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UK-Russia spy row: Chemical experts to probe suspected poison

The start of the investigation by the international chemical weapons watchdog comes as Boris Johnson travels to Brussels to brief foreign ministers from across the European Union on the alleged poisoning by Russia.

world Updated: Mar 18, 2018 23:29 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,Britain,Russia
Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson.(Reuters)

Investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will arrive in Britain on Monday to investigate the nerve agent allegedly used in the attempted assassinations of a former spy, sparking off a major row with Russia.

The Foreign Office said that the OPCW team from The Hague will meet with officials from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the police to discuss the process for collecting samples, including environmental ones.

These will then be despatched to highly reputable international laboratories selected by the OPCW for testing with results expected to take a minimum of two weeks.

This is the next step in the process to independently verify the analysis carried out by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

“As the foreign secretary noted this morning, we have been encouraged by the international support we have received to date. More than 20 countries across 6 continents have expressed their solidarity with us and we will continue to work with our European partners and allies around the world to tackle the threat posed by Russia to our collective security,” the statement said.

The start of the investigation by the international chemical weapons watchdog comes as foreign secretary Boris Johnson travels to Brussels to brief foreign ministers from across the European Union on the attempted assassinations before meeting with the Nato secretary general.

Sergei Skripal —a former Russian intelligence officer convicted in his home country of spying for Britain — and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury on March 4, allegedly by a nerve agent. Both remain in critical condition.

Britain, with support of its allies, has blamed Russia for the incident. However, the Kremlin denies it had any hand in poisoning.

The stand-off took a new turn on Sunday morning after the Russian ambassador to the EU, Vladimir Chizkov, told BBC that a UK laboratory in Porton Down near Salisbury itself could be the source of the attack.

Later that day, Johnson rubbished Chizkov’s claims and revealed that Britain had information indicating that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination.

First Published: Mar 18, 2018 20:04 IST