Britain says Russian Federation spied on Skripals for years

Russia spied on Skripal and his daughter for at least five years: Press Association

Russia spied on Skripal and his daughter for at least five years: Press Association

Alexander Yakovenko said the United Kingdom had yet to produce the evidence to back its claims that Russian Federation was responsible for the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

Russia's ambassador to Britain said a claim by a British security advisor on Friday that Russian Federation spied on former agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter for at least five years before they were attacked with a nerve agent was a "big surprise".

The Russian Embassy has sensationally claimed poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are being held prisoner by the UK. Britain has blamed Russian Federation for the attempted murder - a charge that Moscow fiercely denies.

His claims were revealed in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg setting out the government's claims that Russian Federation is the only possible culprit for the attack on the Skripals.

Last week, the chief executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down, Britain's premier chemical weapons laboratory, said its scientists could not identify "the precise source" of the chemical, though its purity indicated that it was nearly certainly created by a "state actor".

"It is highly likely that Novichoks were developed to prevent detection by the West and to circumvent worldwide chemical weapons controls". The central element of Britain's case against Russian Federation is the unusual nerve agent used in the attack, which was developed in Soviet laboratories during the last years of the Soviet Union.

Sedwill said Russia's chemical weapons programme had continued after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that by 1993, when Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, it was "likely that some Novichoks had passed acceptance testing, allowing their use by the Russian military".

The UK's national security adviser said "credible open-source reporting and intelligence" showed that in the 1980s the Soviet Union developed a family of nerve agents known as Novichoks at a base in Shikhany near Volgograd.

"If somebody was spying, why were the British services not complaining about that", he said, according to Sky News.

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Ms Skripal, 33, was released from the hospital this week but her father remains there.

A program set up in Russian Federation in the 2000s trained personnel from special units in the use of chemical warfare agents, he said, including investigating how nerve agents could be administered through door handles.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson hailed the findings, and said "only Russia" could have been behind the attack.

He said that Russian Federation had continued to produce and stockpile small quantities of Novichoks within the last decade.

The letter adds that Russian intelligence services "view at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination".

Speaking on Friday, Sergey Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said the OPCW report offers nothing to support Britain's claims that Russia was behind the attack.

The note demanded the withdrawal of one Georgian diplomat now serving in Moscow at the Swiss Embassy Interests Section, as Georgia and Russia have no diplomatic ties since the Russia-Georgia 2008 war and Switzerland has acted as a mediator.

"I want to underline: the OPCW only has confirmed the composition of the chemical agent", Lavrov said at a news conference.

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