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article imageRussia fumes after West blocks 'Novichok' list

By AFP     Feb 26, 2019 in World

Russia accused the West of "hypocrisy" Tuesday for blocking a proposed list of banned chemical weapons, including what Moscow says are Novichok agents similar to those used in last year's chemical attack in Britain.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last month agreed to ban the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok, which was used in the attempt to kill Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.

Western nations say Moscow was behind the March 2018 attack that left former Russian double agent Skripal and his daughter critically ill.

But Moscow had this week wanted to add a further 14 chemicals that it says should also be classed as part of the Novichok family, and which it alleged Western nations were experimenting with.

Twenty countries including the United States, Britain and Canada voted down Russia's proposal, saying the chemicals on Moscow's list did not reach the "toxicity thresholds" needed to be included on the banned substances list.

Russian ambassador to The Hague Alexander Shulgin said on Tuesday that the West had blocked Moscow's proposals "because they themselves are experimenting with these substances."

"It is clear that the United States, the United Kingdom and their NATO allies are opposing the proposal... because they are doing research on these very same prohibited chemicals," Shulgin told a press conference.

Attempts by the West to blame Russia for being the only country in possession of Novichoks were part of a plan to "create the image of a rogue state. This is hypocrisy".

Canada's ambassador to the OPCW, Sabine Noelke, however said Russia scored an own goal by not withdrawing the group of chemicals for further research.

"Russia chose to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory," she said on Twitter.

Another Western official speaking on condition of anonymity added: "If they had done so we would have supported their other four proposals, including on listing the chemical used in Salisbury and others related to it."

Britain said it "supported the OPCW's expert and independent judgement."

London "firmly believes that chemicals should only be listed where there is a sound basis for doing so," the Foreign Office said in a statement sent to AFP.

The OPCW had been "very clear that elements of Russia’s proposal did not meet the necessary criteria," it said, stressing that "the UK does not possess chemical weapons."

Russia and Western countries frequently clash at the OPCW, including over new powers given to the watchdog to apportion blame for chemical attacks like those in Syria or Salisbury.

The attempted assassination of Skripal plunged Anglo-Russian relations to their lowest ebb in decades.

The attack also led to the death of a British woman who came into contact with the Novichok, as well as injuring several others including a policeman.

The Netherlands meanwhile expelled four alleged Russian spies last year for what it said was a plot to hack into the OPCW's computer network.

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