Tuesday 19 March 2019

Vladimir Putin offers to assist UK in Sergei Skripal poisoning inquiry

Sergei and Julia Skripal
Sergei and Julia Skripal
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has dismissing British accusations of Russia's involvement in ex-spy Sergei Skripal's poisoning as "nonsense", adding that Moscow is ready to cooperate with London in the probe.

Mr Putin referred to the attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia as a "tragedy", but added if the British claim that they were poisoned by the Soviet-designed nerve agent were true, the victims would have died instantly.

He said it was "nonsense" to think that anyone in Russia could have staged such an attack shortly before Sunday's presidential vote and before the World Cup that Russia is set to host this summer.

In his first comments about the poisoning, the Russian leader said Moscow was ready to cooperate with Britain in the investigation.

Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump has used tweets to take out his frustrations over the intensifying Russia investigation by lashing out at special counsel Robert Mueller, hinting at a shift away from cooperating with a probe he believes is biased against him.

Mr Trump used weekend tweets to name Mr Mueller for the first time, criticised the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and raised fresh concerns about the objectivity and political leanings of the members of Mr Mueller's team.

He also challenged the honesty of Andrew McCabe, the newly fired FBI deputy director, and James Comey, the bureau's former director who Mr Trump fired last year over the Russia probe.

The president's aggressive stance followed a call by his personal lawyer for Rod Rosenstein, who Mr Trump appointed as deputy attorney general and who now oversees Mr Mueller's inquiry, to "bring an end" to that investigation.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, which spent the past year conducting a parallel investigation, recently said they drafted a report concluding there was no collusion or coordination between Mr Trump's presidential campaign and Russia, but committee Democrats vehemently disagreed.

"The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime," Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday.

"It was based on fraudulent activities and a Fake Dossier paid for by Crooked Hillary and the DNC, and improperly used in FISA COURT for surveillance of my campaign. WITCH HUNT!"

The president was referring to a dossier of anti-Trump research funded by the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton's campaign.

In a move likely adding to Trump's growing frustration, The New York Times reported last week that Mr Mueller had subpoenaed the Trump Organisation and requested Russia-related documents. Mr Trump had said Mr Mueller would cross a red line with such a step.

"Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?" Trump tweeted on Sunday.

Some of Mr Mueller's investigators have contributed to Democratic political candidates, but Justice Department policy and federal service law bar discrimination in the hiring of career positions on the basis of political affiliation, although Mr Mueller is a Republican.

Press Association

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