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Shape-Shifting Analysis on Alleged Russian Poisoning

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COMMENT: With charges of Russian chemical warfare atrocities filling the air, more measured analysis on the Consortium News site highlights deep flaws in the alleged Russian poisoning of retired spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter. 

Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray notes:

  1. ” . . . . I find it remarkable that the very day this happened the British government was announcing that it was the Russian state that was behind this. They couldn’t possibly have had time to analyze any of the evidence. It is as though this is being used as a trigger to put prearranged anti-Russian measures into place and to “up” the Cold War rhetoric.  You can’t help get the feeling that they are rather pleased this has happened and were even expecting it to happen. . . .”
  2. ” . . . .The claim is that this is one of a group of nerve agents known as a Novichok.  The Novichok program was being run in the 1980’s by the Soviets. The idea was to develop chemical weapons which could be quickly put together from commercial pesticides and fertilizers.  They came up with a number of theoretical designs for such weapons. Until now, the official position of the British government and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was that there was doubt as to whether they actually produced any of these.  As of now, they haven’t been put on the banned list, precisely because the scientific community has doubted their existence. So the British government’s ability on day-one to identify this was quite remarkable. . . .”
  3. “ . . . . In order to take blood samples from the Skripals, who were both in a coma, doctors had to get court approval.  And in giving evidence to the High Court, two scientists stated that the Skripals had been poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent or a ‘closely related agent.’  It looks to many people like this may just be a silly amateur mixture of different insecticides. . . . . The British government has been telling us that this is ten times more powerful than a standard nerve agent.  Thankfully, so far, nobody has been killed. Why isn’t this deadly agent more effective? Why is it that the doctor who administered first aid to Yulia Skripal was completely unaffected, even though he had extensive physical contact with her? . . .”
  4. “ . . . . Our foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has gone on record as saying that the Russians have been secretly stockpiling this chemical weapon for a decade and have had a secret program of assassination techniques.  But if you were Vladimir Putin and you had this secret nerve agent, why would you blow your cover by using it on this retired spy who you released from prison years ago? The whole scenario is utterly implausible. Why would Russia wish to ruin its international reputation with this entirely gratuitous violence against an old spy?  Skripal was exchanged as part of a spy swap. If people are going to swap spies and then kill them, there won’t be any spy swaps in the future.  A KGB person like Putin is the last person who is going to destroy the system of spy swaps. . . .”
  5. “ . . . . It adds fuel to the new Cold War.  The armaments industry are the primary people who benefit.  This kind of thing is very good for defense budgets. It is very good news for the spies and security services.  Here in the UK the industry employs over 100,000 people. In a country of 60 million, this is a strong and very highly paid interest group.  All of these people are seeing a major ramping up of their budgets. When the people feeding-in the intelligence are the same people who are benefiting financially from that story, then you have to worry.  And particularly for right-wing politicians this is a cheap way of getting support. . . .”
  6. “ . . . . The other thing about the Skripal case, of course, is the connection to Orbis Intelligence and Christopher Steele and Pablo Miller.  The person who wrote the dossier on Donald Trump for the Clinton campaign was Christopher Steele of Orbis Intelligence. He was in MI6 in the Russian Embassy in Moscow at the time when Skripal was a key double agent.  The guy who was responsible for handling Skripal on a day-to-day basis was Pablo Miller. Pablo Miller also worked for Orbis Intelligence. The MI6 has never had the close-up access to Putin that that dossier claims to have.  Plainly, a great deal of it is fabrication. . . .”
  7. “ . . . . I strongly suspect that Mr. Skripal was involved in the production of that dossier about Donald Trump.  I admit that this is circumstantial, but that dossier was produced while Pablo Miller was working for Orbis Intelligence.  Like Mr. Steele, Pablo Miller was a former MI6 agent in Russia. And Pablo Miller was also living in Salisbury, within a short distance of Skripal.  If you are going to produce a dossier which invents a lot of stuff about Donald Trump and his connections to the circle around Putin, you need a Russian source who can give you names and lend the dossier a degree of authenticity.  I believe that that kind of detail is what Skripal provided to the Steele dossier. . . . .”
  8. “ . . . . the BBC reported the fact that Skripal’s handler in Russia was now working for Steele and that Skripal and Pablo Miller lived in the same town. . . .”

In addition to the “Russia-did-it,” same day analysis and the contradictions noted above, we are being treated to journalistic/analytical shape-shifting about the method of delivery of the alleged agent. We are being told that:

  1. The poison was “planted in [Skirpal’s] daughter’s suitcase”:  ” . . . . Russian assassins planted the nerve agent that poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, British investigators now believe. . . .”
  2. No, the poison was administered through the vents of Skirpal’s car”  . . . . Russian assassins planted the nerve agent that poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, British investigators now believe. . . . “
  3. No, the poison was administered by a Russian MINI DRONE”  . . . . The MI5’s agents fear a Russian hit-team targeted Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using a gadget specially designed for assassinations. Intelligence sources believe Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter could have been sprayed with the nerve agent from a remote-controlled drone hovering above them as they sat on a bench in Salisbury. . . .”
  4. No, the poison was smeared on the door handle of Skirpal’s car” . . . . Whitehall sources have suggested on theory under close examination is that Mr Skripal was poisoned when he touched the door handle of his car, which had been smeared with the nerve agent. . . .”

We also note that Porton Down–the UK’s top CBW research facility, is roughly 12 miles from Salisbury. Although not conclusive, it is an interesting, and possibly significant, coincidence.

We also note that technicians at Porton Down have not been able to identify the country of origin of the “Novichok.” ” . . . . ‘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 you have come to.’ . . . .”

1.  “Nerve Toxin Used on Ex-Spy ‘Was Planted in Daughter’s Suitcase” by Nick Miller; Sydney Morning Herald; 3/16/2018.

London: Russian assassins planted the nerve agent that poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in his daughter’s suitcase before she left Moscow, British investigators now believe.

Intelligence agency sources told London’s Telegraph they strongly suspect the 66-year-old’s daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, unknowingly carried a piece of clothing, cosmetics or a gift impregnated with the toxin into his house in Salisbury, where it poisoned both of them. . . .

2. “Sergei Skirpal Possibly Poisoned Through Car’s Air Vents, Say US Media” [ABC News]; The Guardian [UK]; 3/18/2018. 

The former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, could have been exposed to a deadly nerve agent through his car’s ventilation system, US media have reported.

The pair remain critically ill in hospital after being exposed to the nerve agent novichok in Salisbury, in the UK, two weeks ago.

The US organisation ABC News reported that intelligence officials had said the nature of the substance used, described as “dusty”, was now clear and that UK officials had a better picture of how the attack was carried out, saying that the Skripals could have been exposed to the substance through the BMW’s ventilation system. . . .

3. “MI5 Fears Assassins Used MINI DRONE to Poison Spy Sergei Skirpal and His Daughter” by Patrick Williams; Daily Star; 3/18/2018.

The MI5’s agents fear a Russian hit-team targeted Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using a gadget specially designed for assassinations.

Intelligence sources believe Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter could have been sprayed with the nerve agent from a remote-controlled drone hovering above them as they sat on a bench in Salisbury.

The use of a drone would also explain why there were no eye-witnesses to the attack and no CCTV footage of the couple being poisoned.

A source said: “Every single possible scenario is being looked at. We know the Russians have been experimenting with weaponised miniature drones.

We believe they may have been used in Syria and the Ukraine and on other assassination operations. . . .

4. “Russia Attack: Shock Claims Nerve Agent Was Smeared on Sergei Skirpal’s Door Handle” by Simon Osborne; Daily Express [UK]; 3/14/2018.

. . . . Mr Basu said finding out how the nerve agent was administered was now the main focus of the investigation but warned the inquiry will take many weeks.

Whitehall sources have suggested on theory under close examination is that Mr Skripal was poisoned when he touched the door handle of his car, which had been smeared with the nerve agent.

Experts said the nerve agent could also have been put in the car’s ventilation system or dusted on the inside. Only a tiny amount would be needed. . . .

5. “Porton Down Experts Unable to Identify ‘Precise Source’ of Novichok that Poisoned Spy” by Paul Kelso; Sky News; 4/4/2018.

Scientists from Porton Down have not been able to establish where the novichok nerve agent used to poison Sergei and Yulia Skripal was made. 

Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, told Sky News they were not yet able to prove it was made in Russia.

He said: “We were able to identify it as novichok, to identify that it was military-grade nerve agent.

“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 you have come to.” . . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Discussion

4 comments for “Shape-Shifting Analysis on Alleged Russian Poisoning”

  1. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) issued its report on the “novichok” nerve agent used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The report is being touted as a vindication of the UK government’s charges that the Russian government must have been behind the attack.

    So what did the OPCW report conclude? Well, the key finding is that the chemical agent was of a “high purity”. And that is being pointed to as conclusive evidence that the Russian government ordered the attack because only the Russian government has the capability of manufacturing very high purity novichok. The fact that Russia is obviously not the only entity on the planet with the capacity to manufacture such a substance with high levels of purity isn’t addressed. Also, the fact that compounds produced by a government might fall into private hands also isn’t addressed.

    This is a good time to recall the recent warnings by a number of chemists that the characterization of the novichok compounds as ultra-sophisticated and something only a biowarfare agency could create is bogus and the chemicals are actually relatively easy to synthesize in any good chemistry lab, as long as you take stringent safety precautions.

    The article mentions that the UK government has stated that its attribution against the Russian government also includes intelligence sources. Those sources claim that the Russian government has produced novichok in the past decade and experimented with its use for assassination

    Along those lines, the article also notes that Vladimir Uglev, a key member of the Soviet research team that developed novichok in the 1970s and 1980s, has also come out in support of the British government’s conclusions. Uglev said he was sure the compound used was one of those his team had first developed in 1975. But Uglev also noted cautioned that it would be impossible to prove beyond doubt where the compound used in this attack had originated:

    The Financial Times

    Chemical weapons agency backs UK findings on Skripal nerve agent
    OPCW confirms Britain’s scientific analysis of poison used in Salisbury attack

    Henry Mance in London and Kathrin Hille in Moscow
    April 12, 2018, 9:50 am

    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has confirmed Britain’s scientific analysis of the nerve agent used in last month’s Salisbury attack.

    The international watchdog said on Thursday that its team could “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”.

    Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia Skripal and a policeman, Nick Bailey, were hospitalised after the poisoning on March 4.

    Mr Bailey was discharged last month, while Ms Skripal was released from hospital on Monday. On Wednesday, she issued a statement through the Metropolitan Police rejecting overtures from Russian officials who wanted to speak to her.

    The OPCW’s summary report did not name the compound, which Britain has said is a military grade nerve agent from the novichok family that was developed in Russia.

    However, it named the chemical in its “full classified report”, which was made available to 192 state parties, including Russia.

    The OPCW said the toxic chemical “was of high purity” — lending credence to the UK’s argument that only a state with a sophisticated laboratory could realistically have deployed the chemical.

    In response, the Russian foreign ministry said it would not believe any conclusions of the investigation until it was allowed to participate in the probe and given access to the samples used for identifying the substance the Skripals were attacked with. Moscow had asked to be part of the OPCW’s investigation, but lost a vote among member states last week.

    “We cannot support in advance the results of an investigation in which we are not participating and which are being kept secret,” said Maria Zakharova, foreign ministry spokeswoman.

    Ms Zakharova’s criticism of the OPCW came at the end of an hour-long monologue in which she accused the British authorities of detaining Ms Skripal against her own will.

    Moscow also seized on comments made last week by the head of Porton Down, Britain’s military laboratory, who said his team had not identified the precise source of the novichok used in the Salisbury attack.

    The British government responded that its tracing was based on intelligence showing that Russia has produced novichok in the past decade and experimented with its use for assassination.

    A key member of the Soviet research team that developed novichok in the 1970s and 1980s has also sided with the British government in its dispute with Moscow. Vladimir Uglev said he was sure the compound used was one of those his team had first developed in 1975, but cautioned that it would be impossible to prove beyond doubt where the Salisbury nerve agent had originated.

    The survival of the Skripals has been used to raise doubts about whether novichok could have been used in the poisoning. However, experts have said that the effect of the nerve agent would have depended on how they came into contact with it and in what form.

    The OPCW said it took “blood samples from the three affected individuals”, conducted “on-site sampling of environmental samples” at places where the chemical might have remained, and received splits of samples taken by the British authorities. It was also briefed by the UK government.

    Following the publication of the OPCW report on Thursday, Boris Johnson, UK foreign secretary, 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.”

    ———-

    “Chemical weapons agency backs UK findings on Skripal nerve agent” by Henry Mance and Kathrin Hille; The Financial Times; 04/12/2018

    “The OPCW said the toxic chemical “was of high purity” — lending credence to the UK’s argument that only a state with a sophisticated laboratory could realistically have deployed the chemical.”

    And that “high purity” appears to be the key OPCW finding seen as lending credence to the UK’s charge that this nerve agent had to emerge from a state with a sophisticated lab.

    Although the UK government asserts that it also is basing its conclusion on intelligence showing that Russian has produced novichok in the past decade and experimented with using it as a tool for assassination. More details on the nature of this intelligence isn’t available:


    The British government responded that its tracing was based on intelligence showing that Russia has produced novichok in the past decade and experimented with its use for assassination.

    Additionally, Vladimir Uglev, a key member of the Soviet research team that developed novichok in the 1970s and 1980s, has publicly stated that he’s sure the compound used was in the novichok family of chemicals. But he also warned that it wouldn’t actually be possible to prove beyond doubt where the chemical came from:


    A key member of the Soviet research team that developed novichok in the 1970s and 1980s has also sided with the British government in its dispute with Moscow. Vladimir Uglev said he was sure the compound used was one of those his team had first developed in 1975, but cautioned that it would be impossible to prove beyond doubt where the Salisbury nerve agent had originated.

    So while Uglev supports one aspect of the UK government’s charges – that a novichok compound was in fact used in this attack – he’s also effectively downplaying the idea that this could be conclusively traced back to Russian government labs or any other labs.

    Interestingly, as the following article notes, Uglev has also stated which novichok compound was used in the attack: A-234. Uglev in fact told the Financial Times that “I have no doubt that it was precisely A-234 which was used!” This is based on comments made by Porton Down scientists and other information he had received:

    The Financial Times

    Soviet scientist backs UK over Skripal poisoning
    Novichok developer convinced of source of attack but cautions over finding proof

    Kathrin Hille in Moscow
    April 8, 2018; 10:03 pm

    A key member of the Soviet research team that developed the nerve agent the UK claimed was used to poison the former double agent Sergei Skripal has sided with the British government in its dispute with Moscow.

    Vladimir Uglev said he was convinced Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia had been attacked in the English city of Salisbury with a compound he had developed in 1975. However, he cautioned it would be impossible to prove beyond doubt where the nerve agent had originated.

    Mr Uglev worked on the programme, codenamed Foliant by the Soviets, that led to the development of the novichok stable of chemical weapons from the 1970s until the 1990s.

    His comments come as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to complete its analysis of samples of the substance used in the Salisbury attack this week.

    Moscow and London have been engaged in an escalating information war ever since the UK government said Russia was the likely perpetrator of the attack.

    Britain’s defence research laboratory at Porton Down has identified one of a group of nerve agents collectively referred to as novichok — a name one of Mr Uglev’s colleagues coined for the group of substances — as having been used in the poisoning.

    “I have no doubt that it was precisely A-234 which was used!” Mr Uglev said in comments emailed to the Financial Times from his retirement home on the Black Sea coast.

    He said judging by comments made by Porton Down scientists and other information he had received, the substance had to be the compound he had first synthesised in December 1975 at the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, in the southern Russian town of Shikhany.

    Mr Uglev has spoken about the Skripal case before but his latest remarks go much further than previous comments.

    He was also heavily critical of Vladimir Putin, Russian president, and his administration.

    “As a Russian citizen, I do not accept the great-power chauvinism fanned by the regime of Kremlin-Lubyanka thieves and killers, and therefore fully understand and support the policy of the British government towards Russia,” Mr Uglev said.

    The Lubyanka is the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the KGB’s successor and the agency where Mr Putin started his career. Mr Putin has also stocked large parts of his administration with secret services alumni.

    “At the same time, as a professional chemist, I perfectly understand that we will not get 100 per cent proof of the guilt of the Kremlin-Lubyanka killers, neither from the English specialists, nor from the experts of the OPCW,” added Mr Uglev.

    He said he did not expect the OPCW to be able to prove either where the substance had been manufactured or how it had found its way to Salisbury. UK investigators would not be able to rely on methods they used to trace the source of the polonium-210 that was used to murder the former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 because that was a radioactive substance and was relatively easy to detect unlike a nerve agent like A-234, he said.

    But Russia has tried to exploit the UK government’s mishaps in communication about the case. Last week it seized on a statement in which the head of Porton Down said the source of the nerve agent had not been identified.

    One day later, it unearthed a recently deleted tweet that had been posted on March 22 by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office that said Porton Down had identified the source.

    Moscow has also been quick to criticise Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary, who has asserted the Russian government was behind the attack and the poison had come from Russia.

    ———-

    “Soviet scientist backs UK over Skripal poisoning” by Kathrin Hille; The Financial Times; 04/08/2018

    “I have no doubt that it was precisely A-234 which was used!” Mr Uglev said in comments emailed to the Financial Times from his retirement home on the Black Sea coast.”

    No doubt that is was precisely A-234! It’s a pretty powerful statement from one of the chief scientists to develop the novichok family of compounds. And it appears to be largely based on comments made by Porton Down scientists and other information he had received:


    He said judging by comments made by Porton Down scientists and other information he had received, the substance had to be the compound he had first synthesised in December 1975 at the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, in the southern Russian town of Shikhany.

    But, again, Uglev noted that there’s really no way to prove where the substance had been manufactured or how it was transported to the site of the attack:


    He said he did not expect the OPCW to be able to prove either where the substance had been manufactured or how it had found its way to Salisbury. UK investigators would not be able to rely on methods they used to trace the source of the polonium-210 that was used to murder the former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 because that was a radioactive substance and was relatively easy to detect unlike a nerve agent like A-234, he said.

    Still, openly naming the exact compound, A-234, is pretty notable.

    It’s also pretty notable that Uglev is highly critical of the Russian government, which he refers to as the “regime of Kremlin-Lubyanka thieves and killers”:


    He was also heavily critical of Vladimir Putin, Russian president, and his administration.

    “As a Russian citizen, I do not accept the great-power chauvinism fanned by the regime of Kremlin-Lubyanka thieves and killers, and therefore fully understand and support the policy of the British government towards Russia,” Mr Uglev said.

    The Lubyanka is the Moscow headquarters of Russia’s Federal Security Service, the KGB’s successor and the agency where Mr Putin started his career. Mr Putin has also stocked large parts of his administration with secret services alumni.

