“The most likely source of origin of the toxin are the countries which have been carrying out intense research on the substances from the ‘Novichok’ program, approximately since the end of the 1990s until the present time, and this project is not the creation of Russia or the Soviet Union,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Saturday. She listed the UK, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Sweden among the countries involved.
The US should also “be put under question,” Zakharova said in an interview with the state broadcaster VGTRK.
“How did they come to the conclusion about a Russian ‘footprint’ if they didn’t give us those samples? Logically they shouldn’t have this substance. Which samples have they compared with to draw such a conclusion?” she went on. “Questions arise: then, they should have samples, which they conceal, or it is a lie from start to finish.”
“If the UK prime minister and other British experts give the formula, then it will be clear which countries have been developing these agents,” Zakharova said.
Zakharova’s remarks echo those of Russia’s representative at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Aleksandr Shulgin, who said the ‘Novichok’ research was taken out of the Soviet Union following its collapse. While Shulgin didn’t name where the program was smuggled, he said the source of the substance used in Salisbury is “concealed in one of the countries where this research continued and achieved certain success.”
Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky has firmly rejected Zakharova’s assessment of the counties where the nerve gas agent could have originated.
“We reject such groundless statement on the origins of the Novichok,” Stropnicky stated, adding that the allegations were “purely speculative.”
Earlier, the OPCW said none of its member states has declared possession of the Novichok group of nerve agents.
The Russian-UK double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned on March 4. Prime Minister Theresa May has accused Russia of being responsible, with a major diplomatic row deepening.