It is “beyond reasonable doubt” that Russia was behind the nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent living in southern England, the UK security minister has said.
The strong statement comes after British chemical weapons experts from the Porton Down facility said earlier this week they had not, in fact, proven the chemical came from Russia – just the Novichok type of nerve agent used in the poisoning.
The scientists’ words appeared to contradict statements from Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, and his department was forced to delete tweets stating Porton Down had proved the chemical’s origins.
However the British government was reportedly able to use other intelligence sources, on top of the chemical analysis, which led them to blame Russia alongside almost all other Western nations.
Britain’s Foreign Office Deletes Tweet Accusing Russia of Having Produced Salisbury Attack Nerve Agent https://t.co/dbC19UiVpD
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 4, 2018
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who had initially backed Russia’s line on the attempted murders, appeared to suggest the confusion vindicated his approach on Wednesday, and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said that Britain had “legitimate questions” to answer.
Russian officials have also called a meeting of the UN Security Council and sought to question British reliability by highlighting “lies by Tony Blair” over the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
But Thursday morning, Ben Wallace, the security minister, hit back, saying that the investigation’s “roads lead to Russia” and rejected the Iraq comparison.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s no missing nerve agent that no one can find — it was used in Salisbury, we had three people seriously ill, two obviously remain in hospital in critical condition, and there is no doubt that we have found nerve agent.
“That nerve agent has been identified to being manufactured, we believe, in Russia and we believe that the nerve agent, the Novichok type of nerve agent, is only capable of being produced by a nation-state.
“And then we add that to intelligence we hold, we add that to some of the police investigations that are going on right now, and we can say that roads lead to Russia, that we are beyond reasonable doubt of the view that the Russian state is behind this.”