Tomorrow, April 18, the Organisation for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will hold a meeting in its headquarters in the Hague, at which, judging by the information attached to a recent tweet by the Spiez Laboratory, the Skripals case will be discussed.
The meeting will be convened at 10:00 on Wednesday, 18 April 2018 in the Ieper Room of the OPCW Headquarters building (Johan de Wittlaan 32, The Hague).
In the immediate run-up to this event, we’d like to remind our readers that on April 14, Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov revealed publicly that, “according to Swiss state Spiez lab” and contrary to British government’s claims that the Skripals were poisoned by a military grade Novichok-like nerve agent, the “substance used on Sergei Skripal was an agent called BZ”. As reported by RT,
The Swiss center sent the results to the OPCW. However, the UN chemical watchdog limited itself only to confirming the formula of the substance used to poison the Skripals in its final report without mentioning anything about the other facts presented in the Swiss document, the Russian foreign minister added. He went on to say that Moscow would ask the OPCW about its decision to not include any other information provided by the Swiss in its report.
Lavrov said that the Swiss center that assessed the samples is actually the Spiez Laboratory. This facility is a Swiss state research center controlled by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and, ultimately, by the country’s defense minister. The lab is also an internationally recognized center of excellence in the field of the nuclear, biological, and chemical protection and is one of the five centers permanently authorized by the OPCW.
The same day, April 14, the Spiez Laboratory itself reacted to Lavrov’s statement with the following tweet:
Notice that in its tweet, the Spiez Lab neither confirms nor denies Lavrov’s statement explicitly, following a practice that usually amounts to an indirect confirmation of a piece of information the source cannot or does not wish to confirm directly. Instead, either because of its contractual confidentiality obligations with the OPCW or on orders from the Swiss ministry of defense which oversees its work, Spiez Lab refers to the OPCW itself as the only body who can so much as “comment” on the claim, which it more neutrally terms an assertion, made by Russia’s foreign minister. In the next breath, however, its tweet rather disingenuously refers us back to its own public statement of two weeks ago: “We have no doubt that Porton Down has identified Novichok.”
Let’s consider that particular sentence for a moment. To begin with, Porton Down did not identify Novichok, as the Spiez Lab tweet claims, but a military grade nerve agent of the Novichok type, a distinction a laboratory of the type and caliber of the Spiez Lab must surely be very well aware of. As Porton Down’s own deposition at the High Court hearing on March 22 shows,
Chemistry World also noted on April 12 that OPCW
has essentially confirmed the findings of UK government scientists, saying a ‘Novichok-type’ nerve agent was used, but has not released any specific detail on the identity or structure of the compound.
Secondly, the tweet’s slightly inaccurate reference to the findings of Porton Down scientists is itself a blatant act of diversion from the actual topic at hand: the detailed findings of the Swiss Lab itself. More intriguingly, however, if the latter is certain that Porton Down’s analysis is reliable and that the blood samples it analysed did contain traces of a military grade Novichok-type nerve agent, two questions immediately arise:
- How could two people survive exposure to a military grade nerve agent which was not identified for over a week after their exposure to it and for which the victims could be given no proper antidote, if any such actually exists?
- Is the Spiez Lab, with its reference to Porton Down results, inadvertently implying that the samples it was given differ markedly from the materials previously analysed by Porton Down, the only scenario (barring deception on the part of Porton Down) that could realistically account for the different results of the two analyses?
Can the answer to the second question be yes?
We do know that on March 22, UK’s High Court issued a judgment permitting OPCW to obtain fresh samples of Skripals’ blood which it could analyse independently of Porton Down. In other words, information already in the public domain suggests strongly that the materials analysed by Porton Down and Spiez Lab contain different nerve agent substances, explained most likely by the fact that the latter was supplied with a set of blood samples taken after March 22, i.e. a different set of samples from the ones analysed by Porton Down. I have to use the phrase “most likely” here as the only alternative to this explanation is that Porton Down deceived the public by issuing only selective results of its own findings.
Here’s how the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) describes the effects of BZ as a psychotomimetic agent:
This group of agents usually includes substances which, when administered in low doses (<10 mg) cause conditions similar to psychotic disorders or other symptoms emanating from the central nervous system (loss of feeling, paralysis, rigidity, etc.). The effects are transitory and cause inability to make decisions and incapacitation. Several such substances may be used to achieve these objectives and only a few examples are given here.
