April 14, 2018 / 6:32 PM / 12 days ago

Russia's Lavrov says Skripals may have been poisoned by substance Russia never made

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday the nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Britain could have been the BZ substance - which was never produced in the Soviet Union or Russia.

FILE PHOTO - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a meeting with his Dutch counterpart Stef Blok in Moscow, Russia April 13, 2018. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor

Lavrov said experts from a laboratory based in the Swiss town of Spiez had analyzed a sample of the substance used in the poisoning.

Citing a report from the lab dated March 27, Lavrov said the evidence suggested the nerve agent used could be in the arsenal of the United States and Britain.

Lavrov read out parts of the report that he said showed the substance had traces of the BZ agent.

“This formulation was in the inventory of the United States, Britain and other NATO states,” Lavrov said, at an assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy.

The global chemical weapons watchdog concluded on Thursday that the poison that struck down the former Russian spy and his daughter Yulia last month was a highly pure type of Novichok nerve agent, backing Britain’s own findings.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is highly likely that Moscow was behind the attack.

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the poisoning.

Lavrov on Saturday said the report from the Swiss lab mentioned no nerve agents by name, such as Novichok, but instead gave a long chemical formula that points to a substance that has been developed by many countries.

“We, as you understand, have abilities to receive confidential information. And as this information concerns questions of life and death, we won’t keep this information secret,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov said the Swiss laboratory also identified a high concentration of A-234 agent, known as Novichok. Such a concentration would have quickly resulted in Skripal’s death, Lavrov said.

“Taking into account its (A-234) high volatility, the issue of identification of this poisoning substance in its initial state and in high concentration by specialists at the Spiez (research) center seems to be very suspicious,” Lavrov said.

Reporting by Andrey Ostroukh; Editing by Toby Chopra

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