    And that open criticism of the Russian government is so notable because, as we learn in the following interview of Uglev, he never left Russia.

    There are a number of other interesting things in the following interview. For instance, when Uglev refers to “novichok”, he is specifically referring to four separate compounds in the family of organophosphates of the hundreds of organophosphates that his team researched in the 70’s and 80’s. Those four compounds were seen as far more lethal and effective than any of the other compounds they researched: “A-1972”, “B-1976”, “C-1976”, and “D-1980”. So A-234 is not one of those four super-lethal compounds.:

    The Bell

    The scientist who developed “Novichok”: “Doses ranged from 20 grams to several kilos”

    Svetlana Reiter, Natalia Gevorkyan
    March 20, 2018

    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 Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists that there was no research nor development of any substance called “Novichok”, not in Russia, nor in the USSR. Is that true?

    – In order to make it easier to understand the subject matter, I will not use the name “Novichok” which has is now commonly used by everyone to describe those four substances which were conditionally assigned to me to develop over a period of several years. Three of these substances are part of the “Foliant” program, which was led by Pyotr Kirpichev, a scientist with GOSNIIOKHT (State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology). The first substance of a new class of organophosphorous chemical agents, I will call it “A-1972”, was developed by Kirpichev in 1972. In 1976, I developed two substances: “B-1976” and “C-1976”. The fourth substance, “D-1980”, was developed by Kirpichev in the early 1980s. All of these substances fall under the group referred to as “Novichkov”, but that name wasn’t given to the substances by GOSNIIOKHT.

    All four chemical agents are “FOS” or organophosphorous compounds which have a nerve paralyzing effect, but they differ in their precursors, how they were discovered and in their usage as agents of chemical warfare.

    In the scientific group led by Kirpichev, several hundred modifications of this class of agents were discovered. Therefore, I can say with a high degree of certainty that no matter which new substances were developed, none of them exceeded the toxic properties of those listed above.

    One of these substances was used to poison the banker, Ivan Kivelidi and his secretary in 1995. A cotton ball, soaked in this agent, was rubbed over the microphone in the handset of Kivelidi’s telephone. That specific dose was developed by my group, where we produced all of the chemical agents, and each dose which we developed was given its own complete physical-chemical passport. It was therefore not difficult to determine who had prepared that dose and when it was developed. Naturally, the investigators also suspected me. I was questioned several times about this incident.

    In contrast to former GOSNIIOKHT scientist Vil Mirzayanov, who emigrated to the U.S. and is the author of the book “State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program”, Uglev didn’t leave Russia. Mirzayanov gave several interviews over the past few days; these interviews provided most of what is known about “Novichok”. Russian authorities did not officially confirm the development of these nerve agents, actually, quite the opposite: on the 17th of March, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that there was never, not in Russia, nor in the USSR, “any research which was called or had the code name ‘Novichok’.” Zakharova also named the U.S., UK and other countries as the most likely sources of the chemical agents. However, RIA Novosti published an interview today with a person called Leonid Rink, who is also identified in the text as the “developer of ‘Novichok’.”

    – For what purpose were the chemical agents developed?

    – This fell under the “Foliant” program which was ordered by the Ministry of Defense. The agents were designed as alternative to the Soviet analogy of the American nerve agent, VX.

    – Which specific laboratory developed the chemical agent which we now refer to as “Novichok”?

    – The Volsk branch of GOSNIIOKHT, which is in the Saratov region.

    – Where was the pilot produced and in what quantity?

    – In the laboratory itself. Sometimes in pilot production, but also using the laboratory table and equipment. Doses generally ranged from 20 grams to several kilos.

    – Where was the agent stored?

    – Small doses were stored by Pyotr Kirpichev and myself – in our working room in a metal sealed box safe. Large doses were stored in a special warehouse in sealed packaging. I don’t know anything else about what then happened to the doses beyond where they were stored.

    – Did you work on these agents for a long time?

    – According to my records, from 1972 until 1988.

    – If a chemical agent was first synthesized in the 1970s, would it be possible that there might have been later, improved versions, after you stopped working?

    – I don’t think so. Pyotr Kirpichev’s group synthesized several hundred analogues of this series.

    – It is possible to say with confidence that Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned with an agent from the “Novichok” series, or could it be confused with a nerve agent like, for example, VX (an organophosphorous poisonous agent first developed in the UK in 1952 – The Bell)?

    – It’s unlikely to be confused with VX, but with Zoman and Zarin (nerve paralyzing gases – The Bell), it’s possible, but only before the laboratory investigation has begun. The chemical agents in our, as you called it, series, are extremely tenacious.

    – In a recent interview which he gave to “Novaya Gazeta”, Mirzayanov says that a comparative analysis, was most likely conducted using samples from the victims of the poisoning, by comparing these samples with a formula which British specialists could have taken from his book. Could that be true?

    – If you take a formula from that book you could conduct screening for several years. But specific agents and precursors for these agents are not included in his book.

    – How could the person who poisoned Skripal and his daughter have done so without put himself in danger?

    – Agents should be transported in a container suitable for combat use. It is likely that within this container the chemical agents were put on some kind of carrier (cotton balls, powder, ready-made poisonous elements). All of the container’s external surfaces must be covered in a degassing solution and wiped with a solvent. Therefore, the person who carried out the attack does not need to defend himself.

    – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that in order to specifically identify the chemical agent which was used, the British authorities must have had a sample of the nerve agent in their possession. How could the British have gotten their hands on a sample?

    – The British, just like the Germans, are excellent chemists who can with one hint do what in Moscow is classified as top secret. In addition, the secret was already 20 years old in 1993. So the question should be directed to those specialists charged with protecting state secrets: is it possible to keep such information secret without any leaks?

    – Why is Russia demanding that the British send a blood sample from the victims?

    – From the remains of the chemical agents in the blood, it is possible, with the aid of various types of analyses, to determine where the specific dose was produced and by whom. I suspect that modern methods of analysis have even improved on what we had some 30 years ago.

    – Is there even a minimal chance that the victims of the poisoning might recover?

    – If Skripal and his daughter received a lethal dose of B-1976, C-1976, or D-1980, then, most likely, they will suffer the same fate as earlier victims. There is no antidote to these agents. I can say with nearly 100% certainty that if Skripal and his daughter are taken off of life support, they will die, although they are now only technically alive.

