Chemical weapons watchdog to meet on poisoned ex-spy case

Glen Norman
April 4, 2018

Sky News reported on Tuesday, citing Chief Executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down Gary Aitkenhead as saying that experts from the British Porton Down chemical weapons research center had been unable to identify the origin of the nerve agent used to poison former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

"As the Prime Minister has set out in a number of statements to the Commons since 12 March, this includes our knowledge that within the last decade, Russian Federation has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents probably for assassination - and as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks (sic); Russia's record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russian Federation views former intelligence officers as targets", the Foreign Office statement says.

"We were able to identify it as novichok, to identify that it was military-grade nerve agent", he said. Russian Federation vehemently denies any responsibility.

He added: "It is our job to provide the scientific evidence of what this particular nerve agent is".

"It's a military grade nerve agent which requires extremely sophisticated methods in order to create - something that's probably only within the capabilities of a state actor".

The request came after Moscow received and analysed samples of the Novichok agent used in the attack. "If there was any hint that anything that we have would be leaving our four walls, then we wouldn't be allowed to operate".

The global chemical weapons control body will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal, at Russia's request.

Britain blames Russian Federation for the March 4 attack on Skripal and his daughter Yulia, a claim that Moscow fiercely denies.

Britain blames Russian Federation for the pair's poisoning with a Soviet-developed nerve agent.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence agent convicted of spying for Britain, and his daughter were found unconscious and critically ill in the English cathedral city of Salisbury a month ago. British authorities suspect Skripal was poisoned by a Soviet-made nerve agent.

The US ambassador was also ordered to shut the consulate in St Petersburg, in Russia's retaliation for the biggest expulsion of diplomats since the Cold War.

Russian President, facing a stuttering economy and an unusual show of Western unity that included even states traditionally friendly towards Moscow, appeared to have stuck to the diplomatic playbook with the symmetrical response.

On Saturday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on Facebook that more than 50 diplomats and staff members of the United Kingdom diplomatic mission in Russia would have to return to the United Kingdom in order to maintain the parity in the number of diplomatic personnel of the two countries.

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