United Kingdom asks OPCW to test nerve agent

Kommersant  Yuri Senatorov via Reuters FILE

They look at us and think "this is the country that time and again has called Russian Federation out".

Mr Johnson said Russian Federation had been actively researching the use of nerve agents for use in assassinations within the past decade. Russian Federation flatly denies any involvement.

He said: "The trail of responsibility leads inexorably to the Kremlin". "Their response has been a mix of smug sarcasm and denial and obfuscation", he said.

Officials from the world's chemical weapons watchdog will arrive in Britain on Monday to investigate the samples used in the attack and the results should be known in about two weeks, Britain's foreign ministry said.

"These will then be despatched to highly-reputable global laboratories selected by the OPCW for testing with results expected to take a minimum of two weeks", said a statement by Britain's Foreign Office.

The foreign ministry said that if Russian Federation has been stockpiling nerve agents this would amount to a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention, of which Moscow is a signatory.

London and its allies have blamed Moscow for the attack which left the Skripals in critical condition after exposure to a nerve agent.

The Russian ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, told the BBC on March 17 that Russia halted "production of any chemical agents back in 1992" and that a British research facility could have been the source of the toxin used in the poisoning of Skripal. "And it's actually only eight miles from Salisbury".

"Russia does not possess such agents".

This would be a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Mr Johnson called the accusation "satirical", adding it was "not the response of a country that really believes itself it to be innocent".

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And he hinted he would press the Chancellor for more cash for the defence budget, to help face down threats from Russian Federation and elsewhere.

On Sunday morning, Russia's ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, suggested to a BBC reporter that Britain must have had samples of Novichok at its chemical weapons laboratory, Porton Down, near the site of the attack.

Energy firms have been warned to prepare for blackouts as fears grow of a Russian cyberattack on the United Kingdom if the row continues.

Russia's ambassador to London Alexander Yakovenko suggested Mrs May was ramping up the scandal to boost support for her Government.

He said: "Government has seized the opportunity to present itself as robust and competent to the public opinion".

Vladimir Putin dismissed claims of Russian involvement in the Salisbury spy poisoning as "nonsense" as he was re-elected president of the Federation.

Labour has faced intense criticism for its response to the attack after leaving open the possibility that Russian Federation was being framed.

At the same time, Putin, who won another six-year term in Sunday's election, said that Moscow is open for taking part in the probe together with Britain.

Instead he said Theresa May should stand up to well-connected Russians living a lavish lifestyle in Britain.

The opposition leader singled out well-known figures such as Chelsea's owner Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov, who has a stake in Arsenal. That indicates the change in people's attitudes to Russian Federation.

"If their assets were frozen, if their children could no longer study in Britain, they would begin to see Putin as a liability and that would be a problem for him".

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