Russian official suggests Salisbury nerve agent could have come from UK lab

Posted On: 
18th March 2018

The nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal may have originated in a government facility in Wiltshire, a senior Russian official has suggested. 

Russia's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, speaking to the Andrew Marr Show
Credit: 
BBC One/Andrew Marr Show

Moscow's ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, categorically denied his government was involved in the attack on the double agent and his daughter in Salisbury last week.

The pair are both currently in a critical but stable condition in hospital, while the police officer who attended to them, Nick Bailey, is also receiving treatment. 

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Government experts from the Porton Down facility have identified the chemical used in the attack as Novichok, a lethal nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union. 

But Mr Chizhov suggested that it could have been produced in the UK, rather than in Russia.

"When you have a nerve agent or whatever, you check it against certain samples that you retain in your laboratories," he told the Andrew Marr Show.

"And Porton Down, as we now all know, is the largest military facility in the United Kingdom that has been dealing with chemical weapons research. And it's actually only eight miles from Salisbury."

 Pressed on whether he was indicating British involvement, he added, "I don't have evidence of anything being used."

"I exclude the possibility of any stockpiles of any chemical weapons fleeing Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there were certain specialists, including some scientists who today claim to be responsible for creating some nerve agents, that have been whisked out of Russia and are currently residing in the United Kingdom."

A Foreign Office spokesperson dismissed the remarks, saying: "It's just another futile attempt from the Russian state to divert the story away from the facts - that Russia has acted in flagrant breach of its international obligations."

Elsewhere Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed Novichok could have been produced in Sweden, the Czech Republic or Slovakia. 

That prompted a strongly-worded response from the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom.