Russia complains over airplane search in UK

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London, March 31 (IANS) The Russian Embassy in London on Saturday accused the UK of “improperly” searching a Russian airplane that had landed at the British capital and said it constituted a “provocation and a violation of international rules”.

An Embassy spokesperson said that UK Border Forces and customs officials had searched an Aeroflot plane after it landed at London’s Heathrow Airport without specifying the legal reasons for doing so, although he implied it was related to the March 4 nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

“Today, we have witnessed another blatant provocation by the British authorities,” said a statement from the Embassy’s press office. “This kind of event is extraordinary.”

According to Efe news, the spokesperson added that British officials at first had attempted to search the aircraft without the crew being present, which he said contravened international regulations.

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“Our attempts to get in touch with the Foreign Office in order to clarify the reasons for the inappropriate behaviour of British officials did not bring fruit,” said the statement.

“The Embassy has sent a diplomatic note demanding the British side to provide explanations of the incident.”

The mission said it had no other explanation other than the incident being connected with what it called the “hostile policy” the UK was conducting with regard to Russia.

London’s Metropolitan Police, that is coordinating the investigation into the Skripal case, denied having taken part in the aircraft’s search.

Last week, the British government expelled 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation for the Skripals’ poisoning. The Kremlin responded by expelling the same number of British diplomats from the country and called for a further reduction of UK foreign office staff in Russia.

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So far, some 150 Russians have been expelled by mainly Western countries in solidarity with the UK. Meanwhile, Russia on Friday called in a string of foreign ambassadors with news that their own countries’ measures were being matched.

–IANS

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