Vasily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, told a Security Council meeting that Britain’s allegations in the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal are reminiscent of Nazi propaganda.
“This is all using the method of Dr. Goebbels: lies that are repeated a thousand times become the truth,” Nebenzia charged.
The Russian ambassador was riffing on a notorious comment by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
In other words, Nebenzia was using the most odious and distasteful terms to accuse the United Kingdom of repeatedly lying about Russia using nerve agents to kill Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Britain. The Skripals are recovering from the attack, but NPR reported on Friday that their cat and guinea pigs didn’t make it.
Nebenzia’s tirade before the Security Council lasted for half an hour, and included an ominous warning to the British: “You’re playing with fire and you’ll be sorry.”
He dismissed the assassination charges as ludicrous because there are so many better ways to kill someone than using “risky and dangerous” nerve gas, as any fan of TV crime shows would know.
Nebenzia denounced the assassination charges as a foul Western gambit to “put in question the political legitimacy of Russia in principle and at the same time to discredit our position on the Syrian chemical dossier,” by which he meant Russia’s efforts to shield Syrian dictator Bashar Assad from international chemical weapons inspectors. The Russian Foreign Ministry has lately been attempting to portray concern over Assad’s weapons of mass destruction as a last-ditch effort by desperate Western powers to undermine the Syrian regime.
According to Nebenzia, the West is desperate enough to poison the Skripals and frame Moscow for the crime.
“Since the British authorities dare to state with a ‘high degree of probability’ that Russia is behind the Salisbury incident, we also, with a ‘high degree of probability’ assume that the intelligence agencies of certain countries are behind this mega provocation,” he sneered.
“It is more than likely that this very questionable case is a fabrication. It’s some sort of theater of the absurd. Couldn’t you come up with a better fake story?” the Russian ambassador said. He then took the time to sketch out an elaborate conspiracy theory about British scientists cooking up chemical weapons that could be employed to frame Moscow at London’s convenience.
“I don’t think that the British investigative bodies are grateful to the British government for their hasty and unequivocal conclusions. Your politicians never thought about this, they had no idea that their hyped up statements might boomerang and hit them,” Nebenzia crowed.
Angered by Moscow’s failed attempt to insert its operatives into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons investigation of the Skripal incident, Nebenzia thundered that Russia would consider any further British reluctance to grant his country full access to the investigation would be taken as evidence of skulduggery.
“We will demand answers from you to the questions we have put, and if you don’t provide answers, if you don’t agree to answers we will then consider this as evidence of slander which you have used against us,” he told the British delegation to the U.N. “We will seek to obtain fully fledged co-operation from you regarding the case of the Skripals. If you refuse, we will consider this as an attempt to conceal the truth.”
The U.S. and UK delegations were not much impressed with Nebenzia’s performance.
“This disinformation and projection coming from our Russian colleagues is preposterous,” said U.S. Ambassador Kelley Currie.
“Russia is known to have developed military-grade nerve agents of the type used in the Salisbury attack,” Currie pointed out. “Russia has a well-documented record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations, including previously in the United Kingdom. High-ranking Russian officials have themselves made clear in public statements that defectors and so-called ‘traitors’ are legitimate targets for assassination.”
UK Ambassador Karen Pierce said that her country will not “take any lectures on morality or on our responsibilities from a country that, as this council debated yesterday, has done so much to block the proper investigation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.”
Pierce cited Russia’s “record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations” and said it “views defectors as suitable targets.” She accused Russia of seeking to “undermine the international institutions that have kept us safe since the Second World War.”
“We have nothing to hide,” said the British ambassador. “But I do fear that Russia might have something to fear.”
Reviewing Nebenzia’s remarks to the U.N. Security Council at the UK Daily Mail, Prime Minister Theresa May’s former national security adviser Mark Lyall Grant said the Russian’s rant was an effort to “muddy the waters, to distort and distract, to put out alternative possibilities, to put the UK on the defensive.”
“This is a classic Russian pattern. When put under pressure, when put into a corner, they lash out,” said Grant.
He speculated that the Russians were “a little surprised” at how quickly the Skripal attack was pinned on them, and said Nebenzia’s performance at the Security Council was a “very clear signal” that the Russians are “actually rather rattled by the strength of the international community’s response.”