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Russia awaits reply from London if ‘Novichok’ was ever produced at Porton Down

On March 4, Sergey Skripal, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain, suffered the effects of an alleged nerve agent in Salisbury

MOSCOW, April 4. /TASS/. Russia has not received a reply from the UK’s Porton Down science park whether the Novichok-class substance has ever been manufactured there, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

"Until now, Porton Down has failed to provide an answer to the key and very easy question: Have you ever dealt with that chemical? Have you ever produced, synthesized or researched it?" Zakharova said.

The British side is rejecting any contacts with Russia on the case, she added. "As we understand from the British, US and European press, the European society is absolutely sure that Russia has refused to give Great Britain information, refused in any way to discuss this issue and fully closed the possibilities for interaction. This is a total and a 100% lie," the Russian diplomat stressed.

"From the very first moment, we insistently requested and proposed officially, through diplomatic channels and through our embassy in Great Britain, directly calling our British colleagues in Moscow, and then demanded to start a joint talk, begin to jointly examine those materials, which official London has, but it has classified all of them," Zakharova said.

"Great Britain is rejecting any contacts with the Russian Federation at any level on its initiative, officially and even publicly. Moreover, it is doing everything to make the public perceive this situation as if it is the Russian side that is rejecting interaction," the diplomat said.

"Do you have a test sample, the substance of that Novichok-class agent under Western classification, which is being a talking point?" she asked rhetorically. "Porton Down has not answered those questions."

 Initiating a special session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) over the Skripal poisoning case, Russia expects the situation will be settled within the framework of international law, she said.

"It is important to give up on fanning tensions, to concentrate on search for truth and solutions to the situation," Zakharova said.

"Publication of the novichok formula with the connivance of the US administration can be regarded as transfer of chemical weapons-related knowledge, in other words, as indirect transfer of chemical weapons and, as a matter of fact, as crude violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention," she said. "Small wonder, though, the US Department of State has advised its staff to refrain from discussing this theme."

Zakharova said it was with the US connivance that the formula of the military-grade nerve gas was made public, which was an act of gross violation of the CWC. "The structural form of novichok, which allows for reproducing this nerve gas at any high-tech laboratory, was made public for the first time in a book by Vil Mirzayanov (a chemist who had participated in research into chemical weapons in the Soviet Union; he resettled to the United States back in 1996 - TASS)," she said. "It should be borne in mind that in accordance with item one of the CWC each signatory undertakes never under any circumstances to develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile or retain chemical weapons, or transfer, directly or indirectly, chemical weapons to anyone."

"Only a thorough, comprehensive investigation into the incident on the basis of motivated cooperation will help clear up all circumstances of the Salisbury incident. Russia is ready for that," the diplomat added.

"Given the seriousness of accusations against Russia and the ensuing concrete moves against Russia, all without the exception participants eventually will have to answer the asked questions sooner or later," she added.

Skripal saga

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.