Scientists Can't Confirm Novichok Came From Russia

But the UK says their work is just one piece of the puzzle
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2018 2:02 PM CDT
Investigators in protective suits work at the scene in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, England, Tuesday, March 13, 2018.   (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)
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(Newser) – Countries have lined up behind the UK to enact consequences on Russia in the wake of the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia, but the scientists who have been analyzing the nerve agent on Tuesday clarified that they haven't been able to establish it was created in Russia. Porton Down exec Gary Aitkenhead tells Sky News it was "probably only in the capabilities of a state actor" to have created the substance, which was definitively identified as novichok. But "we have not identified the precise source," which he presents as unconcerning. "We identified that it is from this particular family and that it is a military grade, but it is not our job to say where it was manufactured."

What the scientists did do is hand "the scientific information to government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions that they have come to." Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down elaborated on Twitter, writing, "This chemical identity of the nerve agent is one of four factors used by the Government to attribute the use of chemical weapons in Salisbury to Russia." The BBC quotes a UK government rep as echoing that, saying Porton Down's work is "only one part of the intelligence picture" and asserting there is "no other plausible explanation" than that Russia was the perpetrator. But the Guardian suggests Aitkenhead's "comments are bound to be seized on by Russia" all the same. (Read the latest on Yulia's condition here.)

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