Twitter diplomacy: Russia, UK spar online over spy death


London (AFP)

Meeting sarcasm with slick animated videos, Britain's foreign ministry and the Russian embassy in London have been doing battle on social media over the death of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal.

The embassy's Twitter account is well-known for its pithy reactions to global events, once posting a picture of a duckling with the words LAME after the 2016 US expulsion of Russian diplomats.

It has adopted a similar approach to the latest row with Britain over London's claims Moscow was behind the nerve agent attack on Skripal and his daughter on March 4.

After Prime Minister Theresa May's announcement Wednesday of retaliatory measures, its account -- @RussianEmbassy -- posted a picture of a thermometer against a backdrop of ice.

"The temperature of (Russian flag, British flag) relations drops to minus 23, but we are not afraid of cold weather," it wrote.

Ahead of May's speech, the embassy had sent out a string of tweets with tough words accompanied by comically basic graphics.

One warned of "yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia", with a picture showing the words "Fake News" crossed out and featuring a question mark.

Another carried a warning of retaliation, with a picture of a ball on a horizontal line and arrows pointing down and up, with the words: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction."

A later tweet condemning British media coverage of the Skripal case was accompanied by a "toxic hazard" sign with a skull and crossbones.

May remarked that Russia's response to the Skipral attack had been "sarcasm, contempt and defiance".

Not to be outdone, Britain's @foreignoffice account hit back Wednesday with two slick animated videos explaining how and why it had taken measures against Moscow.

The first highlights past incidents of Russian military and cyber aggression, complete with animated maps and an ominous photograph of President Vladimir Putin.

It also featured a skull and crossbones, this time as a "poison" sign, to illustrate the death of ex-Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in Britain in 2006, a killing it blamed on Russia.

By Wednesday the video had been viewed almost 87,000 times, although the second, later video detailing May's expulsion of Russian diplomats and an officials-level boycott of the football World Cup, had only attracted 5,000 views.