Vladimir Putin has claimed that up to 20 countries could have poisoned Sergei Skripal as experts say they cannot confirm that the nerve agent was from Russia.
The chief of the Porton Down defence laboratory said it has ‘not verified the precise source’ of the Novichok nerve agent which poisoned Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Gary Aitkenhead, the facility’s chief executive, dismissed Russian claims the nerve agent used in Salisbury might have come from the defence laboratory.
Putin said on Tuesday he hoped a line could be drawn under the poisoning of former Russian double agent in Britain at a meeting on Wednesday of the global chemical weapons watchdog.
The Russian Embassy in London said tonight: ‘We understood from the very start that UK Government statements on the nerve agent having been produced in Russia were a bluff. Now this has been confirmed by the head of the secret lab.’
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Sergei Skripal with his daughter Yulia before they were poisoned in Salisbury
Gary Aitkenhead, the chief executive of the Porton Down defence laboratory (pictured), has said it has ‘not verified the precise source’ of the Novichok nerve agent
Aitkenhead said that its deployment was ‘probably only within the capability of a state actor’, but that establishing its origins required ‘other inputs’.
Russia has fiercely denied any state involvement in the poisoning of the double agent, who was exposed to a nerve agent in Salisbury, Wiltshire four weeks ago.
And speaking at a news conference in Ankara, Putin also said he was surprised by the pace of what he called an anti-Russian campaign unleashed Britain’s accusation that Moscow was behind the nerve toxin attack on Skripal on March 4.
He noted that the head of Britain’s Porton Down military research laboratory had said earlier in the day that it was not possible to say yet where the military-grade nerve agent that struck down Skripal had been produced.
Putin said there were about 20 countries where such substances were made.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that Britain’s theory on who poisoned Skripal ‘will not be confirmed anyway’.
Moscow has denied being behind the attack on Skripal and his daughter in the southern English city of Salisbury.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in London said: ‘This only proves that all political declarations on the Russian origin of the crime are nothing but assumptions not stemming from objective facts or the course of the investigation.
This has also been essentially confirmed by today’s comment by the Foreign Office, whose “intelligence picture” has lost a key piece – while the rest are kept secret even from Britain’s allies.
‘We have also noted that, like in his earlier interview, Mr Aitkenhead is not denying that the lab had developed or keeps stocks of the agent they call “novichok”, although, of course, he would not admit it.
‘By the way, some time ago we asked the Foreign Office to facilitate a meeting with Mr Aitkenhead or his colleagues, but have got no reply.
‘One has to conclude that the UK Government prefers to block the Embassy from discussing the matter with experts who may possess the uncomfortable truth.’
Gary Aitkenhead, Porton Down’s chief executive, dismissed Russian claims that the nerve agent used in Salisbury might have come from the defence laboratory
Meanwhile, the local MP in Salisbury, John Glen, today revealed the authorities are looking at who was on the flight with Yulia Skripal when she came to Britain shortly before the poisoning.
However the British government and Prime Minister Theresa May accused the Kremlin of being the likely orchestrators of the attack.
And today the local MP in Salisbury, John Glen, said other evidence pointed to the Kremlin.
He told Sky News he has ‘no doubt whatsoever’ that Russia was behind the attempted murders.
He said: ‘What you’ve seen today is one piece of the jigsaw from Porton Down – world class scientists, but what they are not able to do is interpret and understand the human activity that accompanied what led up to the awful events here in Salisbury.
What is the Novichok nerve agent used against the Skripals?
The Novichok nerve agent used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia is among the most deadly poisons ever created.
They were secretly developed by the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold war in the 1970s and 1980s.
Communist scientists developed the poison so it would not be able to be detected by Nato’s chemical detection equipment.
They come in the form of a ultra-fine powder, Novichok is up to eight times more potent than the deadly VX gas.
Victims who are poisoned by the powder suffer muscle spasms, breathing problems and then cardiac arrest.
There is a known antidote to the nerve agent – atropine can block the poison.
But doctors find it very tricky to administer the ant