Monday, March 19, 2018

Chemical agents alleged to have been used by Russia in Skripils’s poisoning.

What is totally insane about all of these allegations against Russia is that so far they have not identified the nerve agent that was used against Skrpil and his daughter. As far as one can tell from what the British have revealed about this attempted killing is that the agent is an organophosphate triester acety choline (ach) inhibitor. This is a class of chemicals that include hundreds if not thousands of different compounds. As a matter of fact most of these compounds can be synthesized in very simple labs if there is an individual that has the knowledge. It would be possible to put together such a lab in a single family house with a natural gas, electric hook ups and a good kitchen sink along with a few thousand dollars to purchase the right flasks, pumps and temperature controllers.

The suggestion by May that Russia is one of the only countries in the world capable of making this stuff is totally laughable. In the last 80 years the organophosphate neurotoxins have been used by and produced by dozens of countries as insecticides. These chemicals were discovered by German chemists in the 1920s. The difference between an insecticide and a chemical warfare agent is no more than a simple side chain about the phosphate core.

At this point there close to zero evidence that the agent used to intoxicate the Skripils was something uniquely available to Russia.[1]

I understand that sarin is not something that you can mix up in your garage. I read that the oddball Japanese sect that released sarin in the subway years ago brewed their own but they actually had considerable resources to produce it safely. That said, I don’t know offhand whether sarin is also an organophosphate triester ach inhibitor like this 'Novichok' or Novichok-type agent.

It does seem clear that it is highly likely that the nature of the potent new agent became known at a minimum to the U.S.:

Since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan has been working with the government of the United States to dismantle and decontaminate the sites where the Novichok agents and other chemical weapons were tested and developed.[2]
If a technical person is going to decontaminate an area, he has to know what kind of a problem he has. His first question would most definitely be, “What have we got here?”

Bottom line: even if U.K. Prime Minister May has correctly identified the substance used in the attack on the Skripils, it cannot be said that only the Russians knew the formula and only they could manufacture it.

[1] Comment by ToivoS on “Theresa May's '45 Minutes' Moment.” By b, Moon of Alabama, 3/12/18.
[2] Wikepedia quoted by b, supra.

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