German government calls for concrete answers
The ongoing investigations of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague are important, explained government spokesperson Steffen Seibert at the government press conference on Wednesday. "Nevertheless, the investigations already conducted in the United Kingdom are of a very high standard." The decision taken by EU member states to expel Russian diplomats was taken "after intensive contacts at European level, and following in-depth and detailed explanations provided by the British government," said Steffen Seibert. "We believe this decision to be legitimate and justified."
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is an independent international organisation founded by the member states of the Chemical Weapons Convention. It monitors compliance with the Convention and lays down the framework for the destruction of chemical weapons.
An attack on European security
"What we have seen is a nerve agent attack in the heart of Europe. It is the first time since the Second World War that this has happened," pointed out Rainer Breul, Federal Foreign Office spokesperson. Although the OPCW has not yet completed its analysis of the agent used in the attack, the European Council agreed with the assessment of the British side "on the basis of a report on the status of the UK’s own investigations" that it is "highly likely" that the Russian Federation was responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter. There are no other plausible explanations.
Over a hundred innocent bystanders were exposed to the poison. "That was an attack on European security." And it was a violation of the ban on chemical weapons. In terms of international law it was also a violation of the principle of non-intervention and of the prohibition on the use of force, added Rainer Breul. A state like the United Kingdom is entitled to take action to defend itself against such an attack.
Russia called on to act
So far Russia has made no credible attempt to play a constructive role in investigations. The United Kingdom is still waiting for concrete answers to concrete questions. Instead, there have been "general denials of different sorts". Against this background, the German government decided to respond in a "proportionate and appropriate manner" given the severity of the attack, stressed Rainer Breul.