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Politics Independent inspectors back up UK assessment that Russia poisoned former spy

  • Published:

The Organisation for the Protection of Chemical Weapons confirmed identity of the nerve agent, a key piece of evidence in Britain's case against Russia.

skripal attack salisbury police officer protective suit play

skripal attack salisbury police officer protective suit

(Jack Taylor/Getty)

  • The Organisation for the Protection of Chemical Weapons has published analysis supporting the UK in accusing Russia over poisoning ex-spy Sergei Skripal.
  • The OPCW confirmed UK military scientists who identified the chemical used as a Novichok nerve agent.
  • They did not explicitly blame Russia for the attack, but the analysis bolsters the UK's conclusion that Moscow is to blame.
  • Britain argues that only Russia is capable of producing and deploying this particular chemical, based on its own classified intelligence.
  • The US and around 20 other nations also support the UK's conclusions.


Independent chemical weapons inspectors have produced evidence bolstering the UK's claim that Russia was behind the poisoning of a former spy and his daughter.

The Organisation for the Protection of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released analysis on Thursday supporting the conclusion of British military scientists that a Russian-made nerve agent was used on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury last month.

Their report concluded that "samples collected by the OPCW team confirm the findings of the United Kingdom."

A portion of the report, with the crucial section highlighted. play

A portion of the report, with the crucial section highlighted.

(Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons)

The UK has accused the Russian state of carrying out the attack, citing a combination of classified intelligence and chemical analysis.

The OPCW did not state the origin of the nerve agent in its analysis — or mention Russia at all — because its focus was only the chemistry of the samples collected.

However, their support of the British scientific analysis strengthens the overall case against Moscow.

British intelligence has reportedly gone into far more detail, tracing the Novichok agent to a single, secretive military lab in southwestern Russia.

The OPCW said: "The results of analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team 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."

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Thursday that the findings support the UK case.

In a statement he said: "There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible — only Russia has the means, motive and record."

The Foreign Secretary added that Britain had called a meeting with the OPCW next Wednesday to "discuss next steps."

More than 20 countries joined Britain in blaming Russia for the attack, and expelled more than 120 Russian diplomats from their countries to retaliate.

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(Jenny Cheng/Business Insider)

Russia has repeatedly denied its involvement in the attack and even pushed multiple contradictory theories to claim so.

The OPCW collected samples at the site of the attack in Salisbury, as well as blood samples from the Skripals and Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was poisoned while responding to the attack.

Russia's proposal to join the OPCW investigation was shot down last week. Aleksander Shulgin, Moscow's ambassador to the OPCW, said before losing the vote that the Kremlin would reject the outcome of the report regardless of what it said.

Read Boris Johnson's statement:

"Today the international chemical weapons watchdog have confirmed the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical used in the attempted assassination of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and which also resulted in the hospitalisation of a British police officer. That was a military grade nerve agent – a Novichok.

"This is based on testing in four independent, highly reputable laboratories around the world. All returned the same conclusive results.

"There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record.

"We invited the OPCW to test these samples to ensure strict adherence to international chemical weapons protocols. We have never doubted the analysis of our scientists at Porton Down.

"In the interest of transparency, and because unlike the Russians we have nothing to hide, we have asked the OPCW to publish the executive summary for all to see and to circulate the full report to all state parties of the OPCW, including Russia.

"We will now work tirelessly with our partners to help stamp out the grotesque use of weapons of this kind and we have called a session of the OPCW Executive Council next Wednesday to discuss next steps. The Kremlin must give answers.

"We must, as a world community, stand up for the rules based order which keeps us all safe. The use of weapons of this kind can never be justified, and must be ended."