    – Who could know the chemical formula for “Novichok”?

    – In Russia, I would estimate, several dozen people.

    – Did you ever share the formula? For example, in the media in the mid-1990s, when they were trying to confirm the development of new chemical agents?

    – I never shared and I don’t intend to share the chemical formula for those agents. I never said which type of chemical combinations they are produced from. [I have said] only that they are related to the class of new generation nerve paralyzing agents.

    – Why did the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) under the United Nations, if one finds their minutes from their meetings to be true, fail three times to find proof of production of this agent (searches began after the publication of Mirzayanov’s book in 2008)?

    – It’s impossible to find a black button in a dark room. Moreover, the cat simply wasn’t there, because there wasn’t any production in the USSR, and Russia then was preoccupied with other things. The fact that the OPCW totally ignored our mutual statement with Mirzayanov in 1993 about the existence of agents of chemical warfare in Russia was a gross violation of the (Chemical Weapons) Convention, as signatory countries to the Convention are required to report the development of new substances, the most powerful of which are agents of chemical warfare (Russia only signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 1997 – The Bell).

    – The media reported that “Novichok” supposedly exists as a “binary weapon” – the toxin is transferred via two less dangers substances, and when it is time to use the chemical agent, only then are the substances mixed together. It has also been suggested that “Novichok” could have been used for the attempt in London. Are the series of agents referred to as “Novichok” binary weapons?

    – No one ever had any binary weapons. I think that several of my colleagues, just like I did, tried to work on this idea, but I don’t know a single binary weapon, not for VX, not for other types of chemical weapons. At least for the period up until 1994.

    – In which form do the nerve paralyzing agents which we refer to as “Novichok” come in?

    – Of the four substances, only the last one, D-1980, can be in powder form. The other three are liquid.

    – How did British scientists manage to determine that the victims were poisoned with “Novichok”?

    – So far, I have only read the confirmation by Theresa May that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by nerve paralyzing agents. British scientists have not said anything yet.

    ———-

    “The scientist who developed “Novichok”: “Doses ranged from 20 grams to several kilos”” by Svetlana Reiter, Natalia Gevorkyan; The Bell; 03/20/2018

    “– In order to make it easier to understand the subject matter, I will not use the name “Novichok” which has is now commonly used by everyone to describe those four substances which were conditionally assigned to me to develop over a period of several years. Three of these substances are part of the “Foliant” program, which was led by Pyotr Kirpichev, a scientist with GOSNIIOKHT (State Scientific-Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology). The first substance of a new class of organophosphorous chemical agents, I will call it “A-1972”, was developed by Kirpichev in 1972. In 1976, I developed two substances: “B-1976” and “C-1976”. The fourth substance, “D-1980”, was developed by Kirpichev in the early 1980s. All of these substances fall under the group referred to as “Novichkov”, but that name wasn’t given to the substances by GOSNIIOKHT.”

    “A-1972”, “B-1976”, “C-1976”, and “D-1980”. Those are the four super deadly compounds Uglev’s team arrived at after testing several hundred different chemical variants of this family of compounds:


    In the scientific group led by Kirpichev, several hundred modifications of this class of agents were discovered. Therefore, I can say with a high degree of certainty that no matter which new substances were developed, none of them exceeded the toxic properties of those listed above.

    And one of these substances was used to kill Ivan Kivelidi back in 1995:


    One of these substances was used to poison the banker, Ivan Kivelidi and his secretary in 1995. A cotton ball, soaked in this agent, was rubbed over the microphone in the handset of Kivelidi’s telephone. That specific dose was developed by my group, where we produced all of the chemical agents, and each dose which we developed was given its own complete physical-chemical passport. It was therefore not difficult to determine who had prepared that dose and when it was developed. Naturally, the investigators also suspected me. I was questioned several times about this incident.

    Note that Kivelidi had been a outspoken critic of the Russian government for not investigating the numerous mafia contract killings of Russian businessmen and his death was also considered a contract kill. This, of course, raises the question of whether or not the Russian mob had its hands on these substances over two decades ago. It’s a point Uglev makes when he points out that this novichok investigation hinges on the question of whether or not its reasonable to think that these compounds developed in the 70’s really could remain a state secret:


    – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said that in order to specifically identify the chemical agent which was used, the British authorities must have had a sample of the nerve agent in their possession. How could the British have gotten their hands on a sample?

    – The British, just like the Germans, are excellent chemists who can with one hint do what in Moscow is classified as top secret. In addition, the secret was already 20 years old in 1993. So the question should be directed to those specialists charged with protecting state secrets: is it possible to keep such information secret without any leaks?

    Interestingly, Uglev does claim that it should be possible to to determine where the specific dose was produced and by whom:


    – Why is Russia demanding that the British send a blood sample from the victims?

    – From the remains of the chemical agents in the blood, it is possible, with the aid of various types of analyses, to determine where the specific dose was produced and by whom. I suspect that modern methods of analysis have even improved on what we had some 30 years ago.

    This is, of course, very different from his recent assertions that it would be impossible to know where the compound was manufactured. But note that the above interview was done weeks ago, before Uglev named A-234 as the likely culprit. So it’s worth keeping in mind that it’s possible that such forensic analysis would be possible for compounds like “A-1972”, “B-1976”, “C-1976”, and “D-1980” that Uglev’s team developed because they would know the exact dosages or other levels of impurities that these compounds contained when they were made in a weaponized form. That’s part of what makes the “high purity” of the substance the OPCW notable from a forensic standpoint: the lack of impurities could effectively obscure the “trail” back to the source because impurities could effectively be the trail.

    And there’s another potentially very significant fact related to A-234: It’s chemical formula is widely available. There’s even a wikipedia page on it that includes the formula. And that formula was published back in 2008 in book by Vil Mirzayanov, another former Soviet scientist who worked on the novichok program. Both Mirzayanov and novochok made the news in 1994 when he openly talked about the program. Mirzayanov later relocated to the US:


    In contrast to former GOSNIIOKHT scientist Vil Mirzayanov, who emigrated to the U.S. and is the author of the book “State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program”, Uglev didn’t leave Russia. Mirzayanov gave several interviews over the past few days; these interviews provided most of what is known about “Novichok”. Russian authorities did not officially confirm the development of these nerve agents, actually, quite the opposite: on the 17th of March, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated that there was never, not in Russia, nor in the USSR, “any research which was called or had the code name ‘Novichok’.” Zakharova also named the U.S., UK and other countries as the most likely sources of the chemical agents. However, RIA Novosti published an interview today with a person called Leonid Rink, who is also identified in the text as the “developer of ‘Novichok’.”

