Spy poisoning: Russia urged to cooperate with chemical weapons watchdog

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The Hague, April 4 (IANS) Russia must cooperate with the global chemical weapons watchdog’s investigation into the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Salisbury, the EU said on Wednesday during an emergency session here with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

“It is imperative that the Russian Federation responds to the British government’s legitimate questions, begins to cooperate with the OPCW secretariat and provides full and complete disclosure to the OPCW,” the EU said.

Wednesday’s meeting was called by Russia, which wants the UK to share the evidence about the attack, the Guardian reported.

Among other things, Moscow wants to know what kind of evidence the UK provided to the OPCW, which inspectors visited the site of the attack in Salisbury, who they met and where the samples are being analysed.

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Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with a nerve agent on March 4, setting off a dispute between Russia and the UK government, which blamed Moscow for the attack.

But Moscow denies any involvement. The incident caused a major diplomatic fallout with the expulsion of about 130 Russian diplomats by the UK and its allies being met by counter-expulsions by Moscow.

On Tuesday, the chief executive of the British government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Gary Aitkenhead, said British scientists had identified the nerve agent used as Novichok but were not able to identify the precise source.

Russia had warned it will not accept any international scientific findings on the poison administered to Skripals if its own experts were not allowed to be involved in testing the samples of the nerve agent.

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On Wednesday, Russia’s spymaster Sergei Naryshkin described the poisoning as a “grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and US intelligence agencies”.

A Russian proposal for a joint UK-Russian investigation into the incident was dismissed by the British delegation at the Hague as “perverse”.

“It is a diversionary tactic and yet more disinformation designed to evade the questions the Russian authorities must answer,” the UK team said in a tweet.

The OPCW is the internationally recognised body responsible for overseeing the 1997 chemical weapons convention and has been testing samples provided by British scientists and taken from the bodies of the Skripals.

If the dispute over the nature of the Salisbury nerve agent reaches deadlock, Russia could withdraw from the OPCW, which would be a severe blow to global efforts to control chemical weapons.

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Russia has already challenged OPCW findings about Syrian government responsibility for chemical weapons attacks on Syrian civilians.

Russia is also keeping up the pressure on the UK to provide consular access to Yulia Skripal.

–IANS

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