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Chemical weapons body backs UK over nerve-agent attack on spy

Police in protective suits exit a yard on Larkhill Road in Durrington, Salisbury, as the investigation into the suspected nerve agent attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia continues on Monday March 19, 2018. (Ben Birchall/PA Wire/Abaca Press/TNS)

A nerve agent was used to poison a Russian former spy and his daughter, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said, as its inquiry backed the U.K. on the toxin’s identity.

Results of the OPCW’s analysis “confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury,” the organization said in a statement on Thursday. It said the poison was of “high purity” but declined to identify it publicly, adding that “the name and structure of the identified toxic chemical are contained in the full classified report” issued to member states.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said in a statement that the OPCW’s conclusion showed “There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record.” The chemical was “a military grade nerve agent — a Novichok,” he said.

The OPCW carried out its technical evaluation of the poisoning at the U.K.’s request. The organization rejected a Russian call for a joint investigation into the incident during a closed session in The Hague last week to discuss the first offensive use of a chemical weapon in Europe since World War II. The U.K. called the Russian demand “perverse” and said the Chemical Weapons Convention didn’t provide “for a victim to engage the likely perpetrator.” Russia insists it had nothing to do with the March 4 attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.

The U.K. has called a meeting of the OPCW’s executive council for April 18 to discuss next steps, Johnson said. “The Kremlin must give answers,” he said.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May rallied allies in the U.S., Europe, Australia and Canada to conduct coordinated expulsions of more than 150 Russian diplomats last month after she told parliament it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible. Russia retaliated with tit-for-tat expulsions, while its spy chief Sergei Naryshkin last week accused U.K and U.S. secret services of carrying out the poisoning as a “grotesque provocation.”

Yulia Skripal said Wednesday that she was discharged from the hospital this week after treatment for the poisoning, according to her statement issued by the Metropolitan Police in London. Her father remains “seriously ill,” while she’s “still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent,” Skripal said in the statement, in which she also rejected offers of assistance from the Russian embassy in the U.K.

The Russian embassy, which has repeatedly demanded access to the Skripals, cast doubt on the authenticity of her statement Thursday. “With no possibility to verify it, the publication by the Metropolitan Police raises new questions rather than gives answers,” according to the embassy on its website. “The document only strengthens suspicions that we are dealing with a forcible isolation of the Russian citizen.”


© 2018 Bloomberg News

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