    And that’s part of what makes Uglev’s strong conclusion that the compound used against the Skripals was definitely A-234. You can read about A-234, and its chemical structure, in Mirzayanov’s book State Secrets: An Insider’s Chronicle of the Russian Chemical Weapons Program. It’s even accessible from the “Look inside this book” feature on Amazon.

    And again, don’t forget what the UK chemists recently warned in a Financial Times article: the assertion that these compounds are ultra-sophisticated is wrong. Any good chemistry lab could do it. So if A-234 really was used in this attack it’s hard to ignore the fact that the chemical structure of this compound was readily available to anyone with internet access for the last decade.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 12, 2018, 9:01 pm
  2. http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/03/clinton-state-department-discouraged-novichok-discussion.html

    Apparently, going back the H. Clinton’s stint at the State Department, the question of “novichoks” was suppressed by the US and Brits.

    Posted by Bob In Portland | April 13, 2018, 9:39 am
  3. Here’s a pair of article that that relates to both the novichok story as well as the recent charges of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. And taken together the articles raise a profoundly disturbing question: did ISIS or al Nusra get their hands on novichok at some point during the Syrian civil war?

    It’s a question we have to ask because we know that a large number of the Syrian government’s military supplies have fallen in rebel hands. And according to the following 2012 article, one of the fears of the international community was that the Syrian government would use the large stores of novichok that it was believed to possess:

    The Daily Mail

    Cornered and desperate, will Assad unleash a catastrophic chemical weapon attack against Israel?

    By Al Venter
    Published: 19:59 EDT, 23 August 2012 | Updated: 07:01 EDT, 6 September 2012

    Desperate men will resort to desperate measures. And President Bashar al-Assad, the ruthless dictator of Syria, is a desperate man.

    Harrowing daily reports of murder, rape and torture have served to illustrate just how far he will go to maintain his totalitarian stranglehold over the country and its suffering people.

    Not a day passes without claims of his army using inhumane and savage methods to crush the uprising.

    The international community has proved powerless. After months of ineffectual note-taking and diplomacy, the last remaining members of the United Nations monitoring mission left Syria on Monday, leaving the country to spiral into further violence and chaos.

    Now, Syria’s civil war could be in danger of spilling over the country’s borders.

    For experienced observers believe that President Assad may be plotting a surprise attack against Israel in a desperate attempt to distract attention away from his internal troubles and transform himself into a hero across the Arab world.

    News has emerged this week that Syria has armed the Lebanese Islamist group Hezbollah, which is fiercely hostile to Israel, with several ballistic missiles and a number of smaller rockets, each with a range of 150 miles — far enough to strike Tel Aviv.

    The Syrian government has even warned that it could deploy its stockpile of chemical weapons if ‘exposed to external aggression’. Given the tense state of its relations with Israel, a border clash or other diplomatic incident would be easy to fabricate.

    It goes without saying that any attack on Israel could wreak destruction across the region.

    On Monday, President Obama threatened military action if Syria used its massive stockpile of chemical weapons. He talked chillingly of a ‘red line’ that must not be crossed. It was his most outspoken and forceful statement since the uprising began 18 months ago.

    The U.S. President declared: ‘We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.

    ‘We’ve been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to the other players on the ground, that a red line for us is if we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised.’

    Forty-eight hours later, David Cameron had a phone call with Obama, during which they agreed that the use of chemical weapons in Syria, or even a threat to deploy them, would be ‘completely unacceptable’.

    The great fear of the international community is that Assad could try to inflame tensions between the Arab states and Israel by firing his arsenal of Scud-C missiles, each one tipped with chemical weaponry, at Israeli cities such as Haifa or Tel Aviv.

    More worrying still is the prospect that Assad could use Novichok — the deadliest nerve agent yet developed by man — which the regime is believed to have amassed in large quantities.

    This Russian-designed chemical weapon, eight times more potent than the established nerve gasses sarin, VX and tabun, is so powerful that it renders gas masks and chemical protection outfits utterly useless.

    If Assad were to launch such an unprovoked attack on neighbouring Israel, it would serve two purposes.First, it would deflect the world’s focus from his callous treatment of his own countrymen.

    Second, it would be to settle scores with an old enemy. And if he were to fall, at least he would go down in what, for him, would be a blaze of demented glory.

    Of course, any attack would inevitably solicit a heavy Israeli retaliation.

    ….

    ———-

    “Cornered and desperate, will Assad unleash a catastrophic chemical weapon attack against Israel?” by Al Venter; The Daily Mail; 08/23/2012

    “More worrying still is the prospect that Assad could use Novichok — the deadliest nerve agent yet developed by man — which the regime is believed to have amassed in large quantities.”

    That was the reported major fear in 2012: Assad was believed to possess a large quantities of novichok and he just might use it.

    And that brings us to the next obvious question regarding who has access to novichok: so did any of the rebel groups in Syria get their hands on it? Because as the following article reminds us, those rebels groups, in particular ISIS and al Nusra, definitely got their hands on stores of Syrian government chemical weapons and used them:

    Foreign Policy

    How the Islamic State Seized a Chemical Weapons Stockpile
    When jihadists captured a Syrian military base, they found a cache of some of the world’s most dangerous weapons buried in its bunkers. In Part II of an exclusive series, an Islamic State member explains how they eventually fell into the hands of the self-styled “caliphate.”

    By Harald Doornbos, Jenan Moussa
    August 17, 2016

    Since its creation, we have learned about the Islamic State from its enemies. Its story has largely been told by those fighting the group in Iraq and Syria, traumatized civilians who have escaped its brutal rule, and the occasional defector. That is about to change. This is the story of Abu Ahmad, a Syrian operative for the Islamic State who witnessed the group’s lightning expansion firsthand and spent months among its most notorious foreign fighters.

    In this series of three articles, he provides unique insight into how Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s political scheming paved the way for its expansion into Syria, al Qaeda’s efforts to stem the group’s rise, and the terrifying weapons in the arsenal of the self-proclaimed “caliphate.” Some names and details have been omitted to protect Abu Ahmad. Read part one here and part three here.

    Abu Ahmed told us how the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) came to acquire some of the world’s most fearsome weapons, which were claimed as spoils of war from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces months before its creation.

