Britain Says Russia Spied On Skripals For Years Before Poisoning

Britain Says Russia Spied On Skripals For Years Before Poisoning

The door handle and email claims were made in a letter from Sir Mark Sedwill, the UK's national security adviser, to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg.

Regarding the Skripals themselves, Sedwill claims that email accounts belonging to Yulia Skripal were targeted by Russian intelligence agents in 2013, "indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals".

National Security Security Adviser Sir Mark Seawall said Vladimir Putin's spies have trained to use nerve agents such as Novichok since the 2000s.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on April 12 confirmed Britain's findings about the nerve agent used in the attack after testing samples from Salisbury.

Russian Federation has said it does not have such nerve agents and President Vladimir Putin said it was nonsense to think that Moscow would have poisoned the Skripals.

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Referring to the 2006 death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, Sedwill said Russian Federation had the operational means to carry out such an attack against Skripal.

It follows the confirmation on Thursday by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that the toxin used in the Salisbury incident was Novichok - a military grade nerve agent developed by Russian Federation in the 1980s.

"This programme subsequently included investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles", the letter says.

Sir Mark said: "There is no plausible alternative explanation", adding that Russian Federation had continued to produce and stockpile small quantities of Novichok within the last decade.

He pointed to the Owen Report from the UK's public inquiry into the death of Aleksandr Litvinenko which concluded in 2016 that he was "deliberately poisoned with Polonium 210, that there was a "strong probability" that the FSB (Russia's security agency) directed the operation, and that President Putin "probably approved it".

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"It is unlikely that Novichok could be made and deployed by non-state actors", he adds.

"Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russian Federation", specifically from the Novichok group, British Prime Minister Theresa May said after the incident, based on an assessment by British experts.

Lavrov said the report does nothing to back the British allegations that Moscow was behind the attack.

Also Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov responded to an worldwide chemical weapons watchdog's report on the poisoning.

He also complained at the continued refusal of the British authorities to grant consular access to Ms Skripal following her discharge from hospital.

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Mr Lavrov said the report only confirmed the composition of the substance and that Britain's claim that it confirmed the United Kingdom position on the Skripal case was overstated. Her father remains in the hospital but British health officials say he is improving.

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