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November 30, 2019

OPCW Manipulation Of Its Douma Report Requires A Fresh Look At The Skripal 'Novichok' Case

With regards to the revelations about the OPCW management manipulation of its staff reports the former UN weapon inspector Scott Ritter makes a very valid point:

Thanks to an explosive internal memo, there is no reason to believe the claims put forward by the Syrian opposition that President Bashar al-Assad’s government used chemical weapons against innocent civilians in Douma back in April. This is a scenario I have questioned from the beginning. It also calls into question all the other conclusions and reports by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which was assigned in 2014 “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Besides its activities around dubious 'chemical' incident in Syria there is another rather famous case in which the OPCW got involved: The alleged 'Novichok' attack on Sergei and Julia Skripal in Salisbury, Britain.

We discussed the OPCW involvement in the Skirpal case in our April 15 2018 report: Were the Skripals 'Buzzed', 'Novi-shocked' Or Neither?

The Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, threw a bombshell at the British assertions that the collapse of the British secret agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in Salisbury was caused by a 'Novichok' nerve agent 'of a type developed by Russia'. (See our older pieces, linked below, for a detailed documentation of the case.)

  • The Skripal poisoning happened on March 4.
  • Eye witnesses described the Skripals as disoriented and probably hallucinating. The emergency personal suspected Fentanyl influence.
  • A few days later the British government claimed that the Skripals had been affected by a chemical agent from the 'Novichok' series which they attributed to Russia. It insinuated that the Skripals might die soon.
  • A doctor of the emergency center at the Salisbury District Hospital publicly asserted that none of its patients was victim of a 'nerve agent'.
  • On March 14, after much pressure from Russia, Britain finally invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to analyze the blood of the victims and to take environmental samples.
  • The OPCW arrived on March 19 and took specimen on the following days. It also received a share of the samples taken earlier by the British chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down, which is only some 10 miles away from Salisbury.
  • The OPCW split the various samples it had in a certified laboratory in the Netherlands and then distributed them to several other certified laboratories for analysis.
  • One of those laboratories was the highly regarded Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland which is part of the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and fully certified.
  • On April 12 the OPCW published a public version of the result of the analyses it had received from its laboratories.
  • A more extensive confidential version was given to the state members that make up the OPCW.

During a public speech yesterday Lavrov stated of the OPCW report:

[A] detailed and fairly substantial confidential version was distributed to the OPCW members only. In that report, in accordance with the OPCW way of conduct, the chemical composition of the agent presented by the British was confirmed, and the analysis of samples, as the report states, was taken by the OPCW experts themselves. It contains no names, Novichok or any other. The report only gives the chemical formula, which, according to our experts, points to an agent that had been developed in many countries and does not present any particular secret.

After receiving that report Russia was tipped off by the Spiez Laboratory or someone else that the OPCW report did not include the full results of its analysis.

According to Lavrov this is what the Spiez Laboratory originally sent to the OPCW:

“Following our analysis, the samples indicate traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursor which are second category chemical weapons. BZ is a nerve toxic agent, which temporarily disables a person. The psycho toxic effect is achieved within 30 to 60 minutes after its use and lasts for up to four days. This composition was in operational service in the armies of the US, the UK and other NATO countries. The Soviet Union and Russia neither designed nor stored such chemical agents. Also, the samples indicate the presence of type A-234 nerve agent in its virgin state and also products of its degradation.

The "presence of type A-234 nerve agent", an agent of the so called 'Novichok' series, in its "virgin state", or as the OPCW stated in "high purity", points to later addition to the sample. The 'Novichok' agents are not stable. They tend to fall rapidly apart. Their presence in "virgin state" in a sample which was taken 15 days after the Skripal incident happened is inexplicable. A scientist of the former Russian chemical weapon program who worked with similar agents, Leonid Rink, says that if the Skripals had really been exposed to such high purity A-234 nerve agent, they would be dead.

The whole case, the symptoms shown by the Skripals and their recuperation, makes way more sense if they were 'buzzed', i.e. poisoned with the BZ hallucinogenic agent, than if they were 'novi-shocked' with a highly toxic nerve agent.

The OPCW had send blood samples from the Skripals to the Spiez laboratory in Switzerland which found BZ, a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD. The OPCW hid this fact in its reports.

An attack with BZ on the Skripals would be consistent with the observed symptoms that bystanders had described. The Skripals were indeed hallucinating and behaved very strangly with Sergei Skipal lifting his arms up to the sky while sitting on a bench. Exposure to BZ would also explain the Skripals' survival.

The OPCW explained the BZ find by claiming that it had mixed BZ into the probe to test the laboratory. Something which it said it regularly does. At that time I still believed in the OPCW and found that explanation reasonable:

The OPCW responded to Russian question about the BZ and high rate of A-234 in the Spiez Laboratory probe and report.

OPCW said today that it was a control probe to test the laboratory. Such probes are regularly slipped under the real probes to make sure that the laboratories the OPCW uses are able to do their job and do not manipulate their results.

That explanation is reasonable.

