Russian spy attack: Moscow media accuses UK of trying to meddle in presidential elections

Oliver Carroll

Russia’s state media accused the UK of using the death of ex-spy Sergei Skripal to “interfere" in this weekend's Russian presidential elections – a vote that is expected to cement the power of Vladimir Putin.

The British were accused of being deliberately aggressive by some, while others suggested spies were misinforming Theresa May. Others still played up the prospect of world war.

It comes as the Kremlin made clear they would ignore Ms May's Monday ultimatum to admit to poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, or admit to losing control of an undeclared chemical weapon.

Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov said his country would not respond to the allegations without being given a sample of the nerve agent identified by British scientists.

As events unfolded, Mr Putin’s officials announced he would be making an “urgent” trip to Dagestan in southern Russia to address security matters. Unusually, journalists in the Kremlin press pool were not invited.

Mr Putin’s spokesman remained unavailable for comment, skipping his usual daily press conference on Tuesday.

State media nonetheless led the charge. After initial silence, the country's main news network turned to a familiar refrain. The British accusations, they suggested, were an “attempt by a foreign government to interfere in presidential elections”.

Looking down at a clipboard, one of the channel's anchors said the British had made "elementary" mistakes: “They have got confused about the time and place. We’re not in the 1990s anymore, when Russia allowed itself to be beaten. And Russia isn’t a British colony to be controlled.”

In the following hour, the channel presented a panel of obscure experts, who were each egged on by the presenter.

“Should we tell the British where to go?” the presenter asked the first participant. “Of course, we don’t need to prove our innocence.”

To the next expert, they asked: “Is this connected to Sunday’s elections?” Yes, it is, came the response.

To the third, they said: “Why are the British so aggressive?”

That expert replied that Theresa May was "getting the wrong information from her spooks", adding: "They haven’t had a strong record with previous prime ministers, have they?"

The expert continued: "We remember what they did with (Tony) Blair over Iraq. And (David) Cameron in Syria.”

Correcting them, the presenter said: "You mean Libya?"

By the end of the discussion, the experts were agreed: Russia and the West were on the verge of World War III.

“This is what May said," said one. "She said the UK had been attacked. This is the British answer to Putin’s state-of-the-nation speech. We understand the logic. Everyone should now be ready for the very worst of developments.”

Their conclusions seemed an obvious nod to the “stability and security” candidate in the presidential election, Mr Putin.