Ex-spy poisoning row: Britain unable to identify source of nerve agent

Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko

British scientists have not determined the "precise source" of the Novichok nerve agent used to poison a Russian former double agent in England, but say only a "state actor" would have been capable of producing it.

Gary Aitkenhead, the chief executive of the Government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), said the poison had been identified as a military-grade Novichok nerve agent which could probably be deployed only by a nation-state.

"We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific info to [the] government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions", Mr Aitkenhead told Sky News.

Mr Aitkenhead said he had been advising those treating the Skripals.

"Unfortunately this is an extremely toxic substance".

Russian officials said no steps have been made in preparation for this meeting according to the same article.

A government spokesperson said on Tuesday: "We have been clear from the very beginning that our world leading experts at Porton Down identified the substance used in Salisbury as a Novichok, a military grade nerve agent".

"We need to respond in a proportionate way to this aggressive behavior from Russian Federation and that's what we're doing", the spokesman said when asked if there was a real risk of triggering a war.

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Mr Lavrov claimed that British intelligence agencies could have been involved as part of efforts to distract public attention from the British government's hard talks to exit the European Union.

The comments come a day ahead of an extraordinary meeting in The Hague of the executive council of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to discuss the Salisbury attack.

"Moscow has denied being behind the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern English city of Salisbury on March 4".

"We hope to discuss the whole matter and call on Britain to provide every possible element of evidence they might have in their hands", said the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov.

Chizhov says "Russia clearly had no motive" to attack Skripal, who was convicted of spying for Britain but freed in a 2010 spy swap.

The State Department, however, indicated earlier that the United States could retaliate for Russia's "regrettable, unwarranted action", raising the possibility that the crisis could intensify.

"There is no way anything like that could have come from us or left the four walls of our facility", he said. The official did not divulge those details, but said Russian involvement in the attack is the only "plausible explanation".

President Donald Trump declared that he's tough on Russian Federation after expelling 60 of the country's diplomats this month and raising the USA military budget, but that he still wants a good relationship with Vladimir Putin.

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