MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to open the closed town where Russian scientists say they developed Novichok, the nerve agent at the centre of a poisoning row with London.
Britain has said Russian-produced Novichok was used in the attempted murder of ex-spy Sergei Skripal along with his daughter Yulia in an English city in March.
London says two Britons, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, were also exposed to the chemical last month -- killing the former and leaving the latter in a critical condition.
Russian scientists have told state and international media the Soviet Union developed the nerve agent at the closed town of Shikhany from the 1970s.
"President Putin on Tuesday signed a presidential decree which removes the status of 'closed territorial administrative entity' for our town," Yulia Ershova, spokeswoman for the local authorities, said on Wednesday.
"Our factory, a branch of the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, is still functioning but we do not know what will happen once Shikany is opened," she told AFP.
The Soviet Union created a network of closed towns to house secret military installations and research facilities to which access was hugely restricted.
Published on the official site pravo.gov.ru, the decree gives local government six months to prepare for the change of status of the town, which has a population of 5,500.
There was no suggestion the change of status was linked to the Novichok affair.
Kremlin officials have denied Novichok was stored at exactly this location, but said there was another "facility" in the southern Saratov region.