UK Foreign Office under fire over deleted Salisbury nerve agent tweet

Katrina Barker
April 5, 2018

Although scientists at Port Down were unable to link the nerve agent to Russian Federation, the chief executive of the facility, Gary Aitkenhead, told Sky News that the manufacturing of the agent points to sophisticated facilities that could only be available to a state actor.

In confirming the nerve agent was military-grade novichok, which could probably be deployed only by a nation state, Mr Aitkenhead added in a Sky News interview: 'It is not our job to say where this was manufactured'.

"We have not verified 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 that they have come to".

Aitkenhead said there is "no way" the nerve agent could have come from the high-security facility.

Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Boris Johnson will have to apologise to Russian Federation for claiming Moscow was involved in the attempted murder of former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.

Former double agent Sergei Skripal, who has lived in Britain since a spy swap in 2010, and his daughter Yulia have been in hospital since March 4 after the poisoning that London and its major Western allies have blamed on Russian Federation.

The Foreign Secretary said it was "lamentable" he was being urged to answer "serious questions" for appearing to suggest Porton Down was in "no doubt" the nerve agent used in the attack originated in Russian Federation.

Speaking on a visit to Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is waiting for the moment when "common sense comes out victorious and worldwide relations stop receiving the damage that we are witnessing right now".

"The speed at which the anti-Russian campaign was launched causes bewilderment", Mr Putin said from Turkey, where he met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

But for some ministers there is no doubt who was behind the Skripal attack.

"It is our job to provide the scientific evidence of what this particular nerve agent is".

As the fallout from the incident continues, both Skripal and his daughter remain hospitalized in Salisbury.

It came as the Foreign Office deleted a tweet echoing Mr Johnson's unequivocal claim that Porton Down had confirmed the Novochock poison came from Russian Federation.

Citing the United States, the United Kingdom and France, Lepick said that "they probably know the Novichok and the way of its manufacturing" and that they "probably produced several tens of grams" of this toxic substance.

They quickly pounced on Aitkenhead's comments, pointing to them as proof of what they have maintained all along - that the British claims, and those of their Western allies, are fabrications "part of a large-scale political provocation".

"There is no requirement in the chemical weapons convention for the victim of a chemical weapons attack to engage in a joint investigation with the likely perpetrator", he added.

He told Sky News: "Boris Johnson has serious questions to answer".

But this is an extremely toxic substance and not something that you can easily give something to somebody to help them recover.

After the first known use of a military-grade nerve agent on European soil since World War II, Britain blamed Mr Putin for the attempted murder, and the West has expelled about 130 Russian diplomats.

'There is no way anything like that could have come from us or left the four walls of our facility, ' he said.

The global chemical weapons control body will hold an emergency meeting to discuss the poisoning of former spy Skripal, at Russia's request.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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