Nerve agent was used on Skripals, chemical watchdog says


Washington: The world’s chemical arms watchdog on Thursday said it had confirmed Britain’s findings that a nerve agent was used in an attack on a former spy and his daughter in England last month originally came from Russia.
However, according to the declassified summary of its findings, however, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not make any assessment on who carried out the March 4 attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury that also injured a police officer.
Samples tested by the OPCW “confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical,” according to a summary of the Hague-based group’s report released in London.
It added that “the toxic chemical was of high purity”.
Britain and allies including the United States have blamed Moscow, sparking furious denials and provoking an international row resulting in the expulsions of diplomats from all sides.
Chemical not named
The OPCW did not specifically name the chemical, saying that information and its structure would be in a full classified report available to signatory states of the organisation.
Britain has previously identified the agent as Novichok, a group of powerful and deadly chemical compounds reportedly developed by the Soviet government in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has said Russia was known to have used it, and pointed to the country’s pattern of “reckless behaviour,” including the annexation of Crimea.
Russia has strongly denied any involvement, and insists it has destroyed all of its chemical weapons.
Skripal moved to Britain in a spy swap in 2010 and settled in Salisbury, and his daughter Yulia was visiting from Russia when they were poisoned, possibly on his front door.
Despite initial fears that they would not survive, Yulia Skripal was released from hospital to an undisclosed location earlier this week, while her father is said to be improving rapidly.
In a statement issued through the London Metropolitan Police, Skripal rejected any consular assistance from the Russians.
Russia’s embassy in London questioned the authenticity of the statement, saying it had been crafted to support Britain’s version of events.
The embassy says the statement released Wednesday by the Metropolitan Police Service on behalf of 33-year-old Yulia Skripal strengthens suspicions she is being held against her will.
Tangible proof requested
It says British authorities “must urgently provide tangible evidence that Yulia is alright and not deprived of her freedom.”
In the statement, which was distributed by London’s Metropolitan Police, Skripal says she does not want consular assistance as she recovers from the nerve agent attack that left her and her father in critical condition and created an international furor.
Skripal said that she finds herself with a “totally different life” than the one she had before the March 4 poisoning in southwest England. She was released from the hospital this week, while Sergei Skripal remains hospitalised.
“I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance,” Skripal, a Russian citizen who was visiting her father in the cathedral city of Salisbury, said in the statement.