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:
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.
- a definition of how close ‘closely-related’ is in this description
- why the judicial summary of evidence from the same analyst states both that it might not be a nerve agent and that it is
- 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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