Boris Johnson demanded ‘answers’ from Russia today as the international chemical weapons watchdog backed Britain’s findings over the Salisbury attack.
The Foreign Secretary stepped up the pressure on the Kremlin after the respected agency said an analysis of samples from the scene confirmed the UK’s assessment that ‘high purity’ Novichok was used.
The conclusions about the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia will further increase tensions with Russia, alongside the crisis over Syria.
Moscow has refused to commit to accepting the findings of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and proposed an array of other explanations for the presence of military-grade nerve agent on UK soil.
One of the more outlandish is that it could have been deployed from Britain’s own Porton Down laboratory eight miles down the road.
Miss Skripal, the daughter of ex-spy Sergei Skripal (pictured together) has only just been released from hospital after being found critically ill alongside him in Salisbury last month
Yulia’s cousin, Viktoria Skripal, 45, protesting outside the British embassy in Moscow and demanding to be issued a visa to visit her stricken relatives in the UK
Theresa May, pictured on a visit to Birmingham yesterday, has said there is no other plausible explanation apart from Russian involvement in the Salisbury attack
An executive summary of the watchdog’s report said: ‘The results of the analysis by the OPCW designated laboratories of environmental and biomedical samples collected by the OPCW team confirms the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury and severely injured three people.’
Mr Johnson said the OPCW had confirmed Britain’s assessment that the substance was ‘a military grade nerve agent – a Novichok’.
‘This is based on testing in four independent, highly reputable laboratories around the world. All returned the same conclusive results,’ he said.
‘There can be no doubt what was used and there remains no alternative explanation about who was responsible – only Russia has the means, motive and record.
‘We invited the OPCW to test these samples to ensure strict adherence to international chemical weapons protocols. We have never doubted the analysis of our Scientists at Porton Down.
‘In the interest of transparency, and because unlike the Russians we have nothing to hide, we have asked the OPCW to publish the executive summary for all to see and to circulate the full report to all state parties of the OPCW, including Russia.
‘We will now work tirelessly with our partners to help stamp out the grotesque use of weapons of this kind and we have called a session of the OPCW Executive Council next Wednesday to discuss next steps. The Kremlin must give answers.
‘We must, as a world community, stand up for the rules based order which keeps us all safe. The use of weapons of this kind can never be justified, and must be ended.’
The findings come amid a renewed exchange of diplomatic barbs between the UK and Moscow, after Ms Skripal revealed she has refused help from the Russian Embassy.
In a statement issued through the Metropolitan Police, she confirmed that Russia had made contact with her but she did not ‘wish to avail myself of their services’.
In the statement, she asked her outspoken cousin Viktoria Skripal, who has suggested Yulia’s fiancé was involved in the attack, to refrain from making contact and added that her relative’s opinions did not reflect her own.
It comes after dramatic claims from Russia that she and her father had been ‘abducted’ by the UK which was blocking its offers of assistance.
Miss Skripal added: ‘I have access to friends and family, and I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can.
‘At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.
‘Most importantly, I am safe and feeling better as time goes by, but I am not yet strong enough to give a full interview to the media, as I one day hope to do.
‘Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves.
‘I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being. Her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father’s.’
Police officers pictured on the scene at Sergei Skripal’s home yesterday, where it is believed he and his daughter came into contact with the nerve agent
She once again thanked staff at Salisbury District Hospital for their ‘kindness’ as she revealed her father remained in their care.
‘I have left my father in their care, and he is still seriously ill,’ she said. ‘I too am still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against us.
‘I find myself in a totally different life than the ordinary one I left just over a month ago, and I am seeking to come to terms with my prospects, whilst also recovering from this attack on me.
‘I have specially trained officers available to me, who are helping to take care of me and to explain the investigative processes that are being undertaken.’
Shortly after the statement was released last night, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in London said they ‘doubted much’ that it was genuinely from Ms Skripal.
‘If everything mentioned there is true we cannot but congratulate our compatriot,’ he said.
‘However, with no possibility to verify it, the publication by the Metropolitan Police raises new questions rather than gives answers.
‘As before, we would like to make sure that the statement really belongs to Yulia. So far, we doubt it much.
‘The text has been composed in a special way so as to support official statements made by British authorities and at the same time to exclude every possibility of Yulia’s contacts with the outer world – consuls, journalists and even relatives.
‘We are surprised by the point about the ‘access to friends and family’. Not a single friend or relative quoted by Russian or British media confirms such contacts.
‘As far as we know, the Skripals have no relatives closer than Yulia’s cousin Viktoria and their grandmother Elena [Sergey’s mother], who live together. A question arises: what family is Yulia in contact with?
‘We have also noticed the apparent contradiction between the phone conversation in which Yulia says to Viktoria that ‘everything is fine’ with her and her father, and their health condition as described in today’s Met Police statement.
‘Particularly amazing is the phrase ‘no one speaks for me’ appearing in a statement which, instead of being read on camera by Yulia herself, is published at Scotland Yard website.
‘To sum up, the document only strengthens suspicions that we are dealing with a forcible isolation of the Russian citizen.
‘If British authorities are interested in assuring the public that this is not the case, they must urgently provide tangible evidence that Yulia is alright and not deprived of her freedom.’
Miss Skripal, 33, and her 66-year-old father were targeted in a poison plot in Salisbury five weeks ago, but the daughter has now been discharged from hospital.
It is believed that British authorities immediately spirited Miss Skripal away to a secure location when she was discharged from hospital.
The Russian embassy reacted angrily, suggesting in a series of tweets that the Russian national had been taken against her will.
Former double agent Mr Skripal was jailed in Russia for selling secrets to MI6 but was released as part of a spy swap deal in 2010 and settled in the UK.
It is hoped he will soon be fit for release from hospital, despite grave fears that the exposure to military-grade nerve agent Novichok on March 4 would prove fatal.
Britain has said Russian state involvement is the only plausible explanation for the attack and has led a worldwide reaction involving the expulsion of more than 100 diplomats.
Yulia Skripal called for family members, including her cousin Viktoria (pictured), not to speak on behalf of her or her stricken father
Yulia Skripal: A timeline of the spy daughter’s poisoning case
Yulia had lived and worked in Britain after her father went to Britain in an exchange with glamour spy Anna Chapman in 2010
March 3, 2018 – Yulia Skripal arrives at Heathrow Airport from Russia to visit her father in England.
March 4, 2.20 pm to 3.35pm – Sergei and Yulia Skripal have lunch at the Zizzi restaurant.
March 4, 4.15pm – Emergency services are called by a passer-by concerned about a man and a woman in Salisbury city centre.
Officers find the Skripals unconscious on a bench. They are taken to Salisbury District Hospital, where they remain in critical condition.
March 7 – Police announce that the Skripals were likely poisoned with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt.
They disclose that a police officer who responded to the incident is in serious condition in a hospital.
March 12, morning– Prime Minister Theresa May tells the House of Commons that the Skripals were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
March 29 – Doctors say Yulia Skripal is ‘improving rapidly’ in hospital.
April 5, morning – Yulia Skripal’s cousin Viktoria says she has received a call from Yulia saying she plans to leave hospital soon.
April 5, afternoon – A statement on behalf of Yulia is released by Metropolitan Police, in which she says her strength is ‘growing daily’ and that ‘daddy is fine’.
April 9: Yulia Skripal is discharged from Salisbury District Hospital and is taken to a secure location. Medical director Dr Christine Blanshard said: ‘This is not the end of her treatment but marks a significant milestone.’