Russia rejects Skripal attack findings report by chemical weapons watchdog
The lethal poison that struck down a former Russian spy and his daughter in England last month was a highly pure type of Novichok nerve agent, the global chemical weapons watchdog has concluded, backing Britain’s findings.
However Russia, which has denied it played any role in the attack on the Skripals, said it believed the watchdog’s report was part of a British operation to discredit Russia.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Moscow would not believe any conclusions about the poisoning unless Russian experts were given access to the investigation.
Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service, and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the cathedral city of Salisbury on March 4.
Britain blamed Russia for the poisoning and Prime Minister Theresa May said the Skripals had been attacked with a military-grade nerve agent from the Novichok group of poisons, developed by the Soviet Union.
Moscow has suggested Britain carried out the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria, but Britain asked the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to check samples from Salisbury.
Testing by four laboratories affiliated with the global chemical weapons watchdog confirmed Britain’s findings and showed that the toxic chemical was “of high purity”.
The OPCW did not explicitly name Novichok in its published summary, say where the poison may have come from or assign blame for the attack.
But it did confirm Britain’s analysis about the substance that had been used.
“The results of analysis by OPCW-designated laboratories … confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical,” the published summary said.
The OPCW laboratories tests’ — the details of which were kept confidential — findings about the chemical’s purity supports the British Government’s assertion that a state was involved.
Foreign office skripal tweet
The toxin attack prompted the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War as allies in Europe and the United States sided with Mrs May’s view that Moscow was either responsible or had lost control of the nerve agent.
Moscow has hit back by expelling Western diplomats, questioning how Britain knows that Russia was responsible and suggesting it stemmed from a plot by British secret services.
‘Only Russia has the means, motive and record’
Russia has said it does not have such nerve agents and President Vladimir Putin said it was nonsense to think that Moscow would have poisoned the Skripals. A police officer was also taken ill after attending the scene.
Ms Skripal, who was released from hospital this week, said in a statement she was still suffering effects of the poisoning and her father remained seriously ill.
She said she had declined an offer of assistance from the Russian embassy “at the moment”.
Ms Zakharova, Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, challenged Britain to prove the Skripals were not being held hostage, noting that no-one except British authorities had seen either of them for over a month.
Russian embassy tweet
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed the findings, and said “only Russia” could have been behind the attack.
“In the interest of transparency, and because unlike the Russians we have nothing to hide, we have asked the OPCW to publish the executive summary for all to see,” Mr Johnson said in a statement.
“There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible — only Russia has the means, motive and record.”
The poisoning of Mr Skripal, who settled in Britain in 2010 after being released by Moscow in a spy swap, shows “how reckless Russia is prepared to be”, the head of Britain’s GCHQ spy agency said.
There are several variants of Novichok, a binary weapon containing two less-toxic chemicals that, when mixed, react to produce a poison several times more lethal than sarin or VX.
Russia’s ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko, has identified the alleged poison as Novichok A-234, derived from an earlier version known as A-232.
Britain has said the use of such an obscure poison indicates Moscow was either to blame or had lost control over its nerve agents.
A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said: it was “now up to Russia to finally play a constructive role and answer the open questions”.