Soviet toxin research was smuggled out and continued in other countries, including US – OPCW envoy

The 'Novichok' nerve agent allegedly used in the Sergei Skripal attack likely came from a country were Russian chemists were taken after the Soviet Union collapsed to continue their research, Russia’s OPCW envoy told RT.

“As for ‘Novichok,’ there was never a scientific program under such a codename in the Russian Federation,” Alexander Shulgin, Russia’s permanent representative at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said. “However, in Soviet times, research began to produce a new generation of poisonous substances. Such research was carried out not only in the USSR, but also in the US.”

As the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, foreign “special services took a group of scientists… with the research that existed since the Soviet times” out of the country so that they could go on with their studies of poisonous substances, he said.

“We know the exact countries where such work continued, achieving certain success,” Shulgin said, without naming any. “The positive results of those studies can now be found in open sources.”

“Therefore, we can assume that the source of the substance used [against Skripal] in Salisbury is concealed in one of the countries where this research continued and achieved certain success,” the Russian envoy said.

Russian chemist Vil Mirzayanov, whose claims of Russian complicity have now been widely circulated in Western media, was among those scientists who left Russia and continued their work abroad, Shulgin said. Mirzayanov, who currently lives in the US, was the first to disclose the existence of the ‘Novichok’ nerve agent to the public in a 1992 article. When the Skripal crisis erupted, he said on Facebook that the 'Novichok' formula had only been published in his book ‘State Secrets: An Insider's Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program,’ and alleged that only Russia could’ve used such a nerve agent to attack Skripal.

'UK is afraid we'll find a catch in their case'

Shulgin also said that there’s currently no dialogue between the Russian and the UK delegations on the Skripal issue at the OPCW headquarters in The Hague. “We’ve made them an offer to start bilateral consultations, but they refuse; also declining to provide any samples to us.”

“Judging by the statement of the head of the British delegation, they view our offer on bilateral consultations as a distraction… as if by proposing those consultations Russia wants to drag out this whole thing and avoid responsibility,” the envoy said.

“My guess is that our British partners are afraid that, should our experts examine those samples, they will discover some catch in this whole case. And our British partners have absolutely no interest in that.”

“Moreover, we warned them that we’re ready for a meaningful dialogue, but only if the British side backs its accusations against us with convincing proof. In case nothing is presented to us… we’ll proceed from the fact that Britain has nothing and in this case it would have to be held accountable for slander,” he said.

Former Russian-UK double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were discovered slumped on a bench in Salisbury in early March. They remain in critical condition in a hospital after being exposed to what UK authorities said was a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok.

This led to UK Prime Minister Theresa May accusing Russia of using chemical weapon on British soil and imposing sanctions against Moscow. The Russian side has denied any involvement in the Skripal poisoning and promised to come up with appropriate countermeasures to the British restrictions. Moscow also said it was ready to cooperate with London on investigating the incident, but the UK refused to work with Russia or provide it with any materials of the case.

READ MORE: Who actually poisoned the Skripals? These are some of the top theories

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