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Russia dismisses UK accusations of poisoning spy

Russia has publicly dismissed Britain's accusations of being involved in poisoning an ex-spy as "nonsense" after Prime Minister Theresa May warned that unless Russia provided a "credible response" about Soviet "Novichok chemicals", the British government would treat the Skripal case as a hostile action by the Russian state.

Published: March 14, 2018, 5:04 am

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    Weirdly, Russia is being asked to provide proof of innocence – already a highly bizarre request – whilst being denied the evidence which supposedly “proves” Russia’s guilt.

    The British government claim to have consulted “international experts” to verify the identity of the chemical that was used. But these experts and their criteria remain in the shadows, and their reports have not been published.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed Britain’s accusations and explained that Britain has refused Russia’s offer of cooperation as well as a “legal request” for samples of the chemical used to attack Sergej and his daughter Yulia Skripal.

    Russian summoned the British ambassador to the Russian Foreign Ministry after May claimed in Parliament that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by a “military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia”. The nerve agent was part of a group of agents known as “Novichok”.

    Novichok represents a variety of chemical warfare agents that were developed in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s, and said to be highly toxic.

    The existence of these chemical agents was disclosed in 1992 when Russia joined the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction in 1997.

    Unlike the United States, it has since reportedly destroyed all left over stocks from the Soviet Union’s chemical weapon program.

    One of the key manufacturing sites was the Soviet State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT) in Nukus, Uzbekistan. Since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has been working with the government of the United States to dismantle and decontaminate the sites where the Novichok agents and other chemical weapons were tested and developed.

    The formulas for the various Novichok agents are therefore no longer a Russian secret and the toxins are said to be made from components generally used in civil industrial processes, rubbishing claims of a “military grade” toxin as many chemical agents used in civil process are equally deadly.

    The Porton Down chemical weapon laboratory of the British military is in fact very close to Salisbury where the Skripals were allegedly poisoned.

    Right after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told US news outlet NBC that Skripal and his daughter were likely poisoned, “a really egregious act” that appears to have “clearly” come from Russia, President Trump announced Tillerson’s resignation.

    Tillerson’s comments echoed those made Monday by the British Prime Minister, in what appears to have been an effort to jointly crank up the case to crisis levels.

    Trump has appointed CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace the former Exxon Mobil chief executive. Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel will run the spy agency, he added.

    The Washington Post first reported the news, which the president quickly confirmed in a tweet.

    British daily The Times hastily changed “an error” on the paper’s front page after its headline claimed that Skripal had died when he is in fact still in hospital.

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