Govt admits uncertainty re Salisbury poison – fails to clarify comment may not be nerve agent

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Earlier today, the SKWAWKBOX published details of a High Court document detailing information around the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, which revealed the remit of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team in the UK this week to analyse the substance used in the poisoning.

That document also revealed more, which the SKWAWKBOX asked the Foreign and Commonwealth Office about as the FCO is taking the lead on the matter.

The High Court judgment – on a request for permission to extract blood samples from the unconscious Russians for testing – also contained details of statements by analysts at the Porton Down chemical weapons facility near the location of the Salisbury incident about the nature of the chemicals used to poison the pair:

judicial novichok

The SKWAWKBOX asked the FCO:

Point 17 of the High Court judgment relating to the application to take further blood samples from the Skripals states variously that their blood has tested positive for a ‘nerve agent or related compound‘ and ‘tested positive for the presence of a Novichok class nerve agent or closely related agent‘.

There appears to be room for possible conflict in these descriptions. On the one hand, samples might show a nerve agent or something that isn’t a nerve agent but is chemically related. On the other, it’s a Novichok or another agent like a Novichok. One says it might not be a nerve agent, the other that it definitely is, but isn’t definitely a Novichok.

Please advise:

  1. a definition of how close ‘closely-related’ is in this description
  2. why the judicial summary of evidence from the same analyst states both that it might not be a nerve agent and that it is
  3. why the government is publicly maintaining that it’s a Novichok when even the most emphatic of the two statements by ‘CC’ say it might not be

The FCO failed to reply in any way by the publication deadline.


The apparent conflict between two descriptions given by Porton Down for the poison needs to be explained urgently – especially in the absence of any definition of what ‘closely-related’ actually means, as the organophosphate family to which nerve agents belong also includes other non-military substances.

So too does the government’s insistence that the provenance of the poison is as good as proven because it’s a Novichok agent – when at best Porton Down was only prepared to tell a court that it was a similar agent and possibly not even a nerve-agent at all.

The government has already refused to deny or explain Security Service surveillance of health personnel at the Salisbury hospital where the Skripals were treated.

If the government has overclaimed even a little in its public pronouncements, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s measured stance – highly criticised by the PM and Foreign Secretary who were privy to the above information, as well as by the Establishment media and by anti-Corbyn Labour back-benchers – looks even more wise and justified.

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  1. I was listening to the radio this morning and a news segment stated that the OPCW was in agreement with the Government after conducting their tests.

    The news broadcast also alleged the OPCW stated it was ‘highly likely’ that the chemical used was that of a Novichok developed in Russia.

    ‘Highly Likely’ I nearly choked on my Muffin!!!

    The plot thickens. and smells of desperation….

  2. The OPCW have also said it will take at least 2 weeks to do their analysis. More diversionary breadcrumbs.

  3. Can someone tell me why John McDonnell is also playing the drums of war before we definitly know for sure what happen?

  4. Craig Murray is doing an excellent job regarding events in Salisbury. Infact, his website has been under sustained DOS attacks in an attempt to crash it by unknown sources It’s all very John le Carré.

  5. As published in the Times, March 16th:

    “Sir, Further to your report (“Poison Exposure Leaves Almost 40 Needing Treatment”, Mar 14), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning. Several people have attended the emergency department concerned that they may have been exposed. None had symptoms of poisoning and none has needed treatment. Any blood tests performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved.

    STEPHEN DAVIES, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust”

    Wonder what Mr. Davies means by “… may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury …”

    Are you up for contacting Mr. Davies, to cast some light on the matter, SB?

  6. The longer it goes on, the weaker the case is against the Russians!
    When will we, the public, be given the absolute truth about this saga?

  7. In these situations,of course,the first casualty is the truth and of course you only have to look at the majority of print media and their agenda.
    Richard Dennis.

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