Poisoned: Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

As evidence builds up, it seems increasingly less likely that a nerve agent was used to attack former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

For a start, a chemical nerve agent would have affected many more than three people if it had been released in a British town. But Salisbury NHS Trust emergency medical consultant Stephen Davies said only three people – the Skripals and Det Sgt Nick Bailey – had needed treatment.

The Russian government has pointed out that, if a military-grade nerve agent had been used on anybody, “they would have just died”. This Writer has discussed the matter with a former member of the military who underwent chemical weapons training at Porton Down, and he confirmed this assessment.

But, guess what?

Nobody has died.

And the consultant at Salisbury District Hospital has said nobody there has been treated for exposure to any nerve agent.

Even if a Novichok nerve agent was used, it seems unlikely that Russia was the only possible source. The whistle-blowing Russian chemist Vil Mirzayanov, published a book called State Secrets in 2008, in which the actual chemical formulae of the Novichok nerve agents were presented to an English-speaking audience.

He said it was unlikely that any chemical weapons stockpiled by the Soviet Union before its collapse could have been used as they would have decomposed after 27 years.

But he said a nerve agent could have been carried into the UK as a binary agent – two components, stored separately, which could then be mixed “shortly before attack”.

My source suggests that normal practice is to mix the components during an attack, in a way that ensures no harmful substance touches the attacker. He said it would be like launching a missile with two components that would cause an explosion when mixed; they only do so when the payload arrives at its destination.

So, as Evolve Politics states in an informed article here, it seems unlikely that Russia was the only state actor that could have synthesized and delivered a Novichok nerve agent – if that’s what was used. The article states:

Mirzayanov is sure the attack was carried out by Russia. However, he has given us enough information to be skeptical of that conclusion.

Firstly, he himself has admitted that the chemical structures of these weapons have been in the public domain for at least a decade. Indeed, he is the one who made them public.

Secondly, Mirzayanov admits that other countries have probably developed Novichoks for test purposes at least. His confidence that only Russia could have fine-tuned the agents seems misplaced – he has no idea what other countries have been up to for the last decade, or more.

Thus, based on information provided by the man who initially exposed the existence of Novichoks, we can already refute the Theresa May’s line that only Russia could have synthesised Novichoks.

If a Novichok was used, it could have been created by the UK government itself, for all we know. Remember the wording of the government’s statement – that the substance was “of a type developed by Russia”. This means it could have been created anywhere.

The evidence is beginning to mitigate against Russian involvement. This would mean Theresa May and her government have made a mistake of colossal proportions:

Her refusal to provide a sample of the substance used on the Skripals to Russia has been justified by those who claimed (justifiably) that nobody in Russia’s position is likely to admit guilt. But what it she doesn’t have a nerve agent to provide?

And nobody seems to be mentioning the fact that Mr Skripal was imprisoned by the Russian authorities for several years. If that country’s government had wanted to harm him, that would have been the time to do it.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – vilified by right-wing politicians and the press over his call for a measured response to the incident – appears increasingly vindicated.

How much more evidence has yet to be made public? And what will it mean for the Conservative government’s credibility when it does?


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