A week ago we asked if ‘Novichok’ poisons are real. The answer is now in: It is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Several Russian scientist now say that they once researched and developed lethal poisons but they assert that other countries can and have copied these. ‘Novichok’, they say, is a just western propaganda invention. They see the British accusations as a cynical plot against Russia. The people who push the ‘Novichok’ accusations have political and commercial interests.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May insinuated that the British-Russian double agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who collapsed on March 4 on a public bench in Salisbury, were affected by a ‘Russian’ nerve agent:
It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. It is part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok.
Theresa May’s claims are highly questionable.
A highly potent nerve agent would hurt anyone who comes in contact with it. But the BBC reported that a doctor who administered first aid to the collapsed Yulia Skripal for 30 minutes was not affected at all. Another doctor, Steven Davies who heads the emergence room of the Salisbury District Hospital, wrote in a letter the London Times:
“… no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only been ever been three patients with significant poisoning.”
Policeman Nick Bailey has been discharged from hospital after being exposed to the same military-grade nerve agent used in the poisoning of the Skripals in Salisbury earlier this month.
The Detective Sergeant had been treated at the Salisbury District Hospital since the attack took place on March 4. The Wiltshire police officer was initially in a critical condition, but was able to sit up within days and talk to his family and nursing staff.
Earlier on Thursday a judge gave the green light for doctors to take blood samples of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia so they can be tested by chemical weapons experts. He added it is unknown whether the duo will “regain mental capacity.”
The court heard the mental capacity of the duo may be compromised to “an unknown and unascertained” degree, and that is it is not possible to know the extent to which they will recover.
It comes as it emerged that a second police officer investigating the Salisbury nerve agent attack was treated in hospital over suspected poisoning. He is said to have come into contact with an object that possibly had “secondary contamination”. The PC reported minor symptoms such as skin irritation.
A source told the Daily Mail: “He is receiving treatment at Salisbury General Hospital as an outpatient as his symptoms are not serious enough to warrant him being kept in.”
The name ‘Novichok’ comes from a book written by Vil Mirzanyanov, a 1990s immigrant to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union. It describes his work at Soviet chemical weapon laboratories and lists the chemical formulas of a new group of lethal substances.
AFP interviewed the author of the ‘Novichok’ book about the Salisbury incident:
Mirzayanov, speaking at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, said he is convinced Russia carried it out as a way of intimidating opponents of President Vladimir Putin.
The only other possibility, he said, would be that someone used the formulas in his book to make such a weapon.
“Russia did it”, says Mirzanyanov, “OR SOMEONE WHO READ MY BOOK”.
A ‘Novichok’ nerve agent plays a role in the current season of the British-American spy drama Strike Back which broadcasts on British TV. Theresa May might have watched this clip (vid) from the series. Is it a source of her allegations?
The Russian government rejects the British allegations and demands evidence which Britain has not provided. Russia joined the Chemical Weapon Convention in 1997. By 2017 it had destroyed all its chemical weapons and chemical weapon production facilities. Under the convention only very limited amounts of chemical weapon agents are allowed to be held in certified laboratories for defense research and testing purposes. The U.S. has such laboratories at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Maryland, the British lab is in Porton Down, a few miles from Salisbury. The Russian lab is in Shikhany in the southern Saratov Oblast. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) audits these laboratories and their declared stocks “down to the milligram level”.
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry and famous high heels folk dancer (vid) Maria Zakharova explains in a TV interview (vid, English subtitles) that ‘Novichok’ was not and is not the name of any Soviet or Russian program. The word was introduced in the “west” simply because it sounded Russian.
Western media claimed that Vil Miranzayanov is the developer of the ‘Novichok’ chemicals. It turns out that this is not the case. Interviews with two retired Russian chemists, both published only yesterday, tell the real story. The Russia news agency RIA Novostni talked with Professor Leonid Rink (machine translation):
Did you have anything to do with creating what the British authorities call the “Novice”?
– Yes. This was the basis of my doctoral dissertation.
At that time I worked in Shikhany, in the branch of GosNIIOKhT (State Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, during Soviet times was engaged in the development of chemical weapons), was a leading researcher and head of the laboratory.
Professor Rink says that:
- ‘Novichok’ or ‘novice’ was never used as a program name. New Soviet formulas had alphanumeric codes.
- Several new nerve agents were developed in Shikhany in the 1970s and 80s.
- These new substances can cause immediate deadly reactions when applied to humans.
- Vil Mirzayanov was head of the chromatographer group, chemists who deals with the separation and analysis of various mixtures of substances. He was responsible for environmental control and not a developer of any new substances.
The Associated Press summarizes other parts of the interview with Professor Rink:
Rink told Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency Tuesday that Britain and other western nations easily could have synthesized the nerve agent after chemical expert Vil Mirzayanov emigrated to the United States and revealed the formula.
Echoing Russian government statements, Rink says it wouldn’t make sense for Moscow to poison Sergei Skripal, a military intelligence officer who spied for Britain, because he was a used asset “drained” by both Russia and Britain.
