It is a foregone conclusion in Western capitals that the Russians were behind the use of an “exotic” nerve agent that critically injured Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the town of Salisbury, not far from Stonehenge, in England, earlier this month. Tissue and other samples of the agent, collected at different sites, were analyzed by chemical weapons experts at Porton Down, a science park close to Salisbury that houses the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, similar to the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center at Ft. Detrick, Maryland.
What makes a nerve gas, which is an organophosphate, exotic? As the British authorities have so far disclosed, the formulation of the nerve agent was quite unusual compared to well-known nerve agents such as Sarin, Tabun and VX. Furthermore, “exotic” also refers to the qualities of the material itself: in simplest terms, this was a specially militarized version of nerve gas.
Nerve gases have been known since the 1930s, when they were first developed in Nazi Germany. For various reasons – including Winston Churchill’s threat to bomb German cities with anthrax-filled bombs – the Germans did not use their nerve gas, although they had already prepared artillery shells and bombs for battlefield use. The Germans also experimented with nerve gas on concentration camp inmates, and tested the agent at places like the complex at Gross-Rosen, located 40 miles southwest of Wroclaw in present-day western Poland. There, some 40,000 inmates would perish from disease, hunger, injury, shooting and poisoning, many of them women and children. Gross-Rosen was a huge Nazi armaments manufacturing facility.
A militarized nerve agent is designed to be easily deployed and used, to be persistent on the battlefield or targeted area, and to kill efficiently and quickly. The US developed binary weapons to deliver nerve gas, thereby minimizing the risks of handling the material. A binary weapon has a membrane that divides the two major chemicals that combine to form the nerve agent. But Iraq and Syria both used “live” fully-mixed nerve agent that was loaded into warheads or bombs.
But Iraq also appears to have developed a “dusty” version of nerve gas that is a better weapon. It seems now – judging from what has so far been released by the UK authorities – that the Skripals were poisoned by a dusty agent, with suspicion falling on Segrei Skripal’s car, a red BMW. Nerve agent has been found on the door handle of the car and there is a strong suspicion that a dusty agent form of the nerve agent flooded the cockpit of the vehicle from the BMW’s ventilation system. Among other things, the overall operation to poison Sergei Skripal was professional and well-planned.
Regarding Iraq, the anthrax attacks in the United States following the 9/11 attacks used a dusty agent that the FBI suspected originated at Ft. Detrick, but that was never proved. In fact, it is more likely the substance was passed to the 9/11 terrorists or their associates by Iraqi intelligence. It contained the Ames strain of anthrax, which is unique to the US but which both the Russians and the Iraqis had. Using Ames was intentional, to deflect attention to anything other than a US source. (Ames was also found as part of the anthrax in the Sverdlovsk accident in 1979.)
A dusty agent is made up of a dried powder form of a poison, whether mustard, Anthrax or a nerve gas. (Dusty agents are also used in insecticides.) It is known that Iraq bought two Niro spray dryers to make dusty mustard and anthrax, and perhaps also nerve gas. Typically, a dusty agent consists of the agent itself plus a form of silicon dioxide or hydrophilic silica, or talc, and a binder and some preservatives. The idea behind a dusty agent is that it can penetrate gas masks and gaps in protective coverings and can poison the skin. Thus even if it is not ingested by breathing, the nerve agent or other poison can do its work.
A militarized nerve agent presents significant defense problems, even if the threat is known and countermeasures are in place. In the case of nerve gas, the usual antidote is a fast injection of atropine, often combined with other chemicals including pralidoxime chloride and sometimes with valium. However, if the nerve agent is very powerful, more atropine is needed and the atropine itself can be fatal. The nerve agent used on the Skripals is 5 to 8 times stronger than VX, making the atropine antidote dangerous to use in large amounts.
In addition to the immediate risks, well-stabilized dusty nerve agents are designed to adhere to surfaces, are highly persistent and difficult to remove safely. The latest reports indicate that nerve agent traces are popping up at a number of locations in Salisbury, including on the clothing and in the vehicles of First Responders. And a nerve agent, likely the exotic version, has been found in the town of Gillingham. Exactly why is not yet known.
The Russians no doubt wanted to make sure that other defectors, double agents and personae non gratae are being warned, and that those in Russia who may entertain thoughts of spilling state secrets can expect the same treatment
There may have been other poison substances mixed in with the Skripal nerve agent. When the pair were in the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury, it is reported that Sergei Skripal jumped out of his chair and was screaming incoherently, demanding the restaurant check. This sort of behavior, indicative of a cognitive breakdown, is a characteristic of a neurotoxin, which could be caused by snake venom. It is not one of the symptoms of a nerve agent.
