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No chemical weapons ever kept at Shikhany laboratory, says Russian official

According to British intelligence, the agent that poisoned Skripal and his daughter Yulia might have been made in Russia's Saratov Region

MOSCOW, April 6. /TASS/. Saratov Region State Duma member of parliament and first deputy head of the United Russia faction Nikolai Pankov told TASS that no chemical weapons have ever been kept at a military research base in the town of Shikhany, Saratov Region.

The Times newspaper reported on Friday that, according to British intelligence, the agent that poisoned ex-Colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was made in Shikhany. According to the newspaper, British intelligence officers informed UK’s allies about it at a special intelligence briefing. The briefing was allegedly aimed at impressing upon global leaders that Moscow is behind the poisoning and that the Novichok chemical agent was produced at Shiknany’s chemical facility in southwestern Russia.

"Shikhany is a municipal settlement in the Balakovo district, Saratov Region; this is my election district," Pankov said. "Last time we heard about a military Shikhany was when Russia embarked on the process of chemical weapons destruction; this was 20 years ago," he added. "Chemical weapons have never been kept in my district," the MP stressed.

In light of this, Pankov affirmed that "the entire information war against Russia over the Skripal case is a fabricated episode." "Today, even the countries that humbly obeyed [British Prime Minister] Theresa May and the US are wondering how they were deceived in such a way," the politician said. "So, England is poking in fury at spots where our combat troops were stationed."

"They could just as well name the GDR, where our army was stationed earlier, and other countries. This is nonsense. The truth will be proved in any case," Pankov concluded.

The Salisbury poisoning incident

On March 4, former Russian intelligence officer and convicted British spy Sergei Skripal, aged 66, and his daughter Yulia, aged 33, were allegedly poisoned with a nerve agent, according to British investigators. Later, London stated that this agent was designed in Russia and blamed Moscow for being behind the incident based on this assumption. The Russian side refuted all accusations, saying that neither the Soviet Union, nor Russia had any programs for developing this agent.

Earlier, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats without providing any evidence and stated that other anti-Russian measures would follow, after which Moscow took retaliatory measures by ejecting the same number of the British embassy staff members and ordering the closure of the UK’s consulate general in St. Petersburg and terminating the activity of the British Council in Russia.

Later, the Russian Foreign Ministry demanded to equal the number of staff at the UK embassy in Moscow and the UK’s consulates general in Russia with the number of Russian diplomats and technical staff staying in the UK.