US publication of so-called ‘Novichok’ formula violates Chemical Weapons Convention – Russia to OPCW

US publication of so-called ‘Novichok’ formula violates Chemical Weapons Convention – Russia to OPCW
The formula of the nerve agent A-234 (‘Novichok’) allegedly used to poison former double agent Sergei Skripal, was published in the US in gross breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Russian mission to the OPCW said.

The name of Russian chemist Vil Mirzayanov, who was the first to publicly speak about the A-234 substance, has been recently circulated in the Western media following his claims of Russian complicity in the Salisbury case. He was among those scientists who left Russia and continued their work abroad.

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The publication of Mirzayanov’s book … facilitates the transfer of knowledge about chemical weapons, and this is indirect transfer of chemical weapons,” the mission said speaking at the Executive Council Meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Wednesday.

Mirzayanov, who currently lives in the US, took to Facebook back in March to clarify that the nerve agent formula had solely been published in his book ‘State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program.’ He alleged that only Moscow could have used this nerve agent to poison the Russian former double agent and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on March 4. 

The US decision to publish the book was a “gross violation” of Article One of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Russian mission to OPCW said. “Questions arise: why did the Government of the US, in gross violation of the Convention, decide to publish this book?”

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Article One states that each CWC country is not permitted to “develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone.” 

Mirzayanov was the first to disclose the existence of the A-234 nerve agent to the public in a 1992 article to the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper. The Russian mission, however, pointed out that his first publications didn’t contain any formula for the toxic substance. “This confirmed that Mirzayanov did not possess any real knowledge because, at the scientific organization [in Russia], his responsibility covered technical support of the work conducted,” the Russian mission concluded.

It was only in 2008 that the scientist cooperated with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center of the US army to release a new publication. This new edition of the book first mentioned a formula for the substance “that fully corresponded to the special data presented” by Edgewood. “A legitimate question arises: if he knew all of that, why had he not written before? The answer is obvious: working only in technical support of research, he did not have the knowledge in the field of real research,” the Russian mission said, suggesting that it was the Edgewood center that provided Mirzayanov with the formula.

This edition of the book is available on Amazon and sells for less than $30. The researcher insists the formula is genuine, and claims to be “the first whistleblower to reveal the Russian chemical weapons program to the world.”

The mission, however, says that “any modern chemical laboratory with the necessary special equipment” can synthesize the substances similar to A-234. “There can be no unique markers which could unequivocally point to the country that had produced the substance used against Skripals,” it added.

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Given the significant number of publications about the toxic chemicals, Russia has called for the introduction of special measures to the Chemical Weapons Convention. “The Director-General of the OPCW… should prepare and introduce…a draft resolution providing for the development of charges to the Annex on the schedules of chemicals,” the statement said.

Senior British officials, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, insist that Moscow was behind the Salisbury poisoning and that the nerve agent could only have come from Russia. They have called for immediate action against Moscow. Russia has vehemently denied any involvement and has repeatedly urged London to provide evidence, including samples of the nerve agent. So far it has yet to receive any such samples.

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