We already know UK PM Theresa May misrepresented the Russian law on executing terrorists in foreign lands, in order to bolster her currently evidence-free claims of Russian culpability in the poisoning of ex-MI6 employee Sergey Skripal. Her narrative remains, as of March 15, bald and unconvincing. But it seems things may be about to get even worse for her and what some see as her bid to “Falklandise” her flagging premiership. It seems the “nerve agent” she claims was used to attack Skripal and his daughter may not actually exist.
Incredible as it may seem given the tale of certitude told by May in Parliament, and given the column inches used up in the media assuring the UK public how terrifyingly toxic “novichok” really is, the evidence for this alleged super-poison’s existence currently rests solely on the unproven claims of a dissident soviet “military chemist” named Vil Mirzayanov.
Mirzayanov told his western handlers a group of new (“novichok” in Russian can be translated as “new stuff” or “new arrival”) and allegedly highly dangerous compounds which he claimed could be created by combining commonly available substances, but it turns out western scientists were far from convinced by his claims, and, even as recently as two years ago, the efficacy and even the existence, of these “novichoks” was still deemed to be entirely speculative.
For example in 2013 the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (the body the UK refuses to work with in the Skripal case) had this to say about the potential reality of novichoks:
Regarding new toxic chemicals not listed in the Annex on Chemicals but which may nevertheless pose a risk to the Convention, the SAB makes reference to “Novichoks”. The name “Novichok” is used in a publication of a former Soviet scientist who reported investigating a new class of nerve agents suitable for use as binary chemical weapons. The SAB states that it has insufficient information to comment on the existence or properties of “Novichoks” Report of the Scientific Advisory Boardon Developments in Science and Technology for The Third Review Conference p. 3, section 8
And again in 2016 Dr Robin Black, former head of the detection laboratory at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down made the same point:
In recent years, there has been much speculation that a fourth generation of nerve agents, ‘Novichoks’ (newcomer), was developed in Russia, beginning in the 1970s as part of the ‘Foliant’ programme, with the aim of finding agents that would compromise defensive countermeasures. Information on these compounds has been sparse in the public domain, mostly originating from a dissident Russian military chemist, Vil Mirzayanov. No independent confirmation of the structures or the properties of such compounds has been published. Robin Black (Dr), Development, Historical Use and Properties of Chemical Warfare Agents. Royal Society of Chemistry 2016, cited in “Doubts about novichoks” by Piers Robinson & Paul McKeigue
What these publications are effectively saying is – there’s no evidence any of these compounds work in the way claimed and Mirzayanov may very possibly be exaggerating or inventing.
Which raises the question – how did the scientists allegedly sourced by May suddenly feel able to not only identify this previously poorly understood and questionable substance, but identify where it came from and lay claim to it being massively deadly and toxic? As Craig Murray says (our emphasis):
…now, the British Government is claiming to be able instantly to identify a substance which its only biological weapons research centre has never seen before and was unsure of its existence. Worse, it claims to be able not only to identify it, but to pinpoint its origin. Given Dr Black’s publication, it is plain that claim cannot be true.
But that’s not all. There’s also problems with May’s claim that the “novichok” formula is a deep secret, known only to the Russians. Mirzanayov was interviewed by AFP about the Skripal case and this is what he said:
“Only the Russians” developed this class of nerve agents, said the chemist. “They kept it and are still keeping it in secrecy.”
Exactly what May said in Parliament. Great. Just one problem. Mirzayanov neglected to mention that this “secret formula” known only to “the Russians” had been published in 2008 in his own book – still available on Amazon today.
Given the fact that anyone with an internet connection and $8.16 to spend could have obtained the “secret” recipe for novichok (which it seems most scientists don’t think would work anyway), and anyone with a decent professional laboratory could presumably manufacture it (again supposing it even works as claimed) will May correct her deceptive claims to Parliament and the British public?
Will the media continue to help her maintain her crumbling narrative? Are we watching WMD#2 with added depths of cynicism?