal was pardoned by then-President Dmitry Medvedev and put on a plane for Vienna, where in July 2010 he was exchanged, along with three others, for the 10 Russian spies caught in the United States.
"The spy swap, one of the biggest since the Cold War, took place on the tarmac of Vienna airport where a Russian and a U.S. jet parked side by side before the agents were exchanged.
"One of the Russian spies exchanged for Skripal was Anna Chapman, who was feted as a hero by Moscow on her return." Reuters, March 13, 2018; Read the full article.
 Rbc.ru, March 15, 2018.
 Tass.com, March 16, 2018.
 Bbc.com, March 16, 2018.