Russia says it received only one substantive answer from OPCW over Skripal case

Russia’s Permanent Representation to the OPCW says it has received only one substantive answer from the chemical weapons watchdog regarding the probe into the poisoning of the former Russian double agent and his daughter.

“Last night, the OPCW Technical Secretariat handed them [answers] over to the [Russian] permanent representatives [to the OPCW], we are examining them,” the diplomatic mission confirmed on Wednesday, adding that the watchdog provided Russia with only “one substantive answer” about the case.

On April 1, Russia sent a list of 13 questions to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), once against stressing that the whole Skripal case was “fabricated.”

READ MORE: Russia has 13 questions to OPCW over Skripal case

In the questions, Moscow confronted the chemical weapons watchdog about the assistance that the OPCW provided to London in the probe. “What exactly would the British like the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat to confirm: the fact of the use of a nerve gas, or that it was a type of nerve agent known as Novichok according to the Western classification?” according to one of the questions.

Moscow also asked “what kind of data and material evidence” London handed over to the watchdog and whether the OPCW’s Technical Secretariat has any plans to share the information with the OPCW Executive Council, of which Russia is a member. Moscow reached out to the OPCW about whether it approved the disclosure of the investigation material by the UK to the EU countries.

On April 2, Russian permanent representative to the OPCW Alexander Shulgin warned that if Russian experts were barred from taking part in the probe, any results of the investigation would be rejected. “Our position is clear. We advocate a comprehensive, open and unbiased investigation. Russia is ready for it, and our experts are ready to participate in such work,” he said.

Yet on Wednesday, the UK Delegation to the OPCW dismissed Moscow’s proposal of a joint UK-Russian inquiry, calling it “perverse.” 

On March 31, Russia also delivered a 14-question list to the UK Foreign Ministry. It comes on the heels of the scandal involving the poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier in March.

British senior officials, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, enthusiastically took up the accusation that Russia was behind the poisoning. While London urges Moscow to admit its “guilt,” British police say that the investigation in Salisbury where the Skripals were found unconscious on a bench will take weeks or even months. 

London insists that 66-year-old Sergei and his daughter Yulia, 33, were injured by Soviet-developed military-grade nerve agent A-234 (also known as ‘Novichok’), claiming that there was no other plausible explanation. However, on April 2, UK scientists from Porton Down science facility, 8km from Salisbury, said they were unable to prove that the nerve agent used in Skripal poisoning came from Russia.

READ MORE: Russian embassy in UK warns citizens about possible provocations in Britain

Following the scientists’ statement, London hurried to make clear that its position on the Skripal case remains unchanged.

Russia has vehemently denied any involvement in the incident and repeatedly urged London to provide evidence, including samples of the nerve agent. However, Moscow has not received any of it yet.

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