‘Western brand’: more than 20 nations possess over 140 ‘Novichok’-type substances, Russian Foreign Ministry says


The notorious ‘Novichok’ nerve agent described as Russia’s lethal weapon has been first presented to the world by Americans and has since been replicated by 20 of their allies, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The structure of a substance that has since been known to the world as ‘Novichok’ has been first unveiled by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology back in 1998 on the basis of the data provided by the Pentagon, the Russian Ministry said on Saturday, replying to yet another damning statement by the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.

Over the years, the formula was used by Americans and more than 20 other western nations to produce a cluster of as many as 140 variations of the toxin that can be attributed to the ‘Novichok’ group, the ministry said, adding that the whole lot of them are not covered by the Chemical Weapons Convention. 

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“‘Novichok’ is a western brand,” the ministry’s statement said. “We do not have it.”

Moscow reminded that all the chemical weapons in its possession were destroyed back in 2017 under “rigorous international control” overseen by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

The statement came in response to a speech Maas delivered in the German parliament earlier this week. The German minister once again accused Russia of failing to provide clear answers on the case of Alexey Navalny, a Russian opposition figure supposedly poisoned by the notorious nerve agent and subsequently treated in a Berlin clinic. Maas also threatened Moscow with sanctions over the incident. 

Russia, in turn, argued that it cannot launch a probe into the case without any evidence that the alleged poisoning did take place. The ministry reminded that neither Russian doctors, who saved Navalny’s life in the first crucial hours, nor German doctors, who treated him further, found any traces of a nerve agent poisoning. Those were only allegedly found almost a week later by the German military, Moscow added.

Still, Berlin has not so far provided any material evidence substantiating the poisoning narrative to Russia.

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Maas stated earlier that traces of ‘Novichok’ were found in Navalny’s blood in urine by a German military lab as well as by facilities in France and Sweden. Yet, none of these findings were ever shared with Moscow despite at least four formal cooperation requests the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office filed with the German authorities. Berlin is also reluctant to share any other information related to this case with Moscow as well, the ministry noted.

“The German side has something to explain despite its tenacious unwillingness to do so. Its earlier excuses are unacceptable. They are unconvincing,” the ministry said.
“The only thing we want is to get legal, technical and organizational assistance within the bilateral German-Russian [framework] as well as with the OPCW frameworks to conduct a comprehensive and unbiased investigation of Navalny’s case.”

Yet, instead of cooperation, Russia faces “aggressive rhetoric” and a “propagandist attack” orchestrated from Germany, the ministry noted. 

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The alleged poisoning of a Russian blogger turned Kremlin critic has lately soured relations between Russia and Germany.

Navalny was in coma between August 20 and September 7 after falling ill on a flight from Siberia to Moscow. He was first hospitalized in the Russian city of Omsk, where the medics managed to stabilize him but did not find any traces of any particular poison in his body. Later, he was transferred to the Berlin’s Charité clinic on family’s request.

The German authorities then claimed he was targeted in a poisoning attack and demanded Moscow provide some “answers” to this case, threatening Moscow with a swift response in the form of sanctions. Germany’s western allies, including the UK, France and the US also rushed to link the incident to Russia while Navalny himself was quick to blame Kremlin for the ordeal, without providing any evidence. 

Lately, the OPCW confirmed its specialists found some substances in Navalny’s blood and urine that have “structural characteristics” similar to those of the ‘Novichok’ group. Moscow now expects to receive some information on the case from the international chemical weapons watchdog. 

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