‘Salisbury’s population would have been wiped out if 100g of Novichok was used’

A scientist who developed lethal nerve agent Novichok has claimed the entire population of Salisbury would have been wiped out if 100 grams had been used – as had been claimed.

Reports surfaced overnight that 100g of the deadly substance had been used when ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in the Wiltshire city.

Since then the the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has conceded ‘it probably should be milligrams’.

Russian scientist Leonid Rink, who helped develop the lethal poison, today said: “The whole of Salisbury would have died from this amount.

“This is an insane amount, this is a combat amount.”

The remark came after Ahmet Uzumcu, the head of the OPCW told the New York Times that Novichok could have been applied as a liquid or aerosol.

He said: "For research activities or protection you would need, for instance, five to 10 grams or so, but even in Salisbury it looks like they may have used more than that, without knowing the exact quantity, I am told it may be 50, 100 grams or so, which goes beyond research activities for protection."

The OPCW later clarified the comment with a statement on its website.

A spokesman said: "The OPCW would not be able to estimate or determine the amount of the nerve agent that was used in Salisbury on 4 March, 2018.

"The quantity should probably be characterised in milligrams.

"However, the analysis of samples collected by the OPCW Technical Assistance Visit team concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions."

Mr Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter were left fighting for their lives in hospital after being found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury on March 4.

The inquiry into the nerve agent attack has involved 250 detectives who have gone through more than 5,000 hours of CCTV and interviewed more than 500 witnesses.

Britain and other Western countries say it is “highly likely” that the Russian state used the nerve agent against Skripal, seen as a traitor by the Moscow security services.

This has been strongly denied by the Kremlin.

Karen Pierce, Britain’s envoy to the United Nations, said last month: “No terrorist group or non-state actor would be able to produce this agent in the purity described by the OPCW testing and this is something Russia has acknowledged.”

Known as A234, novichok was developed at top secret laboratories in Shikhany, a closed town in Saratov region.

The Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko previously suggested that Sergei and Yulia Skripal may have been injected by British authorities with nerve agent produced at Porton Down .

However the UK has previously stated its conviction that only Russia had the means and motive to target the former spy.

She said: "Russia has a proven record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations including on the territory of the United Kingdom.

"The independent inquiry into the death of Alexander Litvinenko concluded in January 2016 that he was deliberately poisoned with polonium; that the FSB had directed the operation; and that President Putin probably approved it."

On the technical means of creating Novichok, she said: "No terrorist group or non-state actor would be able to produce this agent in the purity described by the OPCW testing and this is something Russia has acknowledged.

"The Russian State has previously produced Novichoks and would still be capable of doing so today."

Today it also emerged that the OPCW had completed their work at the site of a suspected gas attack in the Syrian town of Douma.

The OPCW is investigating the deaths of dozens of people in Douma, an enclave on the outskirts of Damascus, on April 7 to determine if they were killed by banned munitions.

Russian news agencies today quoted Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov as saying the inspectors had completed their trip to sites in Douma.

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