Russian envoy says United Kingdom spying claims about Skripals a "big surprise"

The chemical weapons watchdog confirmed Wednesday that Novichok was used in the attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia  AFP

Testing by four laboratories affiliated with the global chemical weapons watchdog have confirmed British findings on the nerve agent used in March's attack on a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom, according to a summary of the findings published on Thursday.

"It is highly likely that Novichoks were developed to prevent detection by the West and to circumvent worldwide weapons controls", he said.

He said that after the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian Federation signed the Chemical Weapons Convention without reporting its ongoing work on Novichoks.

The finding, announced by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an worldwide chemical weapons watchdog, was immediately jumped on by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as an indictment of Russia's culpability in the attack.

In his letter, Sir Mark set out why the Government believes that only Russian Federation has the "technical means, operational experience and the motive" to carry out such an attack. "The Kremlin must give answers", he added.

The origin of the nerve agent has been a source of intense speculation.

The OPCW, in its report which identified the nerve agent by its chemical properties, said it had an "almost complete absence" of impurities.

OPCW analysts, based in The Hague, took blood samples from the Skripals as they were treated in Salisbury Hospital after the March 4 poisoning.

'Everyone knows about the UK's information warfare against Russian Federation over the Skripal case, ' said spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. She insisted it was up to Britain to prove "that these people aren't being held hostage and are not taking part in some frightful game".

The statement comes two days after she was released from Salisbury District Hospital. "With no possibility to verify it, the publication by the Metropolitan Police raises new questions rather than gives answers", according to the embassy on its website. "We would like to make sure that the statement really belongs to Yulia. All returned the same conclusive results", Mr Johnson said in a statement. "Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves".

Skripal was a former Russian intelligence officer who acted as a double agent for MI6 and was caught, imprisoned, then pardoned and sent to Britain in a spy swap in 2010. She also addressed comments made by her cousin Viktoria in the Russian media, asking her not to contact or visit her in the UK.

In a diplomatic row that followed a number of Western countries "in a gesture of solidarity" with Britain expelled Russian diplomats.

In the wake of the Skripal incident, the UK, as well as a number of European Union member countries, the United States, Canada and Australia, expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats, forcing Moscow to respond in kind.



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