In response to Britain’s decision to expel more than 23 Russian diplomats over a yet to be confirmed Russian novichok nerve agent attack on two former spies, who became double agents for the United Kingdom, Moscow will soon expel British diplomats.
The retaliatory measures are taken after UK Prime Minister Theresa May declared 23 Russian diplomats as persona non grata, calling them undeclared intelligence officers.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia would deliver its response to the British counterparts prior to an official announcement in the media.
He noted Moscow prefers not to publicly speak of some “doubts or suspicious” before they are discussed through respective channels. “This is, in my view, is being polite, this is how gentlemen behave,” the minister said according to Russia Today.
Although no official confirmation was given on the provenance of the nerve agent by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), May’s decision has triggered a diplomatic confrontation between the UK and Russia.
The use of a nerve agent against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia cannot be denied. However, as Russia stated, it was ready for “cooperation in the investigation of the case.” Russian experts should’ve been allowed to test the substance according to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), a move that would’ve alleviate the situation.
UK’s Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said London would submit a sample of the nerve agent to the OPCW.
What is novichok?
The alleged nerve agent, called novichok, was developed and produced in Russia.
The novichok agents work by massively over-stimulating muscles and glands, one chemical weapons expert told the Guardian that the agents do not degrade fast in the environment and have “an additional toxicity”. “That extra toxicity is not well understood, so I understand why people were asked to wash their clothes, even if it was present only in traces,” he said. Treatment for novichok exposure would be the same as for other nerve agents, namely with atropine, diazepam and potentially drugs called oximes.
Who is Sergei Skripal?
Sergei Skripal worked with Russia’s military intelligence — commonly called GRU — and retired in 1999. He then worked with the Foreign Ministry until 2003. He confessed he was recruited by the British Security Service in 1995, and provided information on GRU agents in Europe in exchange of money. Arrested in 2004 in Moscow, Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in prison but was released and pardoned in 2012 in a U.S.-Russia spy swap.
Both Sergei and Yulia remains critically ill in the hospital.