Theresa May says the Salisbury attack was carried out using a “military grade” nerve agent developed by Russia.
May said that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a form of nerve agent known as Novichock, and there were two possible explanations: the attack was an act of the Russian state, or Russia has lost control of a deadly banned substance.
The Prime Minister told the House of Commons that the Government has concluded it is “highly likely” that Russia is responsible for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.
Russia’s ambassador in London has been summoned to the Foreign Office to explain whether the Salisbury attack was “a direct action by the Russian state” or the result of the Russian Government “losing control” of its stock of nerve agents, Mrs May told the House of Commons.
Boris Johnson has told the Russian ambassador that Moscow must “immediately provide full and complete disclosure” of its Novichok nerve gas programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, giving Russia until the end of Tuesday to respond, said Mrs May.
- May says, if Russia does not give a “credible response”, the government will conclude that the attack involved “unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.
- May says, if the government does come to that conclusion, she will return to the Commons to outline retaliatory proposals.
The Russian foreign minister responded to Theresa Mays statement by claiming, “It’s a circus show in the British parliament. Political campaign based on provocation.”
What Is Novichok?
Novichok (meaning roughly “newcomer”, “newbie” or “new guy”) is a series of nerve agents that were developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.
Allegedly these are the most deadly nerve agents ever made, with some variants possibly five to eight times more potent than VX, though this has never been proven. They are 4th generation chemical weapons, designed as part of the Soviet program codenamed “Foliant”.
According to Vil Mirzayanov, the Russian Military Chemical Complex (MCC) was using defense conversion money received from the West for development of a chemical warfare facility.
Mirzayanov made his disclosure out of environmental concerns. He was a head of a counter-intelligence department and performed measurements outside the chemical weapons facilities to make sure that foreign spies could not detect any traces of production. To his horror, the levels of deadly substances were 80 times greater than the maximum safe concentration.
The existence of Novichok agents was openly admitted by Russian military industrial complex authorities when they brought a treason case against Mirzayanov. According to expert witness testimonies prepared for the KGB by three scientists, Novichok and other related chemical agents had indeed been produced and therefore the disclosure by Mirzayanov represented high treason.
Vil Mirzayanov was arrested on October 22, 1992 and sent to Lefortovo prison for divulging state secrets. He was released later because “not one of the formulas or names of poisonous substances in the Moscow Newsarticle was new to the Soviet press, nor were locations … of testing sites revealed.”
Administration of Novichok causes the involuntary contraction of all muscles. This then leads to respiratory and cardiac arrest (as the victim’s heart and diaphragm muscles no longer function normally) and finally death from heart failure or suffocation as copious fluid secretions fill the victim’s lungs.