Were the Skripals 'Buzzed', 'Novi-shocked' Or Neither? - May Has Some 'Splaining' To Do
The Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov, threw a bombshell at the British assertions that the collapse of the British secret agent Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in Salisbury was caused by a 'Novichok' nerve agent 'of a type developed by Russia'. (See our older pieces, linked below, for a detailed documentation of the case.)
- The Skripal poisoning happened on March 4.
- Eye witnesses described the Skripals as disoriented and probably hallucinating. The emergency personal suspected Fentanyl influence.
- A few days later the British government claimed that the Skripals had been affected by a chemical agent from the 'Novichok' series which they attributed to Russia. It insinuated that the Skripals might die soon.
- A doctor of the emergency center at the Salisbury District Hospital publicly asserted that none of its patients was victim of a 'nerve agent'.
- On March 14, after much pressure from Russia, Britain finally invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to analyze the blood of the victims and to take environmental samples.
- The OPCW arrived on March 19 and took specimen on the following days. It also received a share of the samples taken earlier by the British chemical weapon laboratory in Porton Down, which is only some 10 miles away from Salisbury.
- The OPCW split the various samples it had in a certified laboratory in the Netherlands and then distributed them to several other certified laboratories for analysis.
- One of those laboratories was the highly regarded Spiez Laboratory in Switzerland which is part of the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection and fully certified.
- On April 12 the OPCW published a public version of the result of the analyses it had received from its laboratories.
- A more extensive confidential version was given to the state members that make up the OPCW.
During a public speech yesterday Lavrov stated of the OPCW report:
[A] detailed and fairly substantial confidential version was distributed to the OPCW members only. In that report, in accordance with the OPCW way of conduct, the chemical composition of the agent presented by the British was confirmed, and the analysis of samples, as the report states, was taken by the OPCW experts themselves. It contains no names, Novichok or any other. The report only gives the chemical formula, which, according to our experts, points to an agent that had been developed in many countries and does not present any particular secret.
After receiving that report Russia was tipped off by the Spiez Laboratory or someone else that the OPCW report did not include the full results of its analysis.
According to Lavrov this is what the Spiez Laboratory originally sent to the OPCW:
“Following our analysis, the samples indicate traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursor which are second category chemical weapons. BZ is a nerve toxic agent, which temporarily disables a person. The psycho toxic effect is achieved within 30 to 60 minutes after its use and lasts for up to four days. This composition was in operational service in the armies of the US, the UK and other NATO countries. The Soviet Union and Russia neither designed nor stored such chemical agents. Also, the samples indicate the presence of type A-234 nerve agent in its virgin state and also products of its degradation.”
The "presence of type A-234 nerve agent", an agent of the so called 'Novichok' series, in its "virgin state", or as the OPCW stated in "high purity", points to later addition to the sample. The 'Novichok' agents are not stable. They tend to fall rapidly apart. Their presence in "virgin state" in a sample which was taken 15 days after the Skripal incident happened is inexplicable. A scientist of the former Russian chemical weapon program who worked with similar agents, Leonid Rink, says that if the Skripals had really been exposed to such high purity A-234 nerve agent, they would be dead.
The whole case, the symptoms shown by the Skripals and their recuperation, makes way more sense if they were 'buzzed', i.e. poisoned with the BZ hallucinogenic agent, than if they were 'novi-shocked' with a highly toxic nerve agent.
The Spiez Laboratory responded by not denying Lavrov's claims:
Spiez Laboratory @SpiezLab - 19:49 UTC - 14 Apr 2018Only OPCW can comment this assertion. But we can repeat what we stated 10 days ago: We have no doubt that Porton Down has identified Novichock. PD - like Spiez - is a designated lab of the OPCW. The standards in verification are so rigid that one can trust the findings. #Skipal
Science Direct has several excerpts of reports about BZ. The basics:
Agent 15 is also called compound 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate, BZ, or “Buzz.” It is a powerful chemical warfare agent. As one of the most potent psychoactive chemical agents, only a small amount of BZ is needed to produce complete incapacitation. When used as an aerosol, BZ is absorbed through the respiratory system (it has no odor). It can also be absorbed through the skin or the digestive system. It takes approximately 1 h for BZ to take effect, and the symptoms of exposure include confusion, tremors, stupor, hallucinations, and coma that can last for more than 2 days.
BZ is a psycho agent 25 times stronger than LSD. It was developed by the U.S. military as an incapacitating agent. At least 50 tons were produced and filled into weapon delivery systems. It was allegedly tested on U.S. soldiers in Vietnam:
Working with the CIA the Department of Defense gave hallucinogenic drugs to thousands of "volunteer" soldiers in the 1950's and 1960's. In addition to LSD, the Army also tested quinuclidinyl benzilate, a hallucinogen code-named BZ. Many of these tests were conducted under the so-called MKULTRA program, established to counter perceived Soviet and Chinese advances in brainwashing techniques. Between 1953 and 1964, the program consisted of 149 projects involving drug testing and other studies on unwitting human subjects. Although many human subjects were not informed or protected, Dr. Gottlieb defended those actions by stating "...harsh as it may seem in retrospect, it was felt that in an issue where national survival might be concerned, such a procedure and such a risk was a reasonable one to take."
This is what the military tried to achieve with BZ and other psycho agents.
BZ (and LSD) turned out to be impractical as battlefield weapons.
According to British parliament records BZ was also produced and tested, allegedly on unknowing civilians, by the British chemical weapon laboratory Porton Down.
The Russian Foreign Minister asserts that the OPCW suppressed the details of the Spiez Laboratory report:
Nothing is said whatsoever about a BZ agent in the final report that the OPCW experts presented to its Executive Council. In this connection we address the OPCW a question about why the information, that I have just read out loud and which reflects the findings of the specialists from the city of Spiez, was withheld altogether in the final document. If the OPCW would reject and deny the very fact that the Spiez laboratory was engaged, it will be very interesting to listen to their explanations.
The current Director-General of the OPCW is the Turkish carrier diplomat Ahmed Üzümcü who earlier served as the Turkish Permanent Representative to NATO.
I have no theory how the BZ or the A-234 made it into the OPCW samples or if the Skripals were really influenced by either of these poisons or are victims of simple shellfish poisoning. Your guess is a good as mine.
But the story the British government has so far told is full of holes and discrepancies and makes absolutely no sense at all. The suppression of the Spiez Laboratory report by the OPCW is a serious breach of its procedures.
The British Prime Minister Theresa May, and the OPCW, have some 'splainin' to do.
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:
Posted by b on April 15, 2018 at 09:35 AM | Permalink