Russian chemist says he's worked on Novichok, despite Moscow's denial

A man takes the flag off the flagpole outside the consular section of Russia’s Embassy in London. (Reuters)
Updated 20 March 2018
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Russian chemist says he's worked on Novichok, despite Moscow's denial

MOSCOW: A Russian scientist told state media Tuesday he worked on an official program to produce the nerve agent Britain says was used on ex-spy Sergei Skripal, contradicting Moscow’s claims it never developed Novichok. Leonid Rink told RIA Novosti state news agency he worked on a state-backed program up to the early 1990s, adding that the former double agent and his daughter would be dead had Moscow been involved in his poisoning. “They are still alive. That means that either it was not the Novichok system at all, or it was badly concocted, carelessly applied,” he said. “Or straight after the application, the English used an antidote, in which case they would have to have known exactly what the poison was,” he said. Rink said he worked at a state laboratory in the closed town of Shikhany for 27 years, where the development of Novichok formed the basis of his doctoral dissertation. “A large group of specialists in Shikhany and Moscow worked on ‘Novichok’,” he said. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov last week said Moscow never had any programs to develop Novichok. Moscow meanwhile is awaiting the arrival of two dozens diplomats ordered to leave Britain as part of a standoff over a nerve agent attack on British soil.
Britain ordered the 23 diplomats to leave by Tuesday, and they’re expected in Moscow tuesday, according to Russian media reports.
Russia retaliated by expelling 23 British diplomats, who are expected to leave Moscow in the coming days.

Russia denies involvement in the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the British city of Salisbury earlier this month. They remain in critical condition.
Britain accuses Russia of the poisoning, which Western powers see as an example of increasingly aggressive Russian meddling abroad.
International chemical weapons experts took samples Monday of the nerve agent used, which Britain says is the Soviet-developed Novichok. The experts said that they are expecting to have full results in three weeks time.


Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

Updated 23 October 2018
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Trial starts for suspect in tourist killings in Tajikistan

  • Man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial
  • Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan: A man who swore allegiance to Daesh before killing four foreign cyclists in ex-Soviet Tajikistan went on trial Tuesday in a process closed to the public.
Tajikistan’s Supreme Court spokesperson told AFP Tuesday the trial for the “brutal murder of four foreign cyclists” had begun in the suspect’s high-security detention center.
Hussein Abdusamadov, 33, already confessed to killing American cycling tourists Lauren Geoghegan and Jay Austin, Dutch citizen Rene Wokke and Swiss citizen Markus Hummel in July.
The victims were struck by a car as they cycled along the remote Pamir Highway, a popular route among adventure tourists, before being set upon with knives and firearms.
Four of Abdusamadov’s accomplices were killed by police during a manhunt.
A video of the five men pledging allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was released by an official Daesh media channel.
Tajik authorities have so far ignored the video evidence, instead blaming a former opposition party — the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan — that was banned by the government in 2015.
The fact the trial is closed has raised concerns about due process in a country with a poor record on political freedoms and human rights.
Abdusamadov implicated the IRPT as the ultimate organizer of the attack in a televised confession, but critics say the government is using the case to tar the opposition.
A dozen senior members of the IRPT are serving long sentences up to life on charges government critics say are trumped up.
In addition to Abdusamadov, 16 other people stand accused of not offering information to the authorities that could have prevented the attack, a source in the police told AFP.