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Russian Orthodox priest wary over UK's 'judge and jury' spy attack reaction

Wed 14 Mar 2018
By Alex Williams

A priest at the Russian Orthodox cathedral in London is urging UK ministers not to blame the Kremlin for an attack on a former spy in Salisbury, given the extent of mystery surrounding the case.

The director of inter-orthodox relations for the Church in Great Britain and Ireland spoke before the UK announced it is expelling 23 Russian diplomats in response to the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Speaking with Premier, Fr Joseph Skinner said: "This attempted murder is a criminal and evil action but we should not rush to apportion blame before we know the full facts [and] before there is real proof."

 

MPs were also told by Prime Minister Theresa May in the House of Commons that the UK Government and the Royal Family would be boycotting this summer's World Cup in Russia.

She said the UK has also ended high-level contacts with Russia and that the country was "culpable" for the attack which took place on Sunday 4th March and involved Novichok - a substance developed in Soviet Union.

Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

Russia, which has fiercely opposed the suggestion it was involved in the attack on Mr Skripal, called the expulsion of its diplomats from the UK "unacceptable, unjustified and short-sighted".

Asked whether he personally felt the UK Government has rushed in its response, Fr Skinner replied: "Yes, the Government's appointed itself judge and jury."

Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

 

Fr Skinner insisted that the Russian Orthodox Church is separate from politics but it prays regularly for "peace of the whole world" and "tranquillity".

He also explained how coverage of the incident - which is still be investigated by police and the military - has affected members of the Russian Orthodox Church in the UK, saying: "The climate, if you like, of developing Russophobia in the media is obviously something which is disturbing for people."

Click here to listen to Fr Joseph Skinner speaking with Premier's John Pantry and Rosie Wright:

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