Rus­sia ‘tested han­dle at­tack’

Sunday News - - WORLD -

LONDON Bri­tain’s se­cu­rity chief has re­vealed that Rus­sia spied on for­mer dou­ble agent Sergei Skri­pal in the five years be­fore he and his daugh­ter, Yu­lia, were at­tacked with the nerve agent novi­chok in Sal­is­bury last month, and that Moscow had an as­sas­si­na­tion pro­gramme based around nerve agents that in­cluded at­tack­ing a vic­tim by smear­ing poi­son on a door han­dle.

In a letter to Nato al­lies, re­leased by Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May yes­ter­day, Sir Mark Sed­will also said Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin ‘‘was closely in­volved in the Rus­sian chem­i­cal weapons pro­gramme’’ in the mid-2000s.

Rus­sia can still make novi­chok, which was first pro­duced dur­ing the Soviet era as part of an of­fen­sive chem­i­cal weapons pro­gramme code-named Foliant.

Sed­will’s letter in­cluded con­fir­ma­tion that the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of novi­chok was found on the front door han­dle of the for­mer MI6 spy’s house in Sal­is­bury.

Go­ing fur­ther in pub­lic than any other Bri­tish of­fi­cial so far, he also said that the GRU – Rus­sian mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence ser­vice, and Sergei Skri­pal’s for­mer em­ployer – tar­geted Yu­lia Skri­pal’s emails.

‘‘We have in­for­ma­tion in­di­cat­ing Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence ser­vice in­ter­est in the Skri­pals, dat­ing back at least as far as 2013, when email ac­counts be­long­ing to Yu­lia Skri­pal were tar­geted by GRU cy­ber­spe­cial­ists,’’ Sed­will wrote.

It was ‘‘highly likely’’ that Rus­sia’s spy agen­cies viewed at least some de­fec­tors, such as Sergei Skri­pal, ‘‘as le­git­i­mate tar­gets for as­sas­si­na­tion’’, the letter said.

Putin’s regime had also trained peo­ple to use a nerve agent as an as­sas­si­na­tion tool, the letter said.

‘‘Dur­ing the 2000s, Rus­sia com­menced a pro­gramme to test means of de­liv­er­ing chem­i­cal war­fare agents and to train per­son­nel from spe­cial units in the use of these weapons. This pro­gramme sub­se­quently in­cluded in­ves­ti­ga­tion of ways of de­liv­er­ing nerve agents, in­clud­ing by ap­pli­ca­tion to door han­dles. Within the last decade, Rus­sia has pro­duced and stock­piled small quan­ti­ties of novi­choks un­der the same pro­gramme.’’

Alexan­der Yakovenko, the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to London, ac­cused Bri­tain of de­stroy­ing ev­i­dence of the Sal­is­bury at­tack. ‘‘The Bri­tish gov­ern­ment still hasn’t pro­duced any ev­i­dence in sup­port of its po­si­tion that would con­firm their of­fi­cial ver­sion,’’ he said. The Times

Sir Mark Sed­will

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.