Britain says Russian Federation spied on Skripals before poisoning

14 April, 2018, 22:17 | Author: Mable Gonzales
  • Salisbury incident

Russia has run programs investigating methods of delivering nerve agents, "including by application to door handles", and is "highly likely" responsible for the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, according to intelligence made public by the United Kingdom on Friday.

In his letter, Sir Mark argued that only Russian Federation had the "technical means, operational experience and the motive" to carry out such an attack.

The OPCW confirmed on Thursday that the lethal poison used in the attack on the Skripals was a military-grade nerve agent "of high purity".

Yulia was discharged from the hospital earlier this week and is being kept in an unknown location.

He also questioned the authenticity of a statement issued by Ms Skripal through the Metropolitan Police saying she did not want to meet Russian officials.

Moscow has strongly denied responsibility and says Britain is waging a defamation campaign against it.

He identifies a branch of the Russian research institute at Shikhany near Volgograd in southern Russia as being largely responsible for that work.

The strongest concentration of the Novichok nerve agent found in the Salisbury incident was on the front door handle of Mr Skripal's home.

"The codeword for the offensive chemical weapons programme (of which Novichoks were one part) was FOLIANT", he said.

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Sedwill said Russia's chemical weapons programme had continued after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that by 1993, when Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, it was "likely that some Novichoks had passed acceptance testing, allowing their use by the Russian military".

He said Moscow had a proven record of state-sponsored assassinations and had tested ways of delivering chemical weapons, including the use of door handles to spread nerve agents, as Britain believes was done in the Skripal case.

Sir Mark said: "There is no plausible alternative explanation", adding that Russian Federation had continued to produce and stockpile small quantities of Novichok within the last decade.

Mr Sedwill wrote: "We have information indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals, dating back at least as far as 2013, when email accounts belonging to Yulia Skripal were targeted by GRU [Russian military intelligence] cyber specialists".

He said Russian Federation had a "proven record of conducting state-sponsored assassination" and that it was "highly likely" some defectors - like Mr Skripal, a former GRU officer who was exchanged in a spy swap in 2010 - may be regarded as "legitimate targets".

At a press conference arranged before the letter's release, Russian ambassador to the U.K. Alexander Yakovenko said he was not familiar with the latest allegations.

He said, based on British intelligence, that Russian Federation had developed a next generation nerve-agent group called Novichok and stockpiled small amounts of the agent within the last decade.

Russia, he said, repeating a claim the Kremlin has asserted throughout the Skripal affair, eliminated all of its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2017, and as for Novichok, "We did not produce it and didn't store it".

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