A Russian official has suggested that the nerve agent used in the Salisbury spy poisoning could have come from a research laboratory in the UK.
Porton Down could be the source of Novichok, the nerve agent used in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, according to Russia’s EU ambassador Vladimir Chizhov.
Chizhov said Russia had ‘nothing to do’ with the poisoning incident in Salisbury and that Russia did not stockpile the poison.
He added that the Porton Down lab was only eight miles (12km) from the city where the incident occurred.
Metro reports: The government has dismissed his comments as ‘nonsense’.
Mr Skripal, 66, a former MI5 double agent, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain critically ill in hospital after the nerve agent attack in Salisbury on March 4.
Theresa May told MPs that Porton Down – Britain’s military research base – identified the substance used on them as being part of a group of military-grade nerve agents known as Novichok developed by Russia.
The Russian government has denied any involvement in the attack.
Mr Chizhov’s comments come after a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said the UK was one of the most likely sources of the nerve agent, along with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden or possibly the United States.
Maria Zakharova said a large number of ex-Soviet scientists had gone to live in the West, ‘taking with them the technologies that they were working on’.
Czech foreign minister Martin Stropnicky said the claims were ‘unsubstantiated’ and ‘a classic way of manipulating information in the public space’, while Sweden also ‘forcefully’ rejected the suggestion.
Mr Chizhov told the BBC that Mr Skripal could ‘rightly be referred to as a traitor’ but ‘from the legal point of view the Russian state had nothing against him’.
Asked how the nerve agent came to be used in Salisbury, he said: ‘When you have a nerve agent or whatever, you check it against certain samples that you retain in your laboratories.
‘And Porton Down, as we now all know, is the largest military facility in the United Kingdom that has been dealing with chemical weapons research.
‘And it’s actually only eight miles from Salisbury.’
When asked if he was suggesting Porton Down was ‘responsible’ for the nerve agent in the attack, Mr Chizhov said: ‘I don’t know. I don’t have any evidence of anything having been used.’
The Foreign Office said there was ‘not an ounce of truth’ in his suggestion of a link to Porton Down.