Forty Hospitalized, Nobody Intoxicated: Who Has Access to A-234 Nerve Agent

© REUTERS / Henry NichollsPolice officers get dressed in protective suiting at a car recovery depot in Norton Enterprise Park, where Sergei Skripal's car was originally transported, in Salisbury, Britain, March 13, 2018
Police officers get dressed in protective suiting at a car recovery depot in Norton Enterprise Park, where Sergei Skripal's car was originally transported, in Salisbury, Britain, March 13, 2018 - Sputnik International
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Britain's Skripal case evokes strong memories of Colin Powell's narrative of Saddam Hussein's developing weapons of mass destruction, Sputnik contributor Daniele Pozzati writes, stressing that in contrast to the US and the UK, Russia completely destroyed its chemical arms stockpiles.

No one among dozens of patients who went to a Salisbury hospital after the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia has experienced similar symptoms, independent journalist Daniele Pozzati highlighted in his op-ed for Sputnik, citing Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust Stephen Davies' letter.

On March 14, The Sun reported that "nearly 40 people [had] experienced symptoms related to the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning." The doctor rushed to deny the claim, stressing in his open letter that there have been only three patients with significant poisoning, namely Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.

"Several people have attended the emergency department concerned that they may have been exposed. None had symptoms of poisoning and none has needed treatment. Any blood tests performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved," Davies' letter reads.

British Military personnel wearing protective coveralls work to remove a vehicle connected to the March 4 nerve agent attack in Salisbury, from a residential street in Gillingham, southeast England on March 14, 2018 - Sputnik International
Who Could Benefit From Poisoning Former Spy Sergei Skripal
On March 22, news emerged that a second policeman involved in the Skripal probe has shown potential signs of poisoning. However, it was reported that the signs are not on the same scale as those of the Skripals and Bailey, who is now stable. For their part, the Skripals remain in critical condition in hospital.

Last week British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of using the A-234 nerve agent in an attempt to kill former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. However, London refused to present samples of the poisonous substance to Russia as well as evidence found during the investigation.

Pozzati pointed out that according to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the UK ought to provide Russia with the nerve agent used to poison Skripal and give Russia 10 days to respond. Nevertheless, May didn't provide any evidence to Moscow and gave it just 24 hours to react to London's ultimatum.

The independent journalist cited Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, who claimed in an interview to The Guardian that the Russian city of Shikhany "was the sole location for development and production" of the A-234 nerve agent.

Two people wait to get into the Russian Embassy as a man works to untangle the national flag flown from the Russian Embassy, after it became entangled on its staff at the embassy in London, Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - Sputnik International
Russia's UK Envoy to EU on Skripal Case Reaction: 'Trust But Verify'
Pozzati highlighted that although Bretton-Gordon dismissed the assumption that the poisonous substance could be produced in other states of the post-Soviet space, a 1999 report by The New York Times revealed that the US took part in an effort to decontaminate the Chemical Research Institute in Nukus, Uzbekistan.

The media outlet noted, citing Soviet defectors and American officials, that "the Nukus plant was a major research and testing site for a new class of secret, highly lethal chemical weapons," A-234.

Thus, since 1999 the US has had access to gas, Pozzati stressed, adding that for its part Russia completed the destruction of its arsenal of chemical weapons on September 27, 2017.

Commenting on Russia's move, head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Ahmet Uzumcu, stated: "The completion of the verified destruction of Russia's chemical weapons program is a major milestone in the achievement of the goals of the Chemical Weapons Convention."

"In contrast, both the United States and the United Kingdom still have a chemical weapons program," Pozzati highlighted. "The American [chemical weapons] project will be dismantled only in the next five years. In the light of Dr. Davis's statements, we can face yet another fake a-la Colin Powell's narrative about the chemical weapons of Saddam Hussein."

On March 4, the British police found former intelligence agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, unconscious near a shopping center in Salisbury. Following the alleged nerve gas attack, the British government pointed the finger of blame at Moscow despite the investigation into the Skripal case having not been completed. British PM May initiated the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats which triggered a mirror response by Russia.

On March 19, experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) got the samples of the poisonous substance used in a supposed attack against the Skripals. According to the OPCW, it will take at least three weeks to study the nerve agent provided by the British authorities.

The views and opinions expressed by Daniele Pozzati are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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