I guess we can close the BZ theories and go back to food poisoning as the most likely cause of the Skripals' illness.

In light of the OPCW management manipulation or suppression of the reports of its own specialists for the purpose of attributing the Douma incident to the Syrian government I have to change my opinion. I hereby retract my earlier acceptance of the OPCW's explanation in the Skripal case.

As we now know that the OPCW management manipulates reports at will we can no longer accept the 'control probe' excuse without further explanations or evidence.

Here is what seems to have happened.

The OPCW did not send a control sample to Spiez to test the laboratory. It sent the original samples from the Skripals. Spiez found BZ and reported that back to the OPCW. The OPCW suppressed the Spiez results in its own reports. Somehow Russia got wind of the Spiez results and exposed the manipulation.

Acceptance that the Skripals had been 'buzzed', not 'novi-shocked' is central to the Skripal case. It makes the whole Skripal case as a British operation to prevent the repatriation of Sergei Skripal to Russia much more plausible.

Posted by b on November 30, 2019 at 19:34 UTC | Permalink

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@99 Inquirer I would simply assume that the whole sampling procedure went correctly and the blood sample of the Skripals was real. Only someone contaminated the sampling site, say the house of Skripal with real Novichok before the OPCW visited it. Do you know of a mention that the Novichok was in a blood sample?
Then most of the OPCW is still functioning as intended and it is only top management which is cooking the books.

Posted by: Tuyzentfloot | Dec 2 2019 19:32 utc | 101

Environmental: No method is available for detecting BZ in environmental samples. CDC

I believe the environmental samples were of A234 because it would have been planted there by British specialists for OPCW to find, to give a suitably dramatic encrimination of the russians. The BZ probably a rad herring as does not explain Yulia fitiing and vomiting, which would be more consistent with fentanyl exposure.

Posted by: dgnl | Dec 2 2019 20:15 utc | 102

I have only 1 question regarding the Skripal case. Where are they? After the hospital, they disappeared. No one cares?

Posted by: Joetv | Dec 2 2019 22:37 utc | 103

Connecting the dots amongst recently unveiled OPCW corrupt report and Le Mesurier dead, as a means to cover Western/NATO funding and organizing of White Helmets and "moderate armed rebels" in Syria linked to chemical attacks....Highly likely we could link the recent attack by "jihadist" in a bridge of London, and following echoes in different parts of Europe, to the imminent apearance of this report, of which they most probably knew...

First part of two...

After His Mysterious Death, the Media Scrambles to Get its Story Straight About White Helmets Founder James Le Mesurier

Posted by: Sasha | Dec 3 2019 19:38 utc | 104

I agree with J Swift @ 76 about how breaking the chain-of-custody and using evidentiary samples from the crime scene to test a lab just doesn’t make sense.

Where I disagree is where he says the primary motive was MI6 trying to “snag the Skripals” before they repatriated to Russia and the other effects of throwing discredit on Russia being a mere afterthought. It actually was the exact opposite IMO. I think the primary motive was to create a false flag incident against Russia and the Skripals happened to be convenient patsies. They’d have to pick someone like Skripal in order to make the narrative somewhat plausible.

But I don’t think Sergei Skripal is going back to Russia anytime soon, if he values his freedom, that is. And I don’t think he’s completely retired from the spy biz… still collaborating with MI6… or at least was, until recently. I doubt he is now. But I believe they betrayed him… they used him as a sacrificial lamb to pull off their little stunt. He just happened to fit the profile they wanted. All this spy biz is pretty treacherous as you know.

Posted by: Steve M | Dec 4 2019 20:55 utc | 105

John Helmer:

Posted by: M | Dec 6 2019 23:47 utc | 106

I've seen more comments here then on all the alternative sites/forums combined. How do you people do it?

Posted by: Zoran Aleksic | Dec 7 2019 21:14 utc | 107

@107 ZoranAleksic
Practice. After a while you can juggle dozens of identities and give each identity a clear character with its own quirks and flaws. You're the first real person here in years actually. Welcome.

Posted by: tuyzentfloot | Dec 7 2019 22:30 utc | 108

Its worth reading OPCW documents in detail. There was no BZ in the control samples but a precursor (!) of BZ called 3Q. 3Q is 3-Quinuclidinol (Schedule 2.B.09 in the Annex on Chemicals on the CWC). 3Q is not a chemical warfare agent. Its also worth citing the public summary of the OPCW in detail. Its says that ALL Member States have access to the full classified report and that indeed the publicly available document is only a summary. It also nowhere says that the high purity of the agent was deduced from biomedical samples but says the "toxic chemical" was found in the environmental samples.

Adding quality control samples is not uncommon and serves a very real purpose: a blank sample is added because a finding in the blank would demonstrate that the laboratory has issues with either instruments contamination or carry-over. If the laboratory fails to correctly analyze the positive control (here with 3Q) it demonstrates there are general issue with the laboratories performance. It also demonstrates in this case that the OPCw laboratories looked for more than just the chemical structure reveal by the UK but looked for all kind of other scheduled chemicals as well.

Posted by: Alex | Dec 15 2019 9:38 utc | 109

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