He claims Britain’s use of the name Novichok for the nerve agent is intended to convince the public that Russia is to blame.
The English-Russian magazine The Bell interviews another Russian scientist involved in the issue:
The Bell was able to find and speak with Vladimir Uglev, one of the scientists who was involved in developing the nerve agent referred to as “Novichok”. […] Vladimir Uglev, formerly a scientist with Volsk branch of GOSNIIOKHT (“State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology”), which developed and tested production of new lethal substances since 1972, spoke for the first time about his work as early as the 1990s. He left the institute in 1994 and is now retired.
– The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists that there was no research nor development of any substance called “Novichok”, not in Russia, nor in the USSR. Is that true?
– In order to make it easier to understand the subject matter, I will not use the name “Novichok” which has is now commonly used by everyone to describe those four substances which were conditionally assigned to me to develop over a period of several years. Three of these substances are part of the “Foliant” program, which was led by Pyotr Kirpichev, a scientist with GOSNIIOKHT (State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology). The first substance of a new class of organophosphorous chemical agents, I will call it “A-1972”, was developed by Kirpichev in 1972. In 1976, I developed two substances: “B-1976” and “C-1976”. The fourth substance, “D-1980”, was developed by Kirpichev in the early 1980s. All of these substances fall under the group referred to as “Novichkov”, but that name wasn’t given to the substances by GOSNIIOKHT.
All four chemical agents are “FOS” or organophosphorous compounds which have a nerve paralyzing effect, but they differ in their precursors, how they were discovered and in their usage as agents of chemical warfare.
The four substances were developed by Pyotr Kirpichev and Vladimir Uglev. These substances were not readily usable by the military as they could not be safely transported and used in the field like binary chemical weapons can. Once synthesized they were extremely dangerous. Professor Leonid Rink, working later in a different group, tackled the problem but did not succeed. Uglev confirms that Vil Miranzayanov was not involved in the development at all. His group was responsible for chemical analysis and for environmental control around the laboratory.
Vladimir Uglev, like Renk and Miranzayanov, notes that these agents “of a type developed by Russia” can now be produced by any sufficiently equipped laboratory, including private ones.
Uglev mentions a criminal use of one of the agents in the 1990s:
One of these substances was used to poison the banker, Ivan Kivelidi and his secretary in 1995. A cotton ball, soaked in this agent, was rubbed over the microphone in the handset of Kivelidi’s telephone. That specific dose was developed by my group, where we produced all of the chemical agents, and each dose which we developed was given its own complete physical-chemical passport. It was therefore not difficult to determine who had prepared that dose and when it was developed. Naturally, the investigators also suspected me. I was questioned several times about this incident.
Journalist Mark Ames, who worked in Moscow at that time, remarks:
This muddles the narrative a bit – “novichok” used in 1995 Moscow mafia poison hit on top mobster Ivan Kivelidi. So:
1) novichok [is] in mob hands too
2) used during reign of #1 Mobfather Boris Yeltsin, Washington’s vassal
Uglev further notes that blood samples from the Salisbury victims, which Moscow demands but Britain has not handed over, can show what agent (if any) were involved and “where the specific dose was produced and by whom.”
A new article in the New Scientists confirms the claims by the Russian scientists that the ‘Novichok’ agents which may have affected the Skripals may have been produced elsewhere:
Weapons experts have told New Scientist that a number of countries legally created small amounts of Novichok after it was revealed in 1992 and a production method was later published.
In 2016 Iranian scientists, in cooperation with the OPCW, published production and detection methods for such agents. It is likely that the various government labs secretly re-developed and produced these chemicals for their own purposes even prior to the Iranian publication.
[UPDATE] In an interview with Deutsche Welle British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson admits that Porton Down had (illegal?) ‘Novichok’ agents when the incident in Salisbury happened:
DW: You argue that the source of this nerve agent, Novichok, is Russia. How did you manage to find it out so quickly? Does Britain possess samples of it?
Boris Johnson: Let me be clear with you … When I look at the evidence, I mean the people from Porton Down, the laboratory …
DW: So they have the samples …
Boris Johnson: They do. And they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, “Are you sure?” And he said there’s no doubt.
But Porton Down did not agree with the British government to claim that the supposed nerve agent was “made by Russia.” It only agreed to the compromise formulation “of a type developed by Russia” i.e. it could have been made anywhere. [End Update]
The claims by the British government that a. the Skripals were affected by a nerve agent and that b. Russia was involved in the Skripal incident because it has some exclusive access to these agents seem both baseless. Unless there is significant further evidence the British incrimination of Russia looks like a cynical plot invented for political and/or commercial purposes.
As usual in the military-industrial complex the people who push such scares, are the ones who profit from them.
