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Chemical weapons watchdog confirms UK findings in Russian ex-spy case

OPCW confirmed that the chemical used was "of high purity", without mentioning the exact name of the substance which will be reserved for the complete classified report it has prepared.

Published: 12th April 2018 11:01 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th April 2018 11:01 PM   |  A+A-

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in a serious condition in the cathedral city of Salisbury on March 4.(Photo | AP)

By PTI

LONDON: The international chemical weapons watchdog today confirmed the UK's findings that the source of the military-grade nerve agent used to target the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury originally came from Russia.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said the chemical used against Sergei and Yulia Skripal was "of high purity", without mentioning the exact name of the substance which will be reserved for the complete classified report it has prepared.

The Hague-based OPCW said its team "notes that the toxic chemical was of high purity. The latter is concluded from the almost complete absence of impurities.

The OPCW had sent a team of specialists to the UK last month to investigate the March 4 attack.

The experts took samples from several locations as well as biomedical samples from the Skripals and police officer Nick Bailey, who was also exposed to the nerve agent.

In a declassified summary of its findings, the OPCW did not make any assessment on who carried out the attack on 66-year-old Sergei and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "There can be no doubt what was used. There remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible - only Russia has the means, motive and record," he said.

Johnson said the OPCW's findings were based on testing in four independent, highly reputable laboratories around the world, all of which returned the same "conclusive" results.

"There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible - only Russia has the means, motive and record... The Kremlin must give answers," he said.

The minister said the UK had asked the OPCW to publish the executive summary of its findings in the "interest of transparency" and called a session of the OPCW Executive Council next Wednesday to discuss next steps.

"We must, as a world community, stand up for the rules based order which keeps us all safe. The use of weapons of this kind can never be justified, and must be ended," he said.

The UK's finding of a Soviet era Novichok stock of nerve agent used in the attack against the Skripals had been presented before the House of Commons by British Prime Minister Theresa May last month, when she declared that Russia was "culpable".

The UK government has since made several statements pointing the finger of blame of the Kremlin and expelled Russian diplomats in retaliation of the poisoning of the Skripals.

The incident has led to a diplomatic crisis between Moscow and the West as Moscow denies any involvement and accuses Britain of inventing a "fake story".

In retaliation, Russia also expelled 60 American diplomats.

The OPCW report comes as Yulia turned down help from the Russian embassy in a statement issued through Scotland Yard yesterday to say that she was "safe" and trying to come to terms with her new life.

"I find myself in a totally different life than the ordinary one I left just over a month ago, and I am seeking to come to terms with my prospects, whilst also recovering from this attack on me," she said.

The 33-year-old Russian citizen has been taken to a secure location after being discharged from Salisbury District Hospital earlier this week.

In her statement, she said that she has been made aware of the Russian embassy's attempts to contact her but she did not wish to avail of their services for the moment.

Making a specific reference to her Russia-based cousin, Viktoria, she said that "her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father's".

Viktoria had been quoted widely in the Russian media following a phone conversation she claimed to have had with Yulia from hospital last week.

The Russian embassy in London immediately raised doubts over the authenticity of the statement, claiming it "only strengthens suspicions that we are dealing with a forcible isolation of the Russian citizen".

"With no possibility to verify it, the publication by the Metropolitan Police raises new questions rather than gives answers. As before, we would like to make sure that the statement really belongs to Yulia. So far, we doubt it much," an embassy statement said.

Sergei Skripal remains in hospital as he recovers from the effects of the toxic nerve agent. His daughter thanked the Salisbury hospital staff, adding: "I have left my father in their care, and he is still seriously ill. I too am still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against us."

The UK's intelligence officials are believed to be in talks with the CIA over the possible repatriation of the Skripals to the US or another friendly country for their safety.

 



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