UK Prime Minister Theresa May stood up to update the House of Commons following her visit to Brussels, where she successfully made her case against Russia.
"No other country has the capability, intent, or motive for the attack."
Which failed still to provide actual evidence.. but one could argue - if one were so inclined - that Washington (or its NATO generals) have the capability, intent, and motive to undertake such a messy attack.
To cheers, she said:
“Today 18 countries have announced their intention to expel more than 100 intelligence officers” in what she described as the “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history.”
She warned that the “challenge of Russia is one that will endure for years to come.”
May insists she has been led by evidence not speculation:
“We have information indicating that Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agent and has stockpiled small amounts of novichoks.”
Additionally, she said 130 people in Salisbury may been exposed to the agents used and that Russia came up with “preposterous theories.”
However, as May makes her case - ever more Colin-Powell-like - a Russian official claims that the United States was developing a similar if not identical nerve agent in the 1990s as the one which was used on Russian double-agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal.
The claim was made by Igor Rybalchenko - head of the laboratory for chemical and analytical control of the scientific center of the Russian Defense Ministry, who says - without evidence (as are the UK's claims against Russia), that the A-234 compound in the "Novichok" family of nerve agents was published into a database maintained by the National Bureau of Standards (NBS).
"The fact is that back in 1998 when we looked through another version of the spectral library, which was published by the National Bureau of Standards of the United States (NBS), we found a substance there that we found interesting since it was an organophosphorus substance. And we realized that it must have a strong lethal effect. Now it turns out that, judging by the name of this substance, it was just the same nerve agent, A-234," Igor Rybalchenko said. -Sputnik
The substance was said to be heavy and volatile based on its molecular formula and molecular weight, and that it was also available at the UK's Porton Down laboratory.
"I affirm that it exactly corresponds to the formula published by Mirzayanov (Vil Mirzayanov, a Soviet chemist who moved to the USA and the author of the book on the A-234 gas). The chemical name of this substance is A-234 and was named "Novichok" by Boris Johnson, as a substance available in the Porton Down laboratory,” Rybalchenko said.
That said, due to the fact that the Novichok's chemical structure was never formally classified, according to Professor Alastair Hay at Leeds University, it's possible that the UK has some of the agent.
It is quite likely that some government laboratories made minute quantities and storied their characteristics in databases, so that their identity could be confirmed at a later stage if found as an unknown poison in someone's blood, he adds.
Whether this has happened in the UK's chemical defence laboratory is not known. -BBC
The UK has brushed off Moscow's allegations that it could have produced the toxin as "absolute nonsense," as the Kremlin has also made similar claims that Novichok has been produced in Sweden, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - all of which have denied doing so.
Russia's ambassador to the U.N. has insisted that the development of Soviet-era nerve agents ceased in 1992, and that existing stockpiles were destroyed in 2017.
Moreover, Rybalchenko says that the substance was added to the U.S. database by a member of the Army Armament Research and Development Center.
"The most interesting detail in this story is in the following versions of the database, which usually only expand, they are constantly replenished, more and more substances, we did not find this record. And I can't explain where is it now," the Russian military chemist said.
In other words - you'll have to take his word for it unless evidence of the entry in the 1998 database surfaces.
Trump plans expulsion
On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German leader Angela Merkel said that following a meeting of the European Council, that UK PM Theresa May had shared "proof" of Russia's involvement in the assassination attempt against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, "convincing" the two leaders that Russia was behind the attack.
What's a bit disturbing is that May's "proof" - which is being used to justify punitive action against Russia, has yet to be shown to the public. Moreover, the world leaders have all decided that Russia is "the only reasonable culprit." In other words, the Kremlin used a poison that would very clearly identify them as the culprits - instead of perhaps a more common and less attributable method of assassination. Makes sense if the plan was to get caught.
Meanwhle, Russia's embassy in the UK has been demanding that London produce the complete UK info on "Skripal's Case" and disclose details on a program to produce weapons-grade toxic substances in Porton Down. The UK has so far refused to comply.
As a result, Bloomberg reports that President Donald Trump is "preparing to expel dozens of Russian diplomats from the U.S." in response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K."
Quoting two people "familiar with the matter", Bloomberg reports that Trump agreed with the recommendation of advisers and the expulsions are likely to be announced on Monday. And while the aides said that Trump is prepared to act, he wants to be sure European allies will take similar steps against Russia before he does so, which could be problematic since Russia controls roughly a third of Europe's natural gas supplies and thus the volume of any potential response (and also why despite "proof", Europe responded with nothing more than a harshly-worded statement).
Among the advisors that Trump approached on Friday to discuss the matter were U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and others.
In other words, the West is now punishing Russia in an "open-and-shut" case with zero evidence released to the public for examination.
What's weird is that Skripal, according to The Telegraph, was friends with an employee of Christopher Steele, the former U.K. spy who assembled the Trump-Russia dossier.
If, as The Telegraph reported, Skripal assisted Steele in compiling the dossier - which notably relies on senior Russian officials, despite Steele never having traveled to Moscow - according to testimony by Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, it could explain the motive behind the assassination attempt in Salisbury town centre.
Valery Morozov, a former construction magnate who fled Russia after revealing corruption, claimed last night that Col Skripal, 66, was still working, and remained in regular contact with military intelligence officers at the Russian embassy. That would raise the possibility that he was still feeding intelligence to people in this country.
Mr Morozov said that, as a result, he had decided to steer clear of Col Skripal for his own safety. He told Channel 4 News: “If you have a military intelligence officer working in the Russian diplomatic service, living after retirement in the UK, working in cyber-security and every month going to the embassy to meet military intelligence officers – for me, being a political refugee, it is either a certain danger or, frankly speaking, I thought that this contact might not be very good for me because it can bring some questions from British officials.” -Telegraph
Go into your mind palace and consider something which may warrant at least a cursory investigation by UK authorities... If Skripal was friends with Christopher Steele's employee, it stands to reason that it's within the realm of possiblity that Skripal was Steele's source for the "senior Russian officials" cited in the Trump-Russia dossier. If Skripal was the source, anyone connected to the creation, funding or distribution of the Trump-Russia dossier would probably be OK if he disappeared and was unable to testify to his actions.
Or, Moscow decided to get revenge on Skripal eight years after voluntarily giving him to the UK in a 2010 spy exchange - and when choosing how to assassinate the former (?) double-agent, the Kremlin used a nerve agent which would have led directly back to them.