    Roughly four months before the split between the Nusra Front and ISIS, in December 2012, dozens of Syrian jihadi fighters climbed a hill toward Regiment 111 — a large army base near the town of Darat Izza, in northern Syria. That town had been taken roughly five months earlier by a coalition of rebel groups. But while they had besieged Regiment 111 since the summer of 2012, they still had not succeeded in capturing the base from the troops loyal to President Assad.

    Syrian Army soldiers inside Regiment 111 successfully defended their base during the first rebel attack in early November 2012, killing 18 Nusra fighters in the process. But the cold December wind only fortified the rebels’ resolve. The base was a goldmine: home to guns, artillery, ammunition, and vehicles. And deep inside Regiment 111’s bunkers lay something even more valuable — a cache of chemical weapons.

    The attack was led by the Nusra Front and supported mainly by Kataib Muhajiri al-Sham, a unit within Liwa al-Islam; Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen; and Katibat al-Battar, which consisted largely of Libyan jihadis. The fighters knew that the base possessed ammunition and other weapons, but did not know in advance it contained chemical weapons.

    As the rebels climbed the hills near Regiment 111, intense fighting erupted. “That day, all of us were full of excitement and revenge,” Abu Ahmad told us. “Everybody wanted to avenge the 18 Nusra brothers who were martyred during the first attack. People were screaming: ‘This time we will conquer it!’”

    Within a day, the combined jihadi forces had broken through the lines of the Syrian Army. Shortly after, Regiment 111 was fully under jihadi control. They found large stocks of weapons, ammunition and, to their surprise, chemical agents. They were, according to Abu Ahmad, mainly barrels filled with chlorine, sarin, and mustard gas.

    What followed was the distribution of the war spoils. Everybody took some ammunition and weapons. But only the Nusra Front seized the chemical weapons. Abu Ahmad watched as the al Qaeda affiliate called in 10 large cargo trucks, loaded 15 containers with chlorine and sarin gas, and drove them away to an unknown destination. He did not see what happened to the mustard gas.

    Three months later, both the Syrian government and rebel groups reported an attack in Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo. The international media said that 26 people had been killed, among them 16 regime soldiers and 10 civilians. Both the Syrian regime and opposition claimed that chemical weapons had been used — and both accused the other of having carried out one of the first chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian war.

    Abu Ahmad kept his mouth shut in public, but privately he and some of his Syrian jihadi comrades discussed the matter. Although they did not have any evidence, they wondered whether the material used in the Khan al-Assal attack had been taken from Regiment 111. He knew he couldn’t ask Abu al-Atheer for clarification. By now he had learned one of the golden rules of the secretive jihadi movement: When it’s none of your business, keep quiet.

    “Among our people, it is not done to ask,” Abu Ahmad told us.

    That would be the end of the issue for the next eight months. Beginning in April 2013, Abu Ahmad and his comrades would be preoccupied with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s expansion into Syria, and the escalating tensions between the newly-created ISIS and the Nusra Front. It was a confused time in the Syrian jihadi world: Many factions within the Nusra Front were breaking off to join ISIS, while the al Qaeda affiliate worked feverishly to maintain loyalty within its ranks. Territory, bases, and weapons were up for grabs like never before.

    But in mid-August 2013, Abu Ahmed received news that made him think that ISIS had emerged from the split with the Nusra Front in possession of the chemical weapons seized at Regiment 111 — and that it was now using them against its enemies.

    Out of the blue, Abu al-Atheer, the man to whom Abu Ahmed had pledged loyalty — and who had in turn pledged loyalty directly to Baghdadi — told his own commanders that ISIS had twice used chemicals during attacks against the Syrian Army. The announcement came during a normal conversation between Abu al-Atheer and his men; the ISIS commander told the story happily and proudly.

    “The brothers sent a car bomb with chemicals to a [Syrian Army] checkpoint near al-Hamra village in Hama,” Abu al-Atheer claimed, as they sat in their headquarters.

    Al-Hamra is located roughly 20 miles northeast of the city of Hama. It is still controlled by forces loyal to the Syrian government.

    Abu al-Atheer spoke of another ISIS chemical attack. “We also used one car bomb filled with chemicals against regime forces near to Menagh Airbase,” he said. Menagh Airbase is located roughly 20 miles north of Aleppo. After a year-long siege, on Aug. 5, 2013, Menagh Airbase was eventually overrun by jihadis led by ISIS.

    Again, Abu Ahmed thought back to that cold December day when jihadi fighters overran Regiment 111. Were these the same chemical weapons that he and his comrades had found stockpiled in the base back then?

    Whether they are or not, the Islamic State appears to still have these weapons in their arsenal. More than two years later, on Oct. 6, 2015, the New York Times published an article describing how the Islamic State used chemical weapons against moderate rebel fighters in the northern town of Marea. According to the Times, the group fired projectiles that delivered “sulfur mustard.” This substance is more commonly known as mustard gas.

    The Dutch-Turkish jihadi Salih Yilmaz, a former soldier in the Dutch Army who has joined IS, admitted on Aug. 31, 2015, on his now defunct blog that Islamic State indeed used chemical weapons there. Yilmaz was asked by a reader of his blog “why did they accuse [the Islamic State] of recently using chemical weapons in Aleppo province?”

    Yilmaz responded by writing: “Where do you think IS got their chemical weapons from? From our enemies — and thus we use their own weapons against them.”

    ———-

    “How the Islamic State Seized a Chemical Weapons Stockpile” by Harald Doornbos, Jenan Moussa; Foreign Policy; 08/17/2016

    “Within a day, the combined jihadi forces had broken through the lines of the Syrian Army. Shortly after, Regiment 111 was fully under jihadi control. They found large stocks of weapons, ammunition and, to their surprise, chemical agents. They were, according to Abu Ahmad, mainly barrels filled with chlorine, sarin, and mustard gas.”

    And this is just the story of one Syrian army base that was overrun by the rebels: they found barrels filled with chlorine, sarin, and mustard gas. And al Nusra took it all took it all, according to the ISIS source for this story, Abu Ahmad.

    And then three months later there’s a chemical weapons attack:


    What followed was the distribution of the war spoils. Everybody took some ammunition and weapons. But only the Nusra Front seized the chemical weapons. Abu Ahmad watched as the al Qaeda affiliate called in 10 large cargo trucks, loaded 15 containers with chlorine and sarin gas, and drove them away to an unknown destination. He did not see what happened to the mustard gas.

