Spinwatch can reveal that the Skripal affair has resulted in the issuing of not one but two ‘D-Notices’ to the British media, which are marked private and confidential. We can also disclose the contents of both notices, which have been obtained from a reliable source.
That two notices were issued has been confirmed by the ‘D-Notice’ Committee. The Committee, which is jointly staffed by government officials and mainstream media representatives has recently changed its name to the ‘Defence and Security Media Advisory (DSMA) Committee’. The use of the word ‘advisory’ is no doubt a bid to discourage the public from thinking that this is a censorship committee. However, the DSMA-Notices (as they are now officially called) are one of the miracles of British state censorship. They are a mechanism whereby the British state simply ‘advises’ the mainstream media what not to publish, in ‘notices’ with no legal force. The media then voluntarily comply.
When a former Russian spy and his daughter were found slumped on a park bench in Salisbury, it wasn’t long before investigators started looking at the Kremlin with suspicion.
The pair were identified as Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The British government said they had been poisoned with a military grade nerve agent called Novichok, originally developed in Russia.
Over the following weeks, as the victims remained in hospital, Britain’s relationship with Russia began to fall apart. Diplomats from both countries have now been expelled and all planned high-level contact is suspended.
The stakes could not be higher. With Russia denying any involvement in the attack, the stability of global politics hangs in the balance.
But how strong is the UK’s evidence against Russia? And what do the experts think?
In view of the seriousness of the rapidly worsening relations between the West and Russia, and the quickly evolving military events in the Middle East, especially Syria, we have taken the step to publish relevant evidence-based analysis with respect to the Skripal incident of 4 March 2018. This update to our earlier briefing note covers new material that has become available. We welcome comments and corrections which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or provided in the Comments section below.
A tent is secured over the bench in Salisbury where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found critically ill. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA
The international chemical weapons watchdog has backed the UK’s findings on the identity of the chemical used to poison the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
The findings by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will be a major relief to the UK, which has said novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia, was used in the attack.
The executive summary released by the OPCW does not mention novichok by name, but states: “The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirms the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.”
‘We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific info to government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions’
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Accusations and recriminations between Britain and Russia are set to escalate with the news that scientists at the Porton Down military research facility have been unable to establish exactly where the novichok nerve agent used to carry out the Skripal attack was manufactured.
The admission comes the day before Moscow convenes an emergency meeting of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague in which it is expected to demand access to samples from the Salisbury poisoning for analysis by Russian scientists.
London (CNN)The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed the UK’s findings that Novichok was used to target the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury.
While the statement from the OPCW does not specifically name Novichok, it says technical experts “confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.”
The UK government says its scientists have identified the agent as a military-grade Novichok nerve agent.
The Bell was able to find and speak with Vladimir Uglev, one of the scientists who was involved in developing the nerve agent referred to as “Novichok”. According to British authorities, a nerve agent from the “Novichok” series was used to poison former Rusian intelligence agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Vladimir Uglev, formerly a scientist with Volsk branch of GOSNIIOKHT (“State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology”), which developed and tested production of new lethal substances since 1972, spoke for the first time about his work as early as the 1990s. He left the institute in 1994 and is now retired.
The attack on former spy Sergei Skripal thrust the nerve agent Novichok into the spotlight. For many, it was the first time they had heard of the poison, but it has long been a bone of contention between Moscow and the West.
No problem, says Andrew Weber, I can show you the pictures. The weapons expert, formerly a high-ranking official in the U.S. Defense Department, is sitting in a Berlin hotel. He swipes through his smartphone and quickly finds the photos.
One image depicts a reactor constructed of metal, inside of which the deadly chemical agent was produced. Another shows devices lined up in the basement that look not unlike gas masks designed for dogs. Still another is of an elongated, four-story complex that is light beige in color. The area around the structure is undeveloped and there is trash and scrap metal strewn on the ground.
The British government claims that ‘Novichok’ poisons, developed 30 years ago in the Soviet Union, affected a British double agent. But such substances may not exist at all. The British government further says that the Russian government is responsible for the incident and has announced penalties against the country.
A comparable incidents happened in 2001 in the United States. Envelopes with Anthrax spores were sent to various politicians. Some people died. The White House told the FBI to blame al-Qaeda but the Anthrax turned out to be from a U.S. chemical-biological weapon laboratory. The case is still unsolved.
Gary Aitkenhead is the Head of the Military Laboratory for Science and Technology of Porton Down (United Kingdom). On 3 April 2018, he declared speaking for himself and on behalf of his colleagues, that his services identified that the substance used on Sergei and Yulia Skripal was an agent belonging to the Novichok programme but made it clear that they had never determined where it was made.
He declared in an exclusive interview given to Sky News on 3 April 2018:
“We were able to identify this substance as a Novichok and to establish that it is an nerve-poisoning agent of military grade (…) We were not been able to establish the exact source but we provided scientific reports to the government which led it to other sources before reaching the conclusions that it has today”.
The following briefing note is developed from ongoing research and investigation into the use of chemical and biological weapons during the 2011-present war in Syria conducted by members of the Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda. The note reflects work in progress. However, the substantive questions raised need answering, especially given the seriousness of the political crisis that is now developing. We welcome comments and corrections.
MOSCOW/AMSTERDAM – The British government says Russia is to blame for poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent, and most chemical weapons specialists agree.
But they also say an alternative explanation cannot be ruled out: that the nerve agent got into the hands of people not acting for the Russian state.
The Soviet Union’s chemical weapons program was in such disarray in the aftermath of the Cold War that some toxic substances and know-how could have gotten into the hands of criminals, say people who dealt with the program at the time.
While nerve agents degrade over time, if the precursor ingredients for the nerve agent were smuggled out back then, stored in proper conditions and mixed recently, they could still be deadly in a small-scale attack.
The United States and Uzbekistan have quietly negotiated and are expected to sign a bilateral agreement today to provide American aid in dismantling and decontaminating one of the former Soviet Union’s largest chemical weapons testing facilities, according to Defense Department and Uzbek officials.
Earlier this year, the Pentagon informed Congress that it intends to spend up to $6 million under its Cooperative Threat Reduction program to demilitarize the so-called Chemical Research Institute, in Nukus, Uzbekistan. Soviet defectors and American officials say the Nukus plant was the major research and testing site for a new class of secret, highly lethal chemical weapons called ”Novichok,” which in Russian means ”new guy.”