Russian programme 'tested nerve agents with door handles'

Cheryl Sanders
April 15, 2018

The Skripals are believed to have been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, and the fallout from the attack on them has resulted in the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United Kingdom and its allies, since the Government concluded that it was "highly likely" that the blame lay with Moscow (News, 16 March, 23 March).

"There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible - only Russian Federation has the means, motive and record".

"I want to underline: the OPCW only has confirmed the composition of the chemical agent", Lavrov said at a news conference.

Vil Mirzayanov, who led counter-intelligence for the former Soviet Union's military and helped develop novichok, told The Daily Mail the chemical "causes you convulsions and you can't breathe and after that you die, if you get enough of a dose of it".

Yulia and her father Sergei, a former Russian double agent, were found on March 4 slumped over on a park bench in Salisbury, a quiet city in the southwest of England.

But British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "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", Johnson said.

"During the 2000s Russian Federation commenced a programme to test means of delivering chemical warfare agents and to train personnel from special units in the use of these weapons", the letter said.

However, Georgy Kalamanov, Russia's deputy minister of industry and trade, said it was impossible to pinpoint the nerve agent's origin and reiterated Moscow's demand for a fresh investigation with Russian involvement.

Salisbury District Hospital's medical director, Dr Christine Blanshard, said that Ms Skripal's being discharged was not the end of her treatment, but marked a "significant milestone". Russia's ambassador to Britain Aleksandr Yakovenko expressed surprise and asked two questions: what the reasons for spying on Skripal in London after his release in Moscow were and why British special services had never complained Skripal was under surveillance.

The UK's national security adviser Sir Mark Sedwill also alleged that president Vladimir Putin was "closely involved" in the mid-2000s in Russia's chemical weapons programme.

The Russian embassy in London immediately raised doubts over the authenticity of the statement, claiming it "only strengthens suspicions that we are dealing with a forcible isolation of the Russian citizen".

In the statement published on Wednesday, she said her father remained seriously ill and that she was still suffering from the effects of nerve agent used against them.

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