Sydney, March 28 (IANS) The Russian ambassador to Australia denied the presence of spies from his country in Australia, a day after the Australian government expelled two alleged intelligence agents in response to the Sergei Skripal poisoning case in Britain.
“My best wish is that what is happening won’t cause serious damage to our relations because we have spent quite serious efforts together with Australian colleagues within the last two years to gain some positive momentum,” Ambassador Grigory Logvinov told reporters, Efe news reported on Wednesday.
When asked how many Russian spies are in Australia and how many remain after the alleged two were expelled, the diplomat responded “zero minus zero is still zero”.
Australia’s decision to deport the spies is part of a coordinated measure of several governments worldwide, which led to at least 150 Russian diplomats being expelled in response to the nerve agent attack on Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier in March in the UK.
The British government blamed Russia for the attack.
“What’s happening is a well-orchestrated campaign,” Logvinov said in reference to the allegations against Russia, and criticised the press for believing the British and overlooking the facts, as well as denouncing the lack of evidence linking the incident to Moscow.
“If the West would follow this line, I’m afraid we will be deeply in a Cold War situation,” said the Russian ambassador, who avoided commenting on possible reprisals.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier said she expected reprisals to happen, according to an interview with Channel 9.
Bishop, who is scheduled to meet with Logvinov on Wednesday, said that although the Russian government has not responded to Australia’s decision yet, the ambassador said he would consider all possible options.
Australia imposed economic sanctions on Russia in 2014 over the Russian annexation of Crimea, and hardened the punitive measures after a Malaysian Airlines aircraft was shot down in eastern Ukraine by pro-Russian rebels.