    Three months later, both the Syrian government and rebel groups reported an attack in Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo. The international media said that 26 people had been killed, among them 16 regime soldiers and 10 civilians. Both the Syrian regime and opposition claimed that chemical weapons had been used — and both accused the other of having carried out one of the first chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian war.

    And while Abu Ahmad and his fellow jihdis were left wondering whether or not chemical weapons seized from that base were the same weapons used the Khan al-Assal attack several months later, Ahmad did get confirmation from one of his commanders that ISIS was indeed employing chemical weapons in their attacks. And was in the midst of the split between al Nusra and ISIS, convincing Ahmad that ISIS had indeed got its hand on those chemical weapons:


    Abu Ahmad kept his mouth shut in public, but privately he and some of his Syrian jihadi comrades discussed the matter. Although they did not have any evidence, they wondered whether the material used in the Khan al-Assal attack had been taken from Regiment 111. He knew he couldn’t ask Abu al-Atheer for clarification. By now he had learned one of the golden rules of the secretive jihadi movement: When it’s none of your business, keep quiet.

    “Among our people, it is not done to ask,” Abu Ahmad told us.

    That would be the end of the issue for the next eight months. Beginning in April 2013, Abu Ahmad and his comrades would be preoccupied with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s expansion into Syria, and the escalating tensions between the newly-created ISIS and the Nusra Front. It was a confused time in the Syrian jihadi world: Many factions within the Nusra Front were breaking off to join ISIS, while the al Qaeda affiliate worked feverishly to maintain loyalty within its ranks. Territory, bases, and weapons were up for grabs like never before.

    But in mid-August 2013, Abu Ahmed received news that made him think that ISIS had emerged from the split with the Nusra Front in possession of the chemical weapons seized at Regiment 111 — and that it was now using them against its enemies.

    Out of the blue, Abu al-Atheer, the man to whom Abu Ahmed had pledged loyalty — and who had in turn pledged loyalty directly to Baghdadi — told his own commanders that ISIS had twice used chemicals during attacks against the Syrian Army. The announcement came during a normal conversation between Abu al-Atheer and his men; the ISIS commander told the story happily and proudly.

    “The brothers sent a car bomb with chemicals to a [Syrian Army] checkpoint near al-Hamra village in Hama,” Abu al-Atheer claimed, as they sat in their headquarters.

    And Ahmad’s command told him about even more chemical weapon attacks by ISIS:


    Abu al-Atheer spoke of another ISIS chemical attack. “We also used one car bomb filled with chemicals against regime forces near to Menagh Airbase,” he said. Menagh Airbase is located roughly 20 miles north of Aleppo. After a year-long siege, on Aug. 5, 2013, Menagh Airbase was eventually overrun by jihadis led by ISIS.

    Again, Abu Ahmed thought back to that cold December day when jihadi fighters overran Regiment 111. Were these the same chemical weapons that he and his comrades had found stockpiled in the base back then?

    And, finally, we have the statements from Salih Yilmaz, a former soldier in the Dutch Army who has joined ISIS, that ISIS did indeed employ chemical weapons seized from the Syrian government:


    The Dutch-Turkish jihadi Salih Yilmaz, a former soldier in the Dutch Army who has joined IS, admitted on Aug. 31, 2015, on his now defunct blog that Islamic State indeed used chemical weapons there. Yilmaz was asked by a reader of his blog “why did they accuse [the Islamic State] of recently using chemical weapons in Aleppo province?”

    Yilmaz responded by writing: “Where do you think IS got their chemical weapons from? From our enemies — and thus we use their own weapons against them.”

    And while it’s suspected by Abu Ahmad that the chemical weapons used by ISIS were the same ones seized by al Nusra during that attack on the Syrian government base, it’s not as if there probably weren’t plenty of other chemical weapons stores like that so we should probably assume al Nusra and its fellow jihadist groups still have these weapons on their possession.

    Which, again, raises the question: did ISIS or al Nusra or some other Syrian rebel group get is hands on novichok? The circumstantial evidence is chillingly compelling.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 13, 2018, 1:27 pm
  4. It has not been clear to me why, if Assad’s forces are winning the war they would stoop to using chemical weapons on civilans, who are not a military threat. Futhermore, why would a military power like Russia who clearly controls their own stockpile of chemical weapons want these used. Perhaps there are questions as to what has happend or if there were chemical weapons, if they were used as a provocation.

    On another issue involving biological weapons allegedly used by Russia to seek revenge on a double agent who was a traitor, This brief AP article offers other possibilities than it was due to Russia. Remember that Great Britain would not share samples with the Russians as they had requested, which would enable for them to perform their own investigation,

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/russia-trace-western-made-nerve-agent-uk-samples-54468326

    Russia: Trace of Western-made nerve agent seen in UK samples

    By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS MOSCOW — Apr 14, 2018, 12:24 PM ET

    Russia’s foreign minister says Moscow has received a document from a Swiss lab that analyzed the samples in the nerve agent poisoning of an ex-Russian spy, which points at a Western-designed nerve agent as a likely cause.

    Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday that Moscow received the confidential information from the laboratory in Spiez, Switzerland, that analyzed samples from the site of the March 4 poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

    He said the analysis was done at the request of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

    The OPCW’s report confirmed British findings that the Skripals were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent, but didn’t say who was responsible.

    Britain has accused Russia of poisoning them with a Soviet-designed agent, an accusation that Moscow denies.

    Lavrov said the document indicated that the samples from Salisbury contained BZ nerve agent and its precursor. He said BZ was part of chemical arsenals of the U.S., Britain and other NATO countries, while the Soviet Union and Russia never developed the agent.

    Lavrov added that the Swiss lab also pointed at the presence of the nerve agent A234 in the samples, but added that the lab noted that its presence in the samples appeared strange, given the substance’s high volatility and the relatively long period between the poisoning and the sample-taking.

    He noted that OPCW’s report didn’t contain any mention of BZ, adding that Russia will ask the chemical weapons watchdog for an explanation.

    Britain said that the A234 agent belonged to the family of Soviet-designed nerve agents dubbed Novichok.

    Yulia Skripal, 33, was released from the hospital this week. Her father remains hospitalized but British health officials say he is improving.

    Posted by Mary Benton | April 17, 2018, 6:02 pm

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