Chemist Rink could supply criminals with Novichok back in the 90s

Chemist Rink could supply criminals with Novichok back in the 90s
Professor, Doctor of Chemistry Leonid Rink Photo: Novaya Gazeta

The criminal case on illegal distribution of this substance was marked "top secret" and fell flat.

Novaya Gazeta became aware of the details of the making of nerve agent Novichok in the territory of the former USSR. Britain claims that it was this substance that former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to in Salisbury on March 4.

According to the paper, back then the distributor of the banned substance could be chemist Leonid Rink, who prepared Novichok. He worked as the Chief of the laboratory and was a leading research scientist in the branch of the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology (GOSNIIOKhT) in the closed city of Shikhany, Saratov region. It was this institute that was engaged in the development of chemical weapons.

The investigation documents note that Rink was also called the "Chief of the GITOS unit" - the State Institute of Technology of Organic Synthesis in Shikhany. This is a "particularly classified unit, whose employees signed a sensitive data non-disclosure agreement, including when working with potent and poisonous substances."

The FSB Directorate staff of the Saratov region told the investigation that in 1994 some employees of the GITOS "synthesized and sold the poison agent without authorization." The first person killed by such substance was the Head of Rosbiznesbank Ivan Kivelidi. He was poisoned in 1995.

When looking into this case, experts and witnesses, as well as experts related to the substances of Novichok system, testified that work with the substance, which is a top-secret information, was conducted "in the period until 1994". Everybody also corroborated that hundreds of lethal doses of this drug found themselves in the hands of gangsters.

Since Kivelidi was killed with such a substance, it stirred up interest to chemist Rink and to what was happening in the top-secret labs. According to the newspaper, the criminal case on illegal distribution of this substance was classified as "top secret" and went nowhere.

Now this substance surfaced in Skripal and his daughter’s case. London accused Moscow of organizing the poisoning of the former spy. The Russian side denies its involvement and blames Britain for failing to provide a single supporting document.

Russian state media found Rink, who now continues to work in the hush-hush institute and positions himself as one of the creators of Novichok. In the interview, he argued that the British themselves could poison Skripal. Russian high-ranking officials backed Rink, saying that all Soviet developments in the field of chemical weapon were ceased in 1992, and in 2017, its reserves were completely destroyed.

To recap, former spy and ex-GRU employee Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned on March 4 in Salisbury. The investigation saw a Russian trace in the incident. Official Moscow demanded to be given access to the investigation materials, since Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen. London refused.

So far the investigation sticks to two inferences: the first one suggests that poison brought from Moscow by daughter of Skripal Yulia, according to the second one, the poisoning happened through the ventilation system of the BMW car, belonging to Skripal.

The poisoning of Skripal provoked a downfall of relations between Moscow and London. The United Kingdom expelled 23 Russian diplomats. The Kremlin retaliated by banishing the same number of diplomatic officials of the British Embassy, calling the accusations "unsubstantiated" and "provocative."

Later it became known that the British Council shut down its activities in Russia following the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry.

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