#OPCW report’s ‘confirmed findings’ underline Boris Johnson’s dishonesty

The mainstream media headlines are touting that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) report, which was published at noon today, confirms the government’s claim that the substance that poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal and a police officer in Salisbury ‘is Novichok’.

However, the report itself – or rather, the executive summary that is all the OPCW has published – does not name the chemical.

In a carefully-worded passage, the summary goes no further than to “confirm the findings of the United Kingdom relating to [its] identity”:

opcw report.png
An image of the OPCW executive summary as broadcast by Sky News

But what were those findings?

The Porton Down analysis

Boris Johnson and other government spokespeople have routinely referred to it as Novichok, but the only official description of the chemical by the scientists who analysed it to have been published so far is found in the court application submitted to gain legal permission to take the blood samples analysed by the OPCW.

And that description is far less emphatic:

judicial novichok

If this is the ‘findings of the United Kingdom’, then the public knows nothing more than what it did.

The source

Significantly, the OPCW summary makes no mention of any identification of the source of the chemical – which suggests that the OPCW was also only able to replicate the admitted finding of the Porton Down chemical weapons research facility: that no source could be identified.

This means that the main effect of the OPCW’s findings is to reinforce the dishonesty of the lie told by Boris Johnson when he claimed that Porton Down had told him ‘categorically’ that the source of the poison was Russia.

Porton Down admitted it had not identified a source – and in its carefully-worded summary, the OPCW has just confirmed it could only replicate Porton Down’s findings.

In less diplomatic language, the world’s official watchdog for chemical weapon use just agreed that Boris Johnson lied.

The spin

The ‘MSM’ are making much of the ‘high purity’ of the compound, suggesting that this confirms it could only come from a ‘state actor’ and repeating the claim that only state actors could produce the chemical.

But a senior professor of organic chemistry at one of the world’s leading universities has already said that making Novichok compounds is “simple as hell” and any number of commercial laboratories for hazardous substances around the world could do so safely:

collum index.png

Commercial laboratories capable of synthesising a ‘simple as hell’ chemical to a high degree of purity are not exactly unknown – so the idea that this means it must be a state facility anywhere, let alone one in Russia, is a fiction.

The OPCW’s full report, which the summary says names the specific chemical identified, will be circulated to all ‘States Parties’, which includes Russia – so the exact findings may become public at some point.

But the specificity of the identification has not been made clear. If it’s as vague as that given to a court by Porton Down – which the ‘confirm the findings‘ wording suggests it might be – then we are all little further forward.

Except, apparently, in knowing that the OPCW also thinks Boris Johnson lied to us about Porton Down identifying the source of the chemical from its analysis.

Now the question is: what actions will the government take based on his lie?

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  1. OK, it weren’t in OPCW’s remit to apportion blame – but ffs they’ve left nobody any the wiser.

  2. He should be sacked, and relieved of his parliamentary seat at the same time with no pension entitlement.
    Maybe 10 years of hard labour might be appropriate….

  3. The “high purity” rather suggests it wasn’t “military grade” at all.
    Military grade chemical weapons are made in bulk ( tons at a time) with as little purification as possible to maximise yield.
    Impurities is what gives rise to a “chemical fingerprint” indicating origin and how it was synthesised. The lack of impurities means that its origin cannot be determined.

    That “high purity” suggests it is more likely that it was made as a small laboratory batch possibly for a one off operation. Laboratory batches are often purified so that the properties of compound synthesised can be accurately measured.

    1. Purity level made me think, too. It wouldn’t be that dissimilar to think of it as the cocaine industry, but in reverse.

      That said, we’d already heard that it’s not difficult to reproduce novichok(s) in small quantities.

      1. Hadn’t finished,,,

        The question is, if it was such ‘high purity’ then why aren’t they dead?

      1. Lists of countries chemical weapon status
        Where listed quantities are between 10 – 1000s of tonnes


        Also the OPCW itself indicates that batches of Chemical weapons will be a minimum of 1 tonne in size.

        8. “Chemical Weapons Production Facility”:
        (b) Does not mean:
        (i) Any facility having a production capacity for synthesis of chemicals
        specified in subparagraph (a) (i) that is less than 1 tonne;


      2. Thank you. Specifically looking for something about the preference to not have bulk chemical weapons too pure – couldn’t find that?

      3. Re Your last comment – It is not so much a preference as pragmatism. I am sure most manufacturers of bulk chemicals would prefer 100%. purity of anything. Thing is most manufacturing processes are not perfect but the cost of purification to 100% is often prohibitive and unnecessary given the ultimate use.

      4. To the contrary, the thesis below says Soviet/Russian CW for decommissioning, so presumably reasonably old, was of high purity:

        “the nerve agents at Russian sites are of the highest purity and therefore more lethal and effective.”


        “U.S. assistance in the destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons”

        Mostoller, Eric Charles, 2000, Monterey, California. Naval Postgraduate School

    2. Another good point ( better than my mine above) about the high purity from a comment on Craig Murrays blog. Basically that high purity indicates the toxic chemical had not been “weaponised” and thus could not be “military grade”

      “Does absence of impurities suggest a bench sample rather than a military-grade sample, which would have additives–stabilizers, viscosity controls, perhaps elements added for binary fusion….?”


  4. It makes sense to me @skwawkbox.

    Think of it as a blunderbuss firing out millions of tiny pellets over a wide range…The wider the radius of scatter, the more moderate the damage though the casualty rate will be higher (Higher still using a higher concentration of pellets).

    However, in a targeted assassination you’d want to make sure you get your intended victim, so you’d use a sniper rifle with a large calibre bullet leaving no chance of survival on just the one mark.

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