UK envoy urges Pacific support over Russia’s chemical poisoning

By Nanise Volau

THE British Government is calling on the Pacific to uphold the principles of the UN Charter on the prohibition of chemical weapons which they claimed was recently undermined by Russia.

The plea comes in the wake of the recent incident in Salisbury, England where a former Russian spy who acted as a double agent for the British Government Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by the military grade nerve agent known as Novichok.

The British Government’s representative to Fiji, Tonga, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Federated States of Micronesia, High Commissioner Melanie Hopkins said no country including the Pacific was safe.

“We are encouraging partners to consider how this further indication of malign activity directed against our societies and values is reflected in planned bilateral engagement with Russia. They are a threat to all countries who seek to uphold the rules-based international order, including here in the Pacific,” Hopkins said.

The British government is to expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation to the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, English Prime Minister Theresa May said today.

In a statement to the UK Parliament, May said “For those who wish to do us harm, my message is clear. You are not welcome here.”

“This will be the single biggest expulsion for over thirty years and it reflects the fact that this is not the first time that the Russian state has acted against our country, ” added May.

She also announced that the UK will freeze the assets of Russians living in the UK under suspicion of undermining the country’s interest, saying there “is no place for their money in the UK.”

At a press briefing in Suva this week, the British High Commissioner added Russia’s escalatory actions pose a dire threat to all countries who are part of the UN system, including allies here in the Pacific.

Hopkins said over the next days, they will ask for support from Pacific Islands and their allies at the UN and other international organisations in upholding the chemical weapons convention and other non-proliferation regimes. She added that Britain is calling on global partners to help counter the wave of Russian disinformation.

The High Commissioner will hold further talks with Fiji Prime Minister’s office and the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defence over the coming days.