Russian media have grasped upon comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who claimed that the substance used on Sergei Skripal was an agent called BZ. He went on to claim that the toxin was “never produced in Russia, but was in service in the US, UK, and other NATO states.”
The Russian embassy put out a statement, which said:
According to information from the Swiss Federal Institute for NBC-protection in Spiez, its experts received samples collected in Salisbury by the OPCW specialists and finished testing them on 27 March.
The experts of the Institute discovered traces of toxic chemical called “BZ” and its precursors. It is a Schedule 2 substance under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
“BZ” is a chemical agent, which is used to temporary incapacitate people. The desired psychotoxic effect is reached in 30-60 minutes after application of the agent and lasts up to four days. According to the information the Russian Federation possesses, this agent was used in the armed forces of the USA, United Kingdom and several others NATO member states. No stocks of such substance ever existed either in the Soviet Union or in the Russian Federation.
In addition, the Swiss specialists discovered strong concentration of traces of the nerve agent of A-234 type in its initial states as well as its decomposition products.
In view of the experts, such concentration of the A-234 agent would result in inevitable fatal outcome of its administration. Moreover, considering its high volatility, the detection of this substance in its initial state (pure form and high concentration) is extremely suspicious as the samples have been taken several weeks since the poisoning.
It looks highly likely that the “BZ” nerve agent was used in Salisbury. The fact that Yulia Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey have already been discharged from hospital, and Sergei Skripal is on his way to recovery, only supports such conclusion.
Spiez Lab Response:
The unfortunately named, Spiez Lab in Switzerland responded to the claims:
“Only OPCW can comment this assertion. But we can repeat what we stated 10 days ago: We have no doubt that Porton Down has identified Novichock. PD – like Spiez – is a designated lab of the OPCW. The standards in verification are so rigid that one can trust the findings.”
Only OPCW can comment this assertion. But we can repeat what we stated 10 days ago: We have no doubt that Porton Down has identified Novichock. PD – like Spiez – is a designated lab of the OPCW. The standards in verification are so rigid that one can trust the findings. #Skipal pic.twitter.com/3xp3dBFAdP
— Spiez Laboratory (@SpiezLab) April 14, 2018
What Is BZ?
BZ was invented by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffman-LaRoche in 1951. The company was investigating anti-spasmodic agents, similar to tropine, for treating gastrointestinal ailments when the chemical was discovered. It was then investigated for possible use in ulcer treatment, but was found unsuitable. At this time the United States military investigated it along with a wide range of possible nonlethal, psychoactive incapacitating agents including psychedelic drugs such as LSD and THC, dissociative drugs such as ketamine and phencyclidine, potent opioids such as fentanyl, as well as several glycolate anticholinergics.
By 1959 the United States Army showed significant interest in deploying it as a chemical warfare agent. It was originally designated “TK”, but when it was standardised by the Army in 1961 it received the NATO code name “BZ”. The agent commonly became known as “Buzz” because of this abbreviation and the effects it had on the mental state of the human volunteers intoxicated with it in research studies at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland.
In February 1998, the British Ministry of Defence accused Iraq of having stockpiled large amounts of a glycolate anticholinergic incapacitating agent known as Agent 15. Agent 15 is an alleged Iraqi incapacitating agent that is likely to be chemically either identical to BZ or closely related to it. Agent 15 was reportedly stockpiled in large quantities prior to and during the Persian Gulf War. However, after the war the CIA concluded that Iraq had not stockpiled or weaponised Agent 15.
BZ: A Russian First Generation Chemical Weapon
According to a paper produced by Lev Aleksandrovich Fedorov (a Russian chemist) from The Center of Ecological Policy of Russia (1994), BZ was a First Generation Chemical that was not retired from “active duty” until the late eighties following the Tbilisi massacre (source: Lev Aleksandrovich Fedorov), where an anti-Soviet demonstration was dispersed by the Soviet Army, resulting in 21 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Russian Use Of BZ In 2002?
In 2002, the Moscow Theatre siege took place. 40 to 50 armed Chechens took 850 hostages. The siege ended with the death of at least 170 people, after Russian Special Forces pumped a toxic substance pumped into the theatre to subdue the terrorists. The identity of the gas was never disclosed. Independent experts likened the effect of the gas used to that of BZ (BBC).
Throughout the post-war years and up to the present, the UNKhV has had a so-called scientific-technical committee. In reality, this is an institute that was and is involved in military-chemical planning, including planning of “likely enemy” targets meriting the attention of “chemical gnomes”. We do not know what the institute is now called, but it’s official official code name was, military unit No. 64518.
The advent of third generation chemical weapons in the Soviet Union was a direct consequence not only of the Cold War, but also of attempts of the Military-Chemical Complex to “keep itself alive.” These weapons embody dual advances in special chemistry: not only new types of toxic chemicals, but also more effective means of combat use (binary weapons and multiple warheads).
The development of new organophosphorus toxic chemical that became the basis for third generation chemical weapons dates from 1973-1976. This was followed by technological research, production of experimental lots and many years of combat tests of various munitions that were completed in 1991-1992. As a whole, the “Foliant” program yielded five promising OTC of a new type. One of these turned out to be convenient for combat use in binary form (Soviet V-gas has also been made for use in binary form). The concluding cycle of research within the scope of the “Foliant” target program was conducted in fulfilment of Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers No 131-24 dated 25 March 1983, and a special Decree of the CPSU Central Committee and the USSR Council of Ministers No 844-186 on research to develop binary weapons was promulgated on 6 October 1989 when perestroyka was at its height.
Source: Lev Aleksandrovich Fedorov Moscow Center of Ecological Policy of Russia