Independent inspectors confirm UK nerve agent findings

Monitoring Desk

LONDON: The independent scientists from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPWC) have confirmed Thursday that the nerve agent Novichok was used in Salisbury, England in a chemical attack on a former Russian spy.

The international chemical weapons watchdog has said an analysis of samples gathered from Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and detective sergeant Nick Bailey — the officer affected during the emergency response — confirmed the U.K.’s assessment of the incident.

The chemical weapon used in Salisbury was of “high purity”, the watchdog said.

The U.K. has said its experts from the Porton Down defense research center concluded that the military-grade nerve agent that was used in the attack belonged to a Russia-developed chemical weapon group called Novichok.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reacted to the OPCW findings saying: “The Kremlin must give answers.”

“Today the international chemical weapons watchdog have confirmed the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical used in the attempted assassination of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and which also resulted in the hospitalisation of a British police officer,” Johnson said.

“That was a military grade nerve agent — a Novichok,” he said in a statement.

Johnson added: “This is based on testing in 4 independent, highly reputable laboratories around the world,” and “all returned the same conclusive results.”

“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 added.

“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,” Johnson added.

“We will now work tirelessly with our partners to help to 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.”

Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, were admitted to a hospital after being found unconscious on a public bench on March 4 in Salisbury.

“Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia,” specifically from the Novichok group, British Prime Minister Theresa May said following an immediate assessment by British experts.

The incident has drawn comparisons to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko after drinking radioactive tea. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder denied any involvement. (AA)