During the 1950’s, studies were made of substances such as glycolic acid esters (glycolates). Particular interest was paid to 3-quinuclidinylbenzilate, BZ. The effects of this group of substances are similar to those caused by atropine. BZ causes poisoning at doses of 0.5-5 mg. Peripheral symptoms such as distended pupils, deteriorated short-distance vision, dry mouth and palpitations occur after about 30 minutes.
A serious effect of poisoning with BZ, as also with other atropine-like substances, is an increased body temperature. Deterioration in the level of consciousness, hallucinations and coma occur subsequently. Incapacitating after-effects may remain 1-3 weeks after the poisoning. Since the effect of glycolates was found to be difficult to predict, interest in continued research into this type of substance gradually decreased.
In a paper on the “Psychiatric Oppression of African Americans” produced by the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, but no longer available online, BZ is also linked to experimentation on African American citizens of the U.S.:
At the National Institute of Mental Health Addiction Research Center in Kentucky in the mid-1950s, drug-addicted African Americans were given LSD, with seven of them kept hallucinating for 77 consecutive days. At this same center, healthy African American men were still being used as test subjects almost 10 years later, this time for an experimental drug, BZ — 100 times more powerful than LSD. [cited in “The Story of the Drug BZ“]
Pressed by the public to address directly Lavrov’s claim, Spiez Lab has repeatedly refused to either confirm or deny that it had found BZ nerve agent in the Skripal blood samples.
The OPCW has, to date, made no comment and issued no rebuttal of Lavrov’s assertion concerning the full findings of Spiez Laboratory and the presence of BZ and its precursors in the March 23 blood samples taken from Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
If Lavrov’s statement accurately reflects the actual findings of the Spiez Laboratory, and if the Skirpals were indeed given BZ in some form, this would account for both the state in which they were discovered on March 4, one of them unconscious and the other spaced out on a bench in Salisbury, and for the length of time Sergei and Yulia Skripal were comatose. It would also further explain Yulia Skripal’s sense of disorientation, which she spoke about in the statement issued on her behalf by the Metropolitan Police on April 5.
While Spiez Lab advises the public to wait for a new statement by the OPCW following its meeting tomorrow, some public pressure may need to be brought on the OPCW itself to immediately release ALL the information it has from ALL the laboratories it has used in the Skripal case. Without such public pressure — and it is certainly not coming from any Western MSM — the OPCW may again do what it did on April 4, when by a vote of 15 to 6, with 17 members abstaining, it rejected Russia’s proposal for “a new, joint investigation” of the Skripal case.
Here’s the composition of OPCW’s Executive Council for May 12, 2017-May 11, 2018:
Chairperson: H.E. Ambassador Sheikh Mohammed BELAL Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the OPCW. View list of previous chairpersons.
Vice-Chairs: Permanent Representatives of Chile (GRULAC), Spain (WEOG), Sudan (Africa) and Slovakia (EEG)
Members by region:
Africa: Algeria (2018), Cameroon (2019), Ghana (2018), Kenya (2019), Libya (2018), Morocco (2019), Senegal (2019), South Africa (2018), Sudan (2019).
Asia: Bangladesh (2018), China (2019), India (2019), Iran (Islamic Republic of) (2018), Japan (2019), Pakistan (2018), Republic of Korea (2019), Saudi Arabia (2019), Viet Nam (2018).
Eastern Europe: Azerbaijan (2019) Estonia (2019), Poland (2018), Russian Federation (2018) Slovakia (2018).
Latin America and the Caribbean: Argentina (2019), Brazil (2019), Chile (2018), Colombia (2019), Guatemala (2018), Mexico (2019), Panama (2018), Peru (2018).
Western European and Other States: Australia (2018), Belgium (2018), France (2019), Germany (2019), Italy (2019), Spain (2018), Sweden (2018), Switzerland (2018), United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2019), United States of America (2019).
OPCW’s headquarters are located at
Johan de Wittlaan 32
2517 JR – The Hague
Their phone and fax numbers are:
tel: +31 70 416 3300
fax: +31 70 306 3535