Why would the Russians use a special nerve agent formulation on targets outside the country where the agent itself is like a signpost of its place of origin. As Prime Minister Teresa May has said, the agent used is a class of weapon known in Russia as Novichok, meaning Newcomer. We know this because defector Vil Mirzayanov, a scientist and later head of Foreign Technical Counterintelligence at the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (GosNIIOKhT) in Moscow in the 1970s and 1980s, claims he helped produce these agents in Russia (he was jailed and later released). Thus the Russians used an agent that would leave a clear fingerprint. But for what reason?
Part of the answer is that the Russians no doubt wanted to make sure that other defectors, double agents and personae non gratae are being warned, and that those in Russia who may entertain thoughts of spilling state secrets can expect the same treatment.
We do not yet know the full extent of the collateral damage from the affair in Salisbury and its spread to Gillingham, a 45-minute drive away. Just as the polonium 210 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 turned into a mess to decontaminate, many in the UK felt ill as a result of coming into contact with traces of Novichok. So far, the number is around 38 people; but that will increase and there are long term impacts from nerve agents including respiratory diseases and even cancers. The full impact is not yet known.
The British have every reason to be extremely angry over the attempted murder in Salisbury and the method chosen by the Russians. So should the world community demand that production of these dangerous materials finally end. These weapons are a scourge that must and should be eradicated.
USA accuses North Korea of assassinating Kim JongNam by using a nerve agent. UK and USA (which means USA because UK is merely a vassal of USA) accuse Russia of poisoning Skripal (father and daughter) by using a nerve agent.
It looks that they are CIA false flag operations in both cases.
Why is not Theresa May and President Trump arrested for the assassination of Kim Jong-nam who was killed by the VX nerve agent? We know the VX nerve agent was invented by Ranajit Ghosh and J.F. Newman at the British firm ICI in 1952. The U.S. went into production of large amounts of VX in 1961 at Newport Chemical Depot. MI5 knows biological, chemical, and nerve agents can be bought by anyone on the "Dark web".
The Conservative party in Britain need an extra boost for the local election. The urgent UN Security Council meeting looks like politics to me. Unlikely, Russia would have commited the crime so close to the Russian election and the World Cup. French intelligence operative say it was the Chechen’s that killed Litvinenko, maybe it is them again to hurt President Putin and Russia.
This Bryen is well known to us as a turd pie… and we have learnt how to live with this type of rubbish. So the most interesting thing these days is that the Brits have apparently – well, evidently – completely lost contact with reality. Do they understand that with this story they just help growing Russian nationalism ? And help Putin just a few days befor the elections ? Do they understand that any reasonably sane mind would be at least surprised by such an offence to intelligence ? Most of us grew up being taught that the Brits are sneaky crooks, the " perfidious Albion "… bloodthirsty hyenas – but not stupid -. Now we know that "but not stupid" can be deleted, and we can look EAST for our children
Only a simpleton would believe that Russia would have engaged in behavior taylor made to create hostile propaganda against it. On the other hand, those who create this propaganda have ample motive to do it. This is exactly like the gas attacks in Syria.
Classic false flag.
half truth is twice as wicked as plain lies and this hit pcs pcs is so full of half truth …
Qui bono? We cannot yet be certain, but what reason do we have for trusting the UK and US governments? The Germans and French just do as they are told.
Considering th author’s "credentials" as a willing participant in the bowels of Imperial America’s snake pit the article is highly suspicious and propagandistic.
The author needs to have a better understanding of his topic.
If the poison used was the deadly Novichok -5 or -7 in a powder form as described by the author, both victims would have been dead within minutes of entering their car. They never would have made it to the restaurant. The dosage is only a miligram or two. (There are just under 6,000 mg of salt in a teaspoon).
The British have not figured out how the poison was administered. Because of the very slow and delayed response the most likely method was ingestion, and not inhalation via a powder.
Because the victims are still alive and did not exhibit the standard features of a true military grade nerve agent, it is most likely that it was one of over a hundred different variations of the Novichok group, many of which were published in open source literature. Anyone with a good organic lab could make a Novichok variety as it’s been over 20 years since it was disclosed in the press.
If the British are truly interested in determining who did it they need to be forthcoming with the facts of the case. Something they have not done yet.
I am extremely disappointed in at. How can you write so much bullshit?
This turns me off reading at for the first time.
Jesus is My King What has that got to do with the subject at hand? Advertizing in the commentspace is revolting.
Is it surprising or just worrying, that the rest of the transatlantik clubmates have joined ranks with the Brits?
Yes indeed! – and as dangerous as well.
Well Alfred, wait and see what they are also putting up about Iran these days… washing up their dusty nerves with Goutha’s chlorine. Not surprising or worrying, just shameless NATO crap
Yashad, Benito was a socialist leftie, like Tony Blair
The damage done by the nerve agent has the potiential to be reversed by an experimential drug Anavex 2-73, which has shown to be effect in restoring neuro cells to homeostasis, might be Skripals best chance at recovery and possible cocomitiant drug to use with atropine. I hope the Britsh government can reachout to the company for usage.
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