STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Putin calls claims Russia poisoned ex-spy 'nonsense,' 'delirium'

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the United Kingdom has evidence Russia has been creating and stockpiling the ...

Posted: Mar 19, 2018 12:23 PM
Updated: Mar 19, 2018 12:23 PM

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the United Kingdom has evidence Russia has been creating and stockpiling the nerve agent Novichok over the last decade.

This assertion comes amid Moscow's claims that the nation had no hand in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on March 4 in the English city of Salisbury.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia remain in critical condition after being attacked with a nerve agent the UK identified as Novichok. The assault stoked British rage over what UK Prime Minister Theresa May called "a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil."

"We actually had evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purposes of assassination but also has been creating and stockpiling Novichok," said Johnson, interviewed Sunday on BBC's "The Andrew Marr Show."

Johnson said technical experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will travel to Britain on Monday and will test samples of the substance used in the Salisbury poisoning in an international laboratory. The OPCW, based in The Hague, implements the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Novichok, which means "newcomer" in Russian, was developed in secret by the Soviet Union during the Cold War in the 1980s, as a means of countering US chemical weapons defenses.

Its existence remained secret until the mid-'90s, when information regarding its production was revealed as part of a deliberate leak by disgruntled Soviet scientist and whistle-blower Vil Mirzayanov. Even today, no country outside Russia is known to have developed the substance.

Russian denials

Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov suggested Porton Down, the UK's chemical weapons research facility, might be behind the March 4 attack, although he said he has no evidence of that.

"When you have a nerve agent or whatever you check it against certain samples that you retain in your laboratory," Chizhov told the BBC on Sunday. "And Porton Down, as we now all know, is the largest military facility in the United Kingdom that has been dealing with chemical weapons research and is actually only 8 miles from Salisbury."

But when asked whether Porton Down was responsible for the attack on the Skripals, Chizhov said, "I don't know, I don't have evidence of anything being used."

Chizhov said Britain's case is "based on assumptions, based on suspicions, fueled by emotions" and said Skripal is a traitor and "almost forgotten" back home.

The British government website says Porton Down produces "very small quantities of chemical and biological agents" so scientists can "develop effective medical countermeasures." It says they are stored securely and disposed of safely when no longer required.

'Two plausible explanations'

Last week, May said the use of the "military grade" nerve agent was an "indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom, putting the lives of innocent civilians at risk. And we will not tolerate such a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil."

Johnson was asked about one point May told lawmakers: that there were only "two plausible explanations" for the attack.

"Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others," May said.

Johnson said Sunday that Russia's reaction to the incident "was not the response of a country that really believes itself to be innocent. This is not the response of a country that really wants to engage in getting to the bottom of the matter."

"We gave the Russians every opportunity to come up with an alternative hypothesis, such as the one that you have just described, and they haven't. Their response has been a sort of mixture of smug sarcasm and denial, obfuscation and delay."

On Friday, Johnson said it was "overwhelmingly likely" that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally gave the order to use the nerve agent to attack Skripal. On Sunday, Johnson wrote that Britain is not alone in facing Russia's "reckless behavior."

In an op-ed Sunday for The Sun, Johnson said the Salisbury poisoning was the "latest brazen defiance of international rules" citing the Crimea annexation, cyberattacks in Ukraine, and Russia's interference in European elections.

Tit for tat responses

Russia's Foreign Ministry ordered the expulsion of 23 British diplomats from Russia on Saturday in response to Britain's decision to expel Russian envoys in connection with the Skripal case.

The ministry also declared it was closing the British Consulate General in St. Petersburg and the British Council in Russia, in a step beyond the measures taken by Britain. The British Council is a cultural institute with artistic, language and educational programs.

The UK diplomats have a week to leave, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, adding that its actions came "in response to the provocative actions of the British side and groundless accusations" against Russia over the Salisbury attack.

France, Germany and the United States joined the United Kingdom on Thursday in condemning the attack.

West Lafayette
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 18°
Kokomo
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 16°
Rensselaer
Mostly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 12°
Feels Like: 16°
Fowler
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 13°
Feels Like: 18°
Williamsport
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 38° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 16°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 15°
Frankfort
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 37° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 15°
Delphi
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 36° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 19°
Monticello
Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 16°
Feels Like: 19°
Logansport
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 35° Lo: 15°
Feels Like: 19°
Decreasing clouds this afternoon with slightly warmer temperatures
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1130719

Reported Deaths: 17736
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1468762242
Lake732391255
Allen68004883
Hamilton51739488
St. Joseph50459650
Elkhart40619547
Vanderburgh34963497
Tippecanoe31212276
Johnson27963467
Hendricks26585385
Porter25969387
Madison21318457
Clark20392279
Vigo19244309
LaPorte17405261
Delaware17004303
Howard16942315
Monroe16794220
Kosciusko14447167
Hancock13259186
Bartholomew13180191
Warrick12320190
Wayne12200269
Grant12181247
Floyd12096226
Morgan10552192
Boone9966124
Noble9429123
Marshall9295147
Henry9268169
Dearborn9053100
Dubois8877140
Shelby8402130
Cass8241128
Lawrence8134185
DeKalb7933109
Jackson779993
Huntington7761116
Montgomery7213123
Gibson7179118
Harrison7031100
Knox6958116
Steuben676589
Miami6675114
Whitley667260
Putnam651286
Clinton633179
Wabash6323111
Jasper622192
Jefferson5946105
Ripley565994
Adams547981
Daviess5124118
Scott498980
Wells4894106
White486069
Greene4749101
Clay468662
Decatur4659110
Fayette462597
Jennings457167
LaGrange432291
Posey412944
Randolph4010107
Washington393656
Fountain382264
Fulton368374
Spencer365147
Starke361474
Owen358577
Sullivan351155
Jay336450
Orange335272
Rush314833
Carroll301639
Franklin295244
Perry292853
Vermillion285958
Tipton253367
Parke251630
Pike251244
Blackford224944
Pulaski213759
Newton185052
Brown179750
Benton171717
Crawford170729
Martin152619
Switzerland149412
Warren137816
Union125116
Ohio92913
Unassigned0599

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events