Prague, May 4 (CTK) – Only microgrammes of substances like the Novichok nerve agent are synthesised in the Czech Republic because of chemical protection and the microscopic amounts are disposed of immediately after the testing and nothing is stored, the Defence Ministry said on Friday.
On Thursday, Czech President Milos Zeman said Novichok was produced in the country last year according to some secret services. Russian representatives said Zeman’s words prove that British investigators were wrong when they said Russia was the only source of Novichok.
Dana Drábová, head of the Czech State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB) which supervises the observance of the convention on non-proliferation of chemical weapons, said the volume of such a poison arising from micro-synthesis could kill “a fly” at the most.
In addition, it disappears immediately during [the subsequent] destructive analysis, Drabova told CTK, adding that the micro-synthesis serves to “teach” the measuring devices, spectrometers, to recognise the substance.
“This may have happened in the Institute of Military Research. This is nothing illegal. This does not have to be reported [to the SUJB], as the convention does not apply to it,” Drabova said.
She said the respective laboratory has to keep evidence of such a synthesis, which SUJB inspectors may verify within their regular check in the autumn.
The convention banning the development, production, storing and use of chemical weapons and requiring their disposal has been valid since April 1997. It has been signed by 192 countries including the Czech Republic.
Drabova said substances of the Novichok type are listed as the substances under control because the lists were completed still before Novichok substances appeared.
“Since then, there has been no international consensus on extending the lists,” Drabova said, but added the SUJB follows the even tougher Czech law and checks practically anything that may be linked to handling chemical weapons.
Novichok was used to poison former Russian agent Sergei Skripal in Britain earlier this year. Britain and its allies suspect Russia of being behind the attack on Skripal. Most EU member states expelled Russian diplomats over the attack.
Moscow claimed it had nothing to do with the case and it pointed to other countries as the possible sources of Novichok, including the Czech Republic. Zeman ordered the intelligence services to check the possible Czech production of Novichok, while Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the Russian claim was a blatant lie. Other cabinet members dismissed the claim and considered it a manoeuvre to distract attention.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which deals with the case, said 50 to 100 grammes seemed to be used to poison Skripal.
The Czech Defence Ministry said up to several microgrammes of Novichok were produced in the country.
It said the substances that the media call Novichoks, including the A230 agent, are potentially poisonous chemicals and their identification and defence against them is part of the training of the Czech military chemical experts. Like other substances used in chemical warfare, their chemical properties are tested in connection with their possible detection, protection against them and the security of Czech citizens, the ministry said.
These substances are synthesised under a strict safety regime. This micro-synthesis is not considered production according to the international agreement, the ministry said.