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Chemical watchdog confirms ex-spy, daughter were poisoned with 'high purity' nerve agent

Chemical watchdog confirms ex-spy, daughter were poisoned with 'high purity' nerve agent
From CBC - April 12, 2018

The international chemical weapons watchdog on Thursday confirmed Britain's finding that a former spy and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent, as Russia continues to deny suggestions that it was behind the attack.

Investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning group, said the nerve agent was "of high purity." Britain says that means only a state with a sophisticated laboratory could have manufactured it.

The watchdog's report does not say who was responsible for the attack, since that was outside the scope of its mission. The OPCW's job was to identify the poison, not to trace its origins or assign blame.

Britain blames Russia for the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, with a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union. Russia denies any involvement, saying Britain has not provided any evidence for its assertion.

Britain has called for an OPCW meeting next week to discuss the results of the organization's report.

In a published summary of its findings, the OPCW did not name Novichok, the type of nerve agent previously cited by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

But it confirmed "the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury." It said the name and structure of the toxin were included in the full classified report, distributed to 192 member states of the organization.

The Novichok class of nerve agents was developed in the Soviet Union toward the end of the Cold War, and Britain says it has evidence Russia has continued to manufacture Novichok agents in the last decade. Russia denies this and says the nerve agent used on the Skripals could easily have been manufactured in another country.

No smoking gun

The OPCW report said the nerve agent used on the Skripals was "of high purity." The purity makes it hard to tell when the agent was manufactured, since without impurities it does not degrade over time.

Britain says scientific analysis of the poison is only one of the factors that has led it to blame Russia.

Others include intelligence that Russia has made nerve agents and studied how to use them for assassinations, and the view of Russian President Vladimir Putin's government that traitors are legitimate targets.

But the U.K. does not possess a scientific smoking guna sample of Novichok from a Russian lab to compare with the Salisbury samples.

'No one speaks for me, or for my father'

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