Russian Official Says U.S., U.K. Developed 'Novichok' Poison Used in Sergei Skripal Attack

British officials continue to point the blame at Russia for poisoning former military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this month, but a Russian representative said the “Novichok” nerve agent used was developed in the West.

British and American officials are adamantly accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering or allowing the March 4 poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury. The two remain in critical condition at a local hospital after being found unconscious on a bench outside a city shopping center.

But Alexander Vasilievich Shulgi, Russia’s representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, told the country’s state-run television Friday that the U.S. and U.K. developed the military-grade nerve agent used in the attack.

"There has never been a ‘Novichok’ research project conducted in Russia," Shulgin told the Rossia-1 television station, as the The Moscow Times first reported. "But in the West, some countries carried out such research, which they called 'Novichok,' for some reason.”

According to military experts at the British Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, the substance used in the attack is part of the "Novichoks" family of nerve agents. This roughly translates into "newcomer" in Russian.

Speaking at the 87th session of the OPCW Friday, Shulgin suggested the “unfounded” accusations from the West should be redirected at themselves. “[It] may very well be that the substance used [in Skripal’s poisoning] may have come from the stocks” of the U.S. and U.K.

“Our British colleagues should recall that Russia and the United Kingdom are members of the OPCW which is one of the most successful and effective disarmament and non-proliferation mechanisms," Shulgin said. "We call upon them to abandon the language of ultimatums and threats and return to the legal framework of the chemical convention, which makes it possible to resolve this kind of situation."

The back-and-forth blame has continued between British and Russian officials since the March 4 incident.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov signaled this week that 23 British diplomats will be asked to leave Russia in response to the poisoning accusations they continue to deny. Deputy Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia may reciprocate the sanctions and told Reuters that “Washington is playing with fire,” while threatening an expansion of an American “blacklist.”

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson reiterated Friday that it’s “overwhelmingly likely” Putin ordered the poisoning, and Prime Minister Theresa May added that “there is no alternative conclusion” that the Russian state was behind the poisoning.

The prime minister’s office asked the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog group “to verify the government’s analysis of the nerve agent,” which they believe was developed in the Soviet era. On Wednesday, May issued a statement saying she planned to “punish” Russia for attempting to implicate the U.K. in Skripal’s poisoning.

Shulgin responded to May’s statement and said, “Any threat to take punitive measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.”

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