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UK government claims Russia views former intelligence officers as targets

April 04, 0:01 UTC+3 LONDON

Head of military lab at Porton Down earlier said experts were unable to identify the origin of the nerve agent

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© REUTERS/Hannah McKay

LONDON, April 3. /TASS/. The UK government believes that Russia views former intelligence officers as targets, a UK Government spokesperson told TASS on Tuesday, commenting on reports that a military lab at Porton Down was unable to trace the origin of the substance used to poison former Russian military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

"We have been clear from the very beginning that our world leading experts at Porton Down identified the substance used in Salisbury as a Novichok, a military grade nerve agent," the spokesperson said.

"This is only one part of the intelligence picture. As the Prime Minister has set out in a number of statements to the Commons since 12 March, this includes our knowledge that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents probably for assassination - and as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views former intelligence officers as targets," the source continued.

"It is our assessment that Russia was responsible for this brazen and reckless act and, as the international community agrees, there is no other plausible explanation," he added.

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. The Porton Down facility is located seven kilometers away from the city.

Chief Executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down Gary Aitkenhead said earlier on Tuesday that Porton Down experts were unable to identify the origin of the nerve agent used in the attack.

Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London earlier 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, the UK expelled 23 Russian diplomats and announced other restrictive measures against Moscow without presenting any evidence of its involvement in the incident. In retaliation to the UK’s steps, Russia expelled 23 British diplomats, closed the British consulate general in the city of St. Petersburg, while the British Council had to shut down its operations in Russia.

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