(CNSNews.com) – Russia’s foreign ministry has confirmed – and condemned – Britain’s decision not to invite President Vladimir Putin or any other Russian representative to attend the state funeral for Queen Elizabeth II.
Earlier this week CNN cited an unnamed British government source as saying Russia and its close ally Belarus – along with military-led Burma – were off the invitation list for the funeral, which will take place in London’s Westminster Abbey on Monday.
The official attributed the decision not to invite Russia or Belarus to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which Belarus has supported and facilitated.
Asked whether Moscow had received an invitation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not respond directly, but told reporters Putin had had no plans to go to any memorial event, and noted that he had sent a telegram of condolences over the Queen’s death.
But on Thursday Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed the report was true.
“The British Foreign Office informed the Russian Embassy in London of the decision to refrain from sending the Russian side, including the leadership of the Russian Embassy, invitations to mourning events in connection with the death of Queen Elizabeth II,” she said. “The British cited Russia’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine as a pretext for such a move.”
Zakharova condemned as “deeply immoral” what she called an attempt by Britain to “use the national tragedy, which has touched the hearts of millions of people around the world, for geopolitical purposes to settle scores with our country during the days of mourning.”
She also called the decision cynical and “blasphemous” to the Queen’s memory, given that before she became monarch she served in the territorial forces during World War II, fighting against “the Nazis and their Ukrainian accomplices.”
Today, the British elites are on their side,” Zakharova added, alluding to Moscow’s claim that it is fighting Western-supported “neo-Nazis” in Kyiv.
“For our part, we express our deep condolences to the British people in connection with the great loss that has befallen them,” she added.
Queen Elizabeth died on September 8, aged 96, the longest-reigning monarch in the country’s history. President Biden and the First Lady are among the around 500 world leaders and foreign dignitaries invited to what will be the first formal state funeral in Britain since Winston Churchill’s in 1965.
Britain’s Royal Palace has not released information about invitations, but apart from Russia, Belarus, and Burma, according to the BBC Syria’s Assad regime, the Maduro regime in Venezuela, and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan have also not been invited, as Britain does not have full diplomatic relations with them.
Iran, North Korea, and Nicaragua are expected to be represented at ambassadorial level only.
Putin was hosted by the Queen when he paid a state visit to Britain in 2003, the first Russian leader to have done so since 1874.
It was one of a number of trips to the country between 2000, when he did so in his capacity as acting president, and 2013, when he attended a G8 summit.
After Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 – and Russia was suspended from the then-G8 – he made no further visits to Britain.
Bilateral relations had already been strained back in 2006, when former Russian intelligence officer and defector Alexander Litvinenko died in London of polonium poisoning. A British inquiry later found that the assassination was carried out by Russian intelligence agents, and “probably” approved by Putin.
In response to Litvinenko’s death, Britain expelled Russian diplomats, suspended security co-operation with Moscow and demanded the extradition of two suspects, to no avail.
Relations soured again after the attempted assassination by poisoning in Britain of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in England in 2018.
The British government concluded after an investigation that Skripal and his daughter had been “poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” and “that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible.” More sanctions were imposed and 23 Russian diplomats were expelled.
Russia has consistently denied any involvement in the Skripal and Litvinenko affairs.
This year’s invasion of Ukraine set back U.K.-Russia relations significantly further, with Britain taking a leading role in condemning the war and becoming – after the U.S. – the biggest contributor of military assistance to Ukraine.
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