Reports: German special services received Novichok nerve agent back in 1990s

Reports: German special services received Novichok nerve agent back in 1990s
Sergei Skripal

A Russian turncoat handed a sample of Novichok to the authorities of the FRG as far back as the 1990's.

Back in the 1990s, German special services gained access to the Novichok nerve agent, which was allegedly used to poison former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain in March 2018. German journalists reached this conclusion following a joint investigation of four publications: newspapers Die Zeit and Süddeutsche Zeitung and TV channels WDR and NDR.

According to journalists, in the early 1990s, German foreign intelligence BND appealed to a Russian chemist, who had been their informer for some time, with a request to tell about the newest Russian chemical weapon in exchange for asylum for his family. The scientist agreed and promised to take a sample of the substance with him.

When a Novichok sample reached Germany, it was transferred for examination to one of the chemical laboratories in Sweden with the knowledge of the FRG Ministry of Defense and Helmut Kohl's office. Later, chemists handed its formula to the representatives of the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany (BND) and the Ministry of Defense of the FRG. Journalists did not manage to find out what subsequently happened to the Novichok sample.

Soon, on the order of Chancellor Kohl, the German intelligence informed special services of the allied countries, including Great Britain and the United States, of the outcome of the secret operation. After that, Germany and five other Western countries formed a working group for further analysis of Novichok and the ways to counter it. This process included the production of microdoses of the substance to develop an antidote.

The German government eschewed plans to announce the operation conducted publicly and the existence of Novichok substance in order not to sour relations with the administration of Boris Yeltsin. Nevertheless, at one of the meetings in Moscow, Kohl's spokesperson informed the Kremlin that Berlin knew: the production of banned substances in Russia continued.

The immediate participants in the decision to start the BND operation confirmed the course of events to German journalists. According to the interlocutors of the media outlets, the government initially frowned on such an operation, taking into account political and legal aspects, as well as the stance of Chancellor Kohl, who in 1990 made American chemical weapons being exported from Germany. "Under no circumstances did we want to give the impression that we are in any way interested in chemical weapons ourselves," a source familiar with the discussions said.

Novichok became widely known after the attempt on the Skripals on March 4, 2018. According to the version of British authorities, corroborated by the analysis of the laboratory in Porton Down, someone tried to expose the former GRU officer and his daughter to A-234 substance from the Novichok group, which was developed in the USSR in the 1980s. According to British Prime Minister Theresa May, this means that Moscow either tried to kill the Skripals or let a leak of highly toxic poison happen. The situation with Novichok incited a serious diplomatic scandal between Russia and the West.

Tags: Moscow
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