MOSCOW — Russia’s Foreign Ministry says the West’s angry reaction to a nerve agent attack in Britain is connected to the war in Syria.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Saturday reiterated Russian denials of involvement in the poisoning attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. She denied the existence of the nerve agent Novichok that Britain said was used against them.

Speaking on Russia-24 television, Zakharova said Britain is taking a tough line against Russia because of frustration at recent advances of Russian-backed Syrian government forces against Western-backed rebels.

Zakharova said the West is trying to “distract attention from what they did in Syria and Iraq” and that Britain “needs to somehow show the world that Russia is not in fact a peacekeeper but is playing its own game.”

Britain has expelled 23 Russian diplomats over the poisoning, and Russia expelled British diplomats in response.

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