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Poison used against former spy not from ČR

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Prague/Brno, March 17 (CTK) – The Czech foreign affairs and defence ministers, Martin Stropnicky and Karla Slechtova (both ANO), rejected on Saturday the Russian diplomacy statement that the Novichok poison used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain may come from the Czech Republic.

According to several sources, the nerve agent developed in the former Soviet Union was used in the attempt to murder Skripal and his daughter Yulia earlier in March. Both are in a critical condition.

Stropnicky, who occupied the post of defence minister in the previous term, said he can guarantee that no weapons similar to Novichok, either of older or new generations, are in the Czech territory.

Poisonous substances are produced in the Czech Republic solely for laboratory purposes to test their properties and in a very small amount of some grammes only, Bohuslav Safar, director of the Military Research Institute in Brno, told CTK on Saturday, in reaction to the allegations about the nerve agent Novichok coming from Czechia.

The spokesman for President Milos Zeman, Jiri Ovcacek, also called the statement by Russian diplomacy nonsensical and absurd.

Zeman is known as a keen supporter of closer cooperation with Moscow and he is opposed to international sanctions imposed on Russia in reaction to the annexation of Crimea.

The Czech Republic has been a signatory of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction since the 1990s and it strictly observes it, Slechtova stressed.

The 31st military regiment in Liberec, north Bohemia, deals exclusively with the protection against such substances, she tweeted.

“We protest against the statements about the origin of Novichok that cannot be proved anyhow. This is a standard way of manipulating information in public space where a report of a highly speculative character is released without being able to prove it. This piece of information for the first time emerged on the Sputnik disinformation server in the past days,” Stropnicky said.

Slechtova called the Russian accusation absurd.

Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said on Rossiya 24 TV on Saturday that the most probable sources of the lethal substance of Novichok type were the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Britain or Sweden. Since the end of the 1990s, these countries have carried out “an intensive research into the substances from the Novichok project,” she said.

Stropnicky told reporters that the accusation was a typical attempt to divert attention from the findings of British investigators.

The use of a lethal gas in Europe has been unprecedented since the WW2, he said.

The Czech Republic observes all international agreements in this respect. “I can guarantee that there are no such weapons or others of an older generation in the territory of the Czech Republic,” Stropnicky said, adding that Czech military chemists are analysts only.

He said the Russian statement was no friendly gesture, but that he had not expected any either, as the Czech Republic was among the first countries to have condemned the attack on Skripal.

Stropnicky also noted that he would not invite the Russian ambassador to Prague for explanation over this case.

Zakharova’s statement is at variance with the available information from both Western and Russian experts, including those who were directly involved in the research and development of Soviet chemical weapons.

Russian chemist Vil Mirzayanov, who is considered the Novichok creator, says the substance was being developed in the U.S.S.R. in the territory of Soviet Uzbekistan. Mirzayanov fled Russia in the 1990s and is living in the United States.

The attack on Skripal has caused a serious diplomatic conflict between Britain and Russia. London accuses Moscow of the attack, which Moscow denies. Both countries have expelled dozens of their diplomats reciprocally.

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