The British Morning Star points to one former British military intelligence officer, Colonel (rtd) Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, as a common protagonist in the Skripal case, in the claims of Syrian chemical weapon use and in commercial interests around chemical weapon defense:
Quoted daily by multiple media outlets on the Skripal case, de Bretton-Gordon has become a very public expert, relied upon for unbiased comment and analysis by the British and foreign media on chemical weapon threats from Salisbury to Syria.
He is a former assistant director of Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Land Forces with the Ministry of Defence. Before that de Bretton-Gordon was commanding officer of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment and Nato’s Rapid Reaction CBRN Battalion.
While his CBRN background is often mentioned, his military intelligence links are rarely referred to publicly.
Long before the Salisbury event, de Bretton-Gordon was urging greater government expenditure on chemical protection counter-measures and equipment.
de Bretton-Gordon is managing director CBRN of Avon Protection Systems, based in Melksham, Wiltshire.
In 2017, the company made £50m from its US military contracts and a further £63.3m from other “protection and defence” revenue.
The former(?) army intelligence officer is also deeply involved in the “moderate rebels” chemical weapon scams in Syria:
On April 29 2014, the [Daily Telegraph] reported that it “obtained soil samples collected from sites of chemical attacks inside Syria by Dr Ahmad – a medic whose real identity cannot be revealed for his own protection – who had previously received training in sample collection by western chemical weapons experts.
“Mr de Bretton-Gordon, a British chemical weapons expert and director of Secure Bio, a private company, was one of the trainers.”
And who carried out the tests? None other than de Bretton-Gordon himself.
The “White Helmets” propaganda group in Syria was founded and is run by the former(?) British army intelligence officer James Le Mesurier with British and U.S. government money. His former(?) colleague de Bretton-Gordon is running the parallel Syria chemical weapon scam. Both profit from their government financed operations.
Other British agents involved in the Skripal case are Pablo Miller who recruited Skripal for the MI6. He was a friend of Skripal, also lived in Salisbury and worked for Christopher Steele, the former(?) MI6 agent who produced the ‘dirty dossier’ about Donald Trump for the Clinton campaign. Both are involved with Russian mafia emigres in Britain like Boris Berezovski and the deceased Alexander Litvinenko whose father says that he was killed by an MI6 or CIA guy.
While the British government blamed the Russians just a week after the incident in Salisbury happened it now seems interested in delaying any further investigations. It took more than two weeks after the incident for the British government to invite the OPCW to help with the case. The head of the OPCW says it will take another three weeks for the organization to analyze the samples the British laboratory now handed over. The British police requires several months to find out what happened to the Skripals.
How could the British government be sure of “Russian” involvement within a week and even expel Russian diplomats when the primary chemical experts on the issue will need three weeks for their first analyses and the British police predicts a several months long investigation?
The Russian scientist and their government have explained their history and position in relation to ‘Novichoks’ and the Skripal incident. It is high time now for the British government, its scientists at Porton Down and its greedy mafia of former(?) British intelligence officer and their criminal Russian emigres to come clean about their own roles in it.
Previous Moon of Alabama reports on the Skripal case:
- March 8 – Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
- March 12 – Theresa May’s “45 Minutes” Moment
- March 14 – Are ‘Novichok’ Poisons Real? – May’s Claims Fall Apart
- March 16 – The British Government’s ‘Novichok’ Drama Was Written By Whom?
- March 18 – NHS Doctor: “No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury”
We would like to ascertain the following issues.
Where, how, and by whom were the samples collected from Sergei and Yulia Skripal? How was it all documented? Who can certify that the data is credible? Was the chain of custody up to all the OPCW requirements when evidence was collected?
Which methods (spectral analysis and others) were used by the British side to identify, within such a remarkably short period of time, the type of the substance used (“Novichok” according to the western classification)? As far as we know, to do that, they must have had a standard sample of such agent at their disposal.
And how do these hasty actions correlate with Scotland Yard’s official statements that “the investigation is highly likely to take weeks or even months” to arrive at conclusions?
What information and medical effects led to a hasty decision to administer antidotes to the aggrieved Skripals and the British policeman? Could that hastiness lead to grave complications and further deterioration of their health status?
Which antidotes exactly were administered? What tests had been conducted to make the decision to use these drugs?
How can the delayed action of the nerve agent be explained, given that it is a fast-acting substance by nature? The victims were allegedly poisoned in a pizzeria (in a car, at the airport, at home, according to other accounts). So what really happened? How come they were found in some unidentified time on a bench in the street?
We need an explanation why it is Russia who was accused on the ‘Skripal case’ without any grounds whatsoever, while works to develop the agent codenamed “Novichok” in the West had been carried out by the United Kingdom, the USA, Sweden and the Czech Republic. There are more than 200 open sources publications in the NATO countries, highlighting the results that those countries achieved in the development of new toxic agents of this type.
Moscow has turned the tables on the UK with their own “heads I win tails you lose” option of impossible choices:
Logic suggests two possible variants. Either the British authorities are unable to ensure protection against such terrorist attacks on their territory, or they were directly or indirectly involved in the preparation of this attack on a Russian citizen. There is no other alternative.