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Ex-spy poisoning row: Britain unable to identify source of nerve agent

04 April 2018

Britain at the time asked the Russian ambassador to say whether the attack was carried out by the Russian state, or whether Russia lost control of the nerve agent used.

It seems "at least plausible" that sectors of the British government may have been involved in the poisoning of the former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the United Kingdom, the Russian ambassador to Ireland has claimed.

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 which could probably be deployed only by a nation-state.

The British government insisted that several pieces of information contributed to its conclusion that the Russian government was responsible for the nerve agent attack, including intelligence that Russia had produced Novichok within the last decade and had investigated ways of delivering nerve agents for assassinations.

"It's our job to provide the scientific evidence that identifies what the particular nerve agent is ... but it's not our job to say where that was actually manufactured", he told Sky News.

He also noted that the production of the substance requires "extremely sophisticated methods to create, something only in the capabilities of a state actor".

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The senior Russian Government official urged the Dublin authorities to use common sense.

Russia's top diplomat also mocked Britain's claim that there was no plausible alternative explanation for the poisonings of the Skripals.

She had been given power of attorney over the cash in late February from her father, double agent Sergei Skripal, poisoned by nerve agent Novichok alongside her on March 4 in Salisbury.

Britain blames Russian Federation for the pair's poisoning with a Soviet-developed nerve agent.

The world's chemical weapons watchdog said it would hold a meeting at Russia's request on Wednesday (Apr 3) to discuss Britain's allegations that Moscow was behind the poisoning of an ex-spy in England.

Russian Federation requested the meeting and has demanded an "unbiased investigation" by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

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The former general said Russian President Vladimir Putin is "the last guy to benefit" from the spy poisoning.

OPCW experts have taken samples from Salisbury to try to verify the nerve agent used and its origin. The elder Skripal, 66, remains in critical condition, while his 33-year-old daughter is improving in a Salisbury hospital.

Russian officials have suggested the poison may have come from Britain, pointing out that Porton Down conducts secret chemical and biological weapons research.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko called Skripal's poisoning a "provocation arranged by Britain" in order to justify high military spending, because "they need a major enemy".

Meanwhile, retired Russian Lieutenant-General Evgeny Buzhinsky warned that relations between Russia and the West could become "worse" than the Cold War and "end up in a very, very bad outcome" following the nerve agent attack. Moscow, which vehemently denies any involvement, has responded in kind, expelling dozens of Western diplomats.

On what the issue meant for the relationship between Ireland and Russia, Mr Filatov said he did not think it was really "a huge story".

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Ex-spy poisoning row: Britain unable to identify source of nerve agent