“We, as you understand, have abilities to receive confidential information. And as this information concerns questions of life and death, we won’t keep this information secret.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (April 14 2018)
“The labs were able to confirm the identity of the chemical by applying existing, well-established procedures. There was no other chemical that was identified by the labs. The precursor of BZ that is referred to in the public statements, commonly known as 3Q, was contained in the control sample prepared by the OPCW lab in accordance with the existing quality control procedures. Otherwise it has nothing to do with the samples collected by the OPCW team in Salisbury.”
Marc-Michael Blum, the head of the OPCW laboratory (April 18 2018)
“Lucius Cassius ille, quem populus Romanus verissimum et sapientissimum iudicem putabat, identidem in causis quaerere solebat, cui bono fuisset?’ (*)
Cicero — Pro Roscio Amerino
On Saturday (April 14 2018), Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed that a Swiss lab report — dated March 27 2018 — suggests that Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a chemical substance known as BZ (NATO CODE). Yesterday, several OPCW executives refuted the claim. Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today
RELATED POST: Did a “Novichok” programme ever exist?
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RELATED POST: OPCW Report on Technical Assistance Requested by the UK
RELATED POST: Sir Mark Sedwill’s Letter On The Skripal Poisoning
Speaking at the XXVI Assembly of the Foreign and Defence Policy Council in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told the audience that experts from the Swiss Centre for Radiological and Chemical-Bacteriological Analysis — located in Spiez — had analysed the Skripal poisoning samples.
“Summarising the results of the expertise conducted, a toxic chemical substance BZ and its precursor were found in the samples. These are related to chemical weapons of the second category in accordance with the Convention on the chemical weapons prohibition,” Lavrov said.
However, OPCW officials replied that BZ had been used in a control sample, not the “Skripals” samples.
The officials also criticize the Russian Foreign Ministry for revealing the identify of a laboratory involved in a test, which is a breach of OPCW procedures.
The OPCW noted that the chemical was of high purity, indicating that the “chemical was not volatile and would degrade slowly.”
Vil Mirzayanov — an exiled scientist who developed the Novichok agent and revealed its existence — explained in an interview with The Guardian that the agent lost its effectiveness over the years.
“The final product, in storage, after one year is already losing 2%, 3%,” Mirzayanov said,
“The next year more, and the next year more. In 10-15 years, it’s no longer effective.”
In th aftermath of the Salisbury incident, Theresa May called on Moscow to explain whether it was a “direct act… against our country” or if they had “lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others”.
Indeed some investigators consider that it is entirely possible that Sergei Skripal could have been poisoned by one of the many people he betrayed — or by a member of their family — with the help of Russian criminals who allegedly acquired some small amounts of Novichok in the early 90s. [So far, no credible suspect has been identified.]
At this point, several facts appear contradictory. Novichok is known to be extremely lethal but both Yulia and Sergei recovered quickly. Novichok is supposed to degrade fast but the samples analyzed by the OPCW labs revealed the high purity of the agent used in Salisbury.
What are we supposed to conclude from all this? Obviously, the official narrative is not highly convincing. Many have doubts, even if they cannot always share these doubts publicly.
UK senior civil servants — both in the FCO and Home Office — remain sceptical of the Kremlin guilt in the Skripal case. Indeed, cui bono fuisset?
March 4 2018 — Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are poisoned in Salisbury
March 12 2018 — Prime minister Theresa May told MPs that the government had concluded it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the attack. “Either the Russian state was directly responsible for the poisoning or it had allowed the poison, which belonged the Novichok group of nerve agents, to get into the hands of others.”
March 15 2018 — Salisbury attack: Joint statement from the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom
March 15 2018 — Stephen Davies — Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust (Letter to the Times) — claims that ” no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning.”
March 18 2018 — Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says that Russia has been stockpiling “Novichok” over the last decade.
March 18 2018 — Russian Embassy in London tweets: “In absence of evidence, we definitely need Poirot in Salisbury!”
March 19 2018 — Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) arrive in the UK to test samples of the chemical
March 20 2018 — Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats. Russia swiftly expelled 23 British diplomats in return.
March 22 2018 — UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the broadcaster ‘Deutsche Welle’ that Porton Down scientists assured him that the ‘novichok’ nerve agent used in the Salisbury attack had been made in Russia. (We now know that Boris Johnson lied.)
March 22 2018 — British Ambassador to Russia Dr Laurie Bristow briefs the international diplomatic community in Moscow on the UK Government response to the Salisbury attack.
March 26 2018 — The U.S. expels 60 Russian diplomats. 16 EU countries announced diplomatic expulsions, with France, Germany and Poland each ejecting four officials. Albania, Canada, Australia and Ukraine also announced expulsions.
March 27 2018 — Swiss lab report suggests that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with the nerve agent BZ
March 30 & 31 2018 — On Friday March 30 2018, the Embassy made public a list of 27 questions that Russia had asked Britain in the light of the Salisbury poisoning. Fourteen new questions were issued on Saturday. Several of these new questions focus on France’s involvement in the investigation.
April 1 2048 — Professor Tim Hayward posts a report by Paul McKeigue, Jake Mason and Piers Robinson on the novichok nerve agent. The report is lauded by Dave Collum — Professor of Organic Chemistry at Cornell University — as the most definitive work so far.
April 3 2018 — Gary Aitkenhead — the chief executive of the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) — said the poison had been identified as a military-grade novichok nerve agent. Aitkenhead made it very clear that it was not possible for scientists to say where the novichok agent had been created.
April 7 2018 — The UK Home Office refuses to grant a visa to Ms Viktoria Skripal to visit her relatives
April 8 2018 — BBC Radio 4 reports that MI6 and the CIA have been discussing the possibility of providing Sergei and Yulia Skripal with new identities and relocating them to the US.
April 11 2018 — The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) transmits to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (UK) the report of the OPCW’s mission to provide requested technical assistance in regard to the Salisbury incident. The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury. (The toxic chemical is NOT named.)
April 13 2018 — Sir Mark Sedwill Letter to Nato Secretary-General: “We therefore continue to judge that only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals and that it is highly likely that the Russian state was responsible. There is no plausible alternative explanation.”
April 14 2018 — Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reveals the Swiss lab report
April 18 2018 — Marc-Michael Blum, the head of the OPCW laboratory, refutes Lavrov’s claims about the BZ agent
OPCW confirms use of Novichok in Skripal attack
(*) Translation: “The famous Lucius Cassius, whom the Roman people used to regard as a very honest and wise judge, was in the habit of asking, time and again, to whose benefit it be?”
Spy poisoning: Russia stockpiling nerve agent, says Johnson — BBC News – March 18 2018
Porton Down experts unable to verify precise source of novichok — Guardian – April 3 2018
OPCW Issues Report on Technical Assistance Requested by the United Kingdom — OPCW – April 12 2018
Russia’s Lavrov Says Skripals May Have Been Poisoned by Substance Russia Never Made — NYT – April 14 2018
Salisbury Incident — OPCW Officials Rebuke Lavrov Over BZ Claims