Russia is on the offensive in the case of Sergei Skripal, the Russian double agent poisoned on March 4 on British soil along with his daughter Yulia, following the admission by the head of the British laboratory studying the agent used in the poisoning that they have yet to identify the source of the substance.
“We have not identified the exact source” Gary Aitkenhead, executive director of the Porton Down Military Laboratory told Sky News, prompting the Kremlin to demand an apology from the UK government for heaping the blame on Russia.
“Their theory [Russia’s guilt] will not be confirmed under any circumstances because it can not be confirmed,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
However, in the same interview Aitkenhead lent his support to the conclusions drawn by the British government, saying that the substance used was a nerve agent of the Novichok type, a “military quality” family of poisons developed by the Soviet Union, meaning a state actor was likely involved in the assassination attempt.
But “it’s not our job to identify where [this poison] was made,” said Aitkenhead, adding that such a task would require “other elements” that are not available to the lab.
Reacting to these statements, the British government reiterated that the research conducted at Porton Down was “only part of the intelligence” at its disposal, citing Moscow’s past research in the field, the program of targeted assassinations conducted by Russia, and the fact that Skripal was considered a target.
A few days after the poisoning of the spy, British Prime Minister Theresa May had questioned Moscow, saying it was “the only plausible explanation”, but without giving any evidence.
The announcement of the laboratory of Porton Down comes as the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is scheduled to meet on Wednesday in The Hague, at the request of Russia. Denouncing an “anti-Russian campaign”, President Vladimir Putin expressed hope that the meeting “put an end to accusations against Moscow”.