Skripal case has sparked new Cold War

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Russian media on Tuesday shared the view that Western countries’ coordinated expulsions of Russian diplomats following the poisoning in Britain of a former spy have plunged Moscow’s relations with the West into a new “Cold War”. Twenty-four countries including 17 member-states of the European Union have expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats over the attempted murder in England of Russian national Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

Izvestia pro-Kremlin daily denounced what it called a “flash mob”, while Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily stressed that “never before have there been such coordinated expulsions”. “Relationships between Russia and the West are entering a period of an all-out Cold War,” political analyst Fedor Lukyanov wrote in Vedomosti business daily.

“The expulsions will be particularly destructive for Russian-American relations,” he said, adding that he expects the West to issue “much more severe economic sanctions” against Russia in the future. “This is not an end of escalation. It will most probably worsen.” Kommersant business daily wrote that these “measures of unprecedented severity are yet another round of aggravation of tensions in Russian-Western relations”.

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky said Russia’s foreign policy has been fired by “the concentrated energy of self-destruction” since 2014, the year when Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, incurring retaliatory economic sanctions from the West.

“The worse the relationships between Russia and the West are, the better it is for the president”, with Vladimir Putin’s domestic legitimacy propped up by the confrontation with the West, Belkovsky wrote in a blog for the popular Echo of Moscow radio station.

Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer who sold secrets to Britain and moved there in a 2010 spy swap. He and his daughter Yulia remain in critical conditions after they were found unconscious on a park bench in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. Britain says a military-grade nerve agent was used to poison them, pointing a finger at the Kremlin, which has angrily rejected accusations of being behind the crime.

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