False rumours in the Skripal case 

The scene of the attack in Salisbury in the UK

The scene of the attack in Salisbury in the UK, © PA Wire / dpa

20.04.2018 - Article

Reports have been circulating in social media that a Swiss laboratory has detected a toxin other than Novichok in Salisbury. This claim is demonstrably false.

Following the poison attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, the independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has had samples from the scene of the attack analysed by various international laboratories. The results show that the neurotoxin Novichok – a chemical agent that was developed and produced in Russia – was used for the attack.

Since last week, state-controlled Russian media outlets abroad have reported in Europe that a laboratory in Switzerland had detected the poison BZ in the samples, i.e. a toxin other than Russian-made Novichok. It therefore cannot be proved, or so it is claimed, that Novichok was used for the poison attack.

False conclusions

This conclusion is false. The OPCW, which commissioned the investigation, always sends multiple control samples to the test laboratories. These samples have nothing to do with the case under investigation, but function as a kind of placebo in order to determine whether the laboratory is working correctly. While one of these control samples contained the toxin BZ, it has nothing to do with the attack. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the laboratory detected the Russian poison Novichok in the original sample taken from the scene of the attack in Salisbury. The nerve agent was detected in the very highest chemical purity and was practically free from contamination. It is only possible to produce this complex toxin in such a concentrated way in highly professional laboratories. This is a strong indication that state actors in the toxin’s country of origin must have been involved in the attack.

All parties, including Russia, are aware of the fact that the independent OPCW uses control samples containing different substances. This is therefore a targeted false statement.
The Director-General of the OPCW Ahmet Üzümcü issued the following statement on these false claims:

“As it was clearly shown in the detailed and technical presentation, we should not have an iota of doubt on the reliability of the system of the OPCW Designated Laboratories. The Labs were able to confirm the identity of the chemical by applying existing, well-established procedures. There was no other chemical that was identified by the Labs. The precursor of BZ that is referred to in the public statements, commonly known as 3Q, was contained in the control sample prepared by the OPCW Lab in accordance with the existing quality control procedures. Otherwise it has nothing to do with the samples collected by the OPCW Team in Salisbury. This chemical was reported back to the OPCW by the two designated labs and the findings are duly reflected in the report.”

Click here for the official summary of the independent OPCW on the results of the investigation into the Skripal case


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