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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

Watchdog confirms UK findings over nerve agent attack

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said there was “no doubt” that Russia was behind the attack

The chemical weapons watchdog confirmed Wednesday that Novichok was used in the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal (pictured) and his daughter Yulia / AFP PHOTO / Kommersant Photo / Yuri SENATOROV / Russia OUT
The chemical weapons watchdog confirmed Wednesday that Novichok was used in the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal (pictured) and his daughter Yulia / AFP PHOTO / Kommersant Photo / Yuri SENATOROV / Russia OUT

The international chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed Britain’s scientific analysis of the nerve agent used in the attack on a former spy and his daughter that sparked a global diplomatic crisis with Russia.

Investigators confirmed “the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical” used in Salisbury, said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in a statement. The report said that the nerve agent was of high purity.

It did not identify a source, but British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that there could be no doubt that Russia was responsible for the attack.

“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,” he said.

“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 and to circulate the full report to all state parties of the OPCW, including Russia.

“We will now work tirelessly with our partners to help stamp out the grotesque use of weapons of this kind and we have called a session of the OPCW Executive Council next Wednesday to discuss next steps. The Kremlin must give answers.”

Samples taken from three severely injured victims - Sergei Skripal, his daughter, Yulia, and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey - confirmed the UK's assessment, the OPCW said.

Russia said it would not accept the conclusions of the watchdog unless it had full access to the evidence in the case.

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British officials last week said that they were unable to identify the origin of the nerve agent but identified Russia as the source of the attack because of other intelligence. It included “knowledge” that Russia was stockpiling small quantities of the Novichok and that it been investigating ways of using nerve agents to carry out assassinations.

The admission was seized on by Russia, which suggested that the nerve agent could have come from the UK’s military research centre at Porton Down, which is 12 kilometres from Salisbury, the scene of the attack.

Russia has denied involvement in the attack and Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, claimed that experts have said that such nerve agents could have been made in about 20 countries.

More than 150 Russian diplomats have been expelled by 29 countries and Nato after the British government convinced international allies that there was no plausible alternative explanation than for Russia to have carried out the attack.

The new findings came as Yulia Skripal said that she did not wish to take up the offer of services from the Russian Embassy in London. In a statement issued on her behalf by British police, Ms Skripal said her father remained seriously ill and she was still suffering from the effects of nerve gas used against them.

Ms Skripal, 33, was discharged from a hospital in the English city of Salisbury on Monday, where, she said, she was treated “with obvious clinical expertise and with such kindness”.

Moscow on Thursday said it feared the UK had forcibly detained Ms Skripal.

"We have every reason to believe this could be a question of the deliberate, forcible detention of a Russian citizen or possibly their coercion into a staged announcement," foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.