Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Teresa May have in the past two weeks both gone out on a limb to accuse the Russian government and Vladimir Putin himself of having engineered the chemical attack in Salisbury UK which almost claimed the lives of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter and led to many people with no connection to the spy or security services in Britain or Russia needing hospital treatment. Johnson has insisted that British chemical lab Porton Down told him the nerve agent used to attack the Skripals was definitely Novichok. However, court documents from a case which grated permission for investigators to take further blood samples from the two main victims, suggest there is no such certainty.
In an interview with Deutsche Welle on Thursday, the UK foreign secretary claimed that analytical chemists working at the UK's chemical weapons facility at Porton were “absolutely categorical” in confirming to him that the source of the nerve agent, identified by the UK as A-234 – also known as Novichok – was Russian. Johnson said: “Let me be clear with you… the people from Porton Down, the laboratory… they were absolutely categorical and I asked the guy myself, I said, ‘Are you sure?’ And he said there’s no doubt.”
A decision from a High Court Judge on Thursday, however, granted permission to take new blood samples from Sergei and Yulia Skripal for analysis by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
In his judgment, Justice David Basil Williams included a summary of the evidence, revealing Porton Down’s analysis. The judgment, which includes sworn court evidence from a Porton Down chemical and biological analyst, reads: “Blood samples from Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were analyzed and the findings indicated exposure to a nerve agent or related compound. The samples tested positive for the presence of a Novichok-class nerve agent or closely related agent.”
Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray wrote in a blog post that the evidence therefore does not unequivocally confirm that nerve agent used on the Sripals is definitely Novichok (which is a relatively easy substance to produce,). Murray also claimed that scientists at Porton Down have failed to find evidence of Russian “culpability” as Novichok and similar substances can be produced from easily obtained materials by any comptent laboratory technician.
The judgment comes despite multiple affirmations from the UK government that the nerve gas came from Russia. The evidence given in court raises questions over the information provided by the government to parliament, the EU, NATO, the United Nations and the public.