16 April 2018Hot off the Press
A laboratory in Spiez, Switzerland has identified the substance used in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal as a non-lethal toxin known as BZ, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters on Sunday.
Mr Lavrov said BZ was not produced in Russia but was used by the UK, the US and other NATO member nations.
Citing the data, Mr Lavrov said: “Based on the results of the examination, traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursors, related to chemical weapons of the second category in accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, were found in the samples. BZ is a nerve agent temporarily disabling a person. The effect is achieved within 30-60 minutes and lasts up to four days.”
The Foreign Minister noted that the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not mention either Novichok or BZ in its final report.
However, the OPCW has said before that it believes the substance used in the attack on the Skripals was a Novichok A234 nerve agent.
“If, of course, the OPCW refutes the fact of using the laboratory of Spiez, it will be interesting to listen to its explanations,” the Mr Lavrov added.
Sergei Skripal — a former Russian double agent who betrayed dozens of his colleagues by passing classified information to MI6 — was found unconscious on a park bench with his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury, England last month.
British authorities revealed the pair were the victim of a chemical attack, prompting the UK Government to blame Russia and expel 23 diplomats, however Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations and has offered its assistance in the investigation.
Yulia Skripal has since been discharged from hospital and is now in an unknown secure location, according to Scotland Yard.
The UK has denied Russia consular access to Ms Skripal despite her being Russian citizen. However, a statement from Ms Skripal released through British police says:
“I have access to friends and family, and I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can. At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.”
The Russian Embassy in the UK has expressed concern that Ms Skripal is being held against her will.