The Novichok nerver agent [allegedly used in the poisoning of former Russian military intelligence Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter] most likely originates from “countries, which have been extensively working on such substances since the late 1990s, including the United Kingdom,” Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said during a United Security Council meeting on March 14.
Nebenzya recalled that Russia had stopped all chemical weapons program as far back as 1992 and had destroyed all of its chemical arsenals by 2017, which fact had been attested by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
“No research and development projects code named Novichok have ever been carried out in Russia,” the diplomad said adding that in the mid-1990s intelligence services of some Western states including the United Kingdom and the United States, took some specialists and “certain documentation” from Russia to continue development of nerve agents.
“Results reached by these countries in the area of new toxic agents that, due to some unknown reasons, are generally referred to in the West as Novichok, can be seen in more than 200 open sources in NATO countries,” Nebenzya noted.
He further added that the identification of the nerve agent allegedly used in the Skripal incident had been carried out at the British Ministry of Defense’s Defense Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down. This organization has conducted research and production of chemical weapons, including agents of that type.
Nebenzya drew attention that such rapid analysis and verification of the nerver agent by British authorities might itself prove damning to their claims.
“For the British specialists to be perfectly confident that this was a Novichok agent and not any other kind, they would need a control standard for proof. It must be compared to a control substance,” the diplomate stated. “They have a collection and they have the formula. In other words, if the UK is so firmly convinced this is Novichok, they have samples and formula and are capable of formulating it themselves.”
“It is no longer necessary to show the Council test tubes with white substances. It is enough to send letters with egregious accusations.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry also commented on the British accusations in an official statement (source):
The March 14 statement made by British Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament on measures to “punish” Russia, under the false pretext of its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter, constitutes an unprecedented, flagrant provocation that undermines the foundations of normal dialogue between our countries.
We believe it is absolutely unacceptable and unworthy of the British Government to seek to further seriously aggravate relations in pursuit of its unseemly political ends, having announced a whole series of hostile measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the country.
Instead of completing its own investigation and using established international formats and instruments, including within the framework of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – in which we were prepared to cooperate – the British Government opted for confrontation with Russia. Obviously, by investigating this incident in a unilateral, non-transparent way, the British Government is again seeking to launch a groundless anti-Russian campaign.
Needless to say, our response measures will not be long in coming.