Commenting on recent media reports about the demise of pets belonging to Sergei and Yulia Skripal, victims of an alleged nerve agent attack in Salisbury, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zahkarova remarked that it’s strange that such important information was leaked to media instead of being officially released by British authorities.
"Another ‘leak’ in British media. By the way, do their government agencies’ press services operate at all? Why everything is being leaked via comments from ‘unnamed sources’?" Zakharova inquired on her Facebook page.
"According to a British newspaper, the guinea pigs died of dehydration because they were left at the house. What’s that supposed to mean? The house was searched, but no one noticed the animals? They didn’t notice the pets of a man who was poisoned by a nerve agent?!", she wrote.
Zakharova added that the fate of Skripal’s cat that was taken to Porton Down lab and then put down, as well as the fact that the pets’ remains were cremated, look strange as "the animals could’ve become an important piece of evidence in the chemical poisoning case."
The Russian embassy in the UK also commented on this development via Twitter, wondering whether the animals' remains were disposed of as an "inconvenient piece of evidence."
Are they seriously saying that nobody had a look at the pets at alleged crime scene? Were the animals’ remains tested for toxic substances? Or just disposed of as an inconvenient piece of evidence? pic.twitter.com/pcZoeAsyqy— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) 6 апреля 2018 г.
Skripals' Pets Demise
According to Daily Mirror, two guinea pigs and a cat owned by Sergei Skripal perished after being found malnourished inside his residence, which was sealed by the police.
The guinea pigs appeared to have died of thirst by the time they were found, while the cat was taken to the Porton Down lab for testing but was ultimately put down because the feline "was in so much pain," the newspaper adds.
"The fact that the animals were locked inside the house for several days suggests that the police did not access the alleged crime scene, which would be very unusual for such a high profile investigation … Overall, it is difficult to avoid the impression that the animals have been disposed of as an inconvenient piece of evidence," the embassy said in a statement on its website.
The Russian diplomatic mission noted that such treatment of animals by the UK authorities violated local animals protection legislation as well as Skripal's rights as the pets' owner.
"Regarding the dead guinea pigs and the malnourished cat, it is said unofficially that they were taken to the Porton Down facility and incinerated there. But it remains unclear if their remains were ever tested for toxic substances, which would constitute useful evidence, and if not, why such a decision was made," the statement continued.
"Here's the question for the UK: where are the pets? What is their condition, why is the UK silent on the fact while it is busy referring to unidentified sources in the media?" Zakharova inquired.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018 following what the British authorities claim was a chemical attack, allegedly involving the nerve agent A-234.
Following this development, London promptly blamed Moscow for carrying out this alleged attack and initiated a series of punitive measures, including the expulsion of nearly two dozen Russian diplomats and the freezing of bilateral contacts. Many of the UK's allies, including the US and a number of European states, were compelled to follow suit.
Russia has rejected London's allegations, citing a lack of evidence, and calling for a joint investigation into the Skripal case. This week, the head of the Porton Down chemical weapons lab admitted that contrary to earlier claims made by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, they'd failed to conclude that the poison used in the Skripal case was of Russian origin.