The alleged poisoning of former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is likely to be discussed at the forthcoming meeting between foreign ministers of Bangladesh and Russia, according to Bangladesh government officials.
On March 4, Skripal and Yulia were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury, England. The two had reportedly been poisoned with a nerve agent called Novichok, developed by scientists in Moscow several decades ago. Father and daughter are still in critical condition.
Skripal was arrested in 2006 for passing state secrets to Britain’s MI6 and released in 2010 as part of a prisoner swap. He has been living in Britain ever since.
However, after an investigation, British officials accused the Kremlin of organizing the March 4 attack, which is thought to have exposed as many as 130 people to the nerve agent. At least 50 were treated at a hospital.
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In a statement to the House of Commons on March 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that Russian officials organized the poisoning.
Britain also spoke of the larger consequences of the matter.
On Monday, the world got a sense of what those consequences might look like. In a coordinated announcement, several European countries booted Russian diplomats from their soil. Around the same time, US President Donald Trump expelled 60 Russian diplomats and said he planned to shutter Russia’s consulate in Seattle.
Moscow, however, has maintained its innocence, saying at one point that Britain’s accusations “border on banditry.” It also suggested that the US or the UK is trying to frame Moscow in a bid to inflame Russophobia.
On March 22, in a statement to Dhaka, Moscow clarified its stance on the issue. On the other hand, the UK informed Bangladesh of the matter soon after the incident.
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An official of the Bangladesh government, preferring to be anonymous, said the alleged nerve agent attack on the Russian double agent and his daughter is on the agenda to be discussed during the April 2 meeting between Bangladesh Foreign Minister Mahmood Ali and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
“We are now deciding on Bangladesh’s stance on the issue and taking necessary preparations for the meeting,” he added.
In reply to a query about the possible stance of Bangladesh, the official said: “Bangladesh will not side with either of the parties, nor will it take any position that disheartens the UK or Russia.”
As of now, around 150 Russian diplomats have been expelled from 24 countries, including the US and the UK, over the alleged nerve agent attack, which is currently being investigated by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
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Sheikh Mohammed Belal, chairperson of the OPCW and Bangladesh ambassador to the Netherlands, said: “The UK has requested us to probe the matter, and we have already started our investigation accordingly.”
Asked about when the probe report will be released, he said: “We cannot certainly say when the report will be released, because it’s a completely technical matter. The issue should not be politicized by any party.”
OPCW Director General Ahmet Üzümcü is leading the investigation team. Once they are done with the investigation, the report will be handed over to the OPCW’s executive council, Belal added.
Responding to another query about whether the report will be made public, he said: “Whether or not it will be open to all depends on the executive council. However, the report may not be disclosed if any member state proposes maintaining confidentiality.”
The US, the UK and Russia are among the members of the OPCW’s executive council.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com