Wednesday, 25 April, 2018

Britain accuses Moscow of spying on Skripals for at least five years

Yulia Skripal was poisoned with a nerve agent in England last month Yulia Skripal was poisoned with a nerve agent in England last month
Glenn Montgomery | 14 April, 2018, 22:15

Mark Sedwill made the assertion in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg explaining Britain's conclusion that the Russian government is to blame for poisoning the Skripals with a military-grade nerve agent on March 4.

"We have information indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals, dating back at least as far as 2013, when email accounts belonging to Yulia Skripal were targeted by GRU (military intelligence) cyber specialists".

He said: "A combination of credible open-source reporting and intelligence shows that in the 1980s the Soviet Union developed a new class of "fourth generation" nerve agents, known as Novichoks".

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on April 12 confirmed Britain's findings about the nerve agent used in the attack after testing samples from Salisbury.

Mr. Skripal remains hospitalized almost five weeks after he was poisoned, but his daughter, Yulia, has recovered and was moved to a secure location this week.

Claiming that the substance used in the incident had been a nerve agent allegedly developed in Russia, London rushed to accuse Moscow of being involved in the case without presenting any evidence.

Referring to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, Sedwill said Russian Federation had the operational means to carry out such an attack against Skripal.

The national security adviser said Moscow had created the nerve agent Novichok at the Russian research facility in Shikhany as part of an offensive chemical weapons programme with the codename Foliant.

He then claimed Russian Federation saw at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination, suggesting Skripal could be among them.

Speaking on Friday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said the OPCW report offers nothing to support Britain's claims that Russia was behind the attack.

"This programme subsequently included investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles", the letter says.

"If somebody was spying, why were the British services not complaining about it, because they always complain if something goes wrong in their country or somewhere else", he said during a news conference in London.

The note demanded the withdrawal of one Georgian diplomat now serving in Moscow at the Swiss Embassy Interests Section, as Georgia and Russia have no diplomatic ties since the Russia-Georgia 2008 war and Switzerland has acted as a mediator.

He said that Russian Federation had continued to produce and stockpile small quantities of Novichoks within the last decade.

"We get the impression the British Government is deliberately pursuing the policy of destroying all possible evidence".

Yulia Skripal, 33, was released from the hospital this week. Sergei Kripal remains hospitalised, but British health officials say he is recovering.

Mr Lavrov said the report only confirmed the composition of the substance and that Britain's claim that it confirmed the United Kingdom position on the Skripal case was overstated.

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