British Spy Poisoning Scandal Continues, OPCW Passes Resolution on Novichok
Russia accuses the OPCW of being politically motivated in adding Novichok to its list of banned substances.
The world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), has agreed to include the nerve agent Novichok on their banned substances list, marking the first change in the list since its origin in 1997. Novichok is most infamously known for its use in an attack in Salisbury, England last year.
The body decided to include Novichok as one of the banned agents after members enacted a joint proposal earlier in the week by the US, Canada and the Netherlands.
Novichok is a nerve agent first developed during the Soviet era allegedly used in an attack on Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia in Salisbury, England.
The attack on the Skripals drew international attention and led to an expulsion of Russian diplomats from some Western countries. The UK held Russia responsible the attack on the Skripals and the use of Novichok, while Moscow denied any allegations linking them to the attack, adding that both the UK and its West allies did not have enough evidence.
A few months after the Skripals recovered, a British couple was found unconscious in front of a house in Amesbury, Wiltshire, just ten miles from where the Skripals were poisoned. Officials believe Novichok was used and again the West linked Russia to the chemical weapon. However, the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer, Neil Basu, claimed they were not sure about how the couple was exposed to such a poisonous substance and how the couple became a target.
The OPCW’s decision is confidential and no details were announced. The ban on Novichok is the first major change in the organization’s list of banned substances, which includes lethal gases like sarin, mustard and other nerve agents.
“The OPCW executive council agreed to add two families of highly toxic chemicals, including the agent used in Salisbury, to the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Sabine Nolke, Canada’s envoy to the OPCW, tweeted.
The organization’s 193 members have 90 days to object to the decision.
Russian Response to OPCW Decision
According to the Russian news agency TASS, Russia has refused to associate itself with the OPCW decision and called it politically motivated.
A spokesperson for Russia’s mission to the OPCW referred to the “political motivation behind the draft resolution bearing in mind that it refers to the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents and UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s loud statements on that matter.”
The spokesperson added that Russia objects to the three nations’ proposal to “put under control not the entire spectrum of toxic agents developed and patented in many member nations of the convention, including those called ‘Novichok’ in the West, but only two families of agents illustrated by abstract chemical compounds, which may not exist at all.”
Allegations of OPCW Bias
OPCW has been accused of having a Western bias, especially after it released a report in July 2018 regarding allegations of Syria’s use of chemical weapons in Douma.
The OPCW delayed releasing the report and rejected findings from Russian technical experts who claimed to not have found any traces of chemical substances in soil samples and in other related analyses.
The incident in Douma was ultimately victimless as there were no deaths from chemical weapons.
Three days after the Douma saga, Moscow accused the Al Qaeda-linked Syrian White Helmets of fabricating the evidence of a chemical weapons attack.
In an interview with Sputnik last June, the former British ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, said that the OPCW is a new tool for NATO after the chemical weapons controlling agency passed an extension of its powers, which was Syria-related.
“And it’s all about Syria, in my opinion. It’s all about finding a pretext for the next round of the Western war against Syria; an investigation is currently underway into alleged chemical incidents in Douma on the outskirts of Damascus in April,” Ford told Sputnik.