MOSCOW, April 4. /TASS/. Conclusions made by the UK defense laboratory in Porton Down, which failed to establish the origin of the substance used to poison former GRU Colonel turned British mole Sergei Skripal and his daughter, disprove UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s statements about its Russian origin, senior Russian MP Alexei Pushkov told a news conference at TASS on Wednesday.
"Yesterday’s news that the laboratory in Porton Down had failed to verify the source of the substance that poisoned the Skripals has sparked intense interest. Because prior to that UK Foreign Secretary Johnson said the agent undoubtedly had come from Russia (which, as he said, had been established by the Porton Down defense lab)," said Pushkov, Head of the Federation Council’s Commission for Information Policy and Mass Media Relations.
On Tuesday, Gary Aitkenhead, Chief Executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), told Sky News that the laboratory had identified the agent as Novichok but could not establish its source.
"So practically the first thing we heard yesterday was that the laboratory chief refuted the foreign minister’s statement," Pushkov pointed out.
"Virtually, the chief executive of the laboratory in Porton Down did an about-face. By the way, this lab is subordinated to the UK Ministry of Defense, that is one can hardly expect him [Aitkenhead] speaking on his own, as some of our political analysts say, calling it a statement from an honest chemist," he went on to say. "This honest chemist is a practically a staff member of the Ministry of Defense, and of course, his statements are coordinated," the senator stressed.
On March 4, Sergei Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in the British city of Salisbury. Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a so-called Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident. Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.
However, without presenting any evidence, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, 23 British diplomats were expelled from Russia, the British Consulate General in the city of St. Petersburg was closed and the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia. Later, the United Kingdom was requested to cut the number of its diplomatic staff in Russia so that it would match the number of Russian diplomats in Great Britain.