Saturday 19 January 2019

Nerve agent scientist says hundreds will be at risk for years

Yulia Skripal arrived at Heathrow the day before the attack
Yulia Skripal arrived at Heathrow the day before the attack

Jonathan Gray in London

One of the Russian chemical weapons scientists who developed the Novichok nerve agent has warned that hundreds of people could be at risk for years following the attack in Salisbury.

Dr Vil Mirzayanov, who fled to the US two decades ago, claimed Sergei Skripal and his daughter would not recover from the poisoning.

"There is no cure," he told Sky News from his home in New Jersey. "There are antidotes but … they will be invalid for [their] whole life."

Dr Mirzayanov said Novichok was so powerful that extremely small doses could remain a danger to public health for years.

"I suppose it's very bad because even the very small doses, very small, still they are very effective and then there will be consequences for years probably," he added.

The scientist said public health advice, including washing clothes and sealing belongings, was "not enough" and confirmed that hundreds of people could be at risk.

Asked whether he felt guilty for his part in developing Novichok, he added: "I participated in this criminal enterprise, because of that I'm probably the most fiery enemy of these chemical weapons. It's a weapon of mass murder."

Neil Basu, assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said 38 people had been seen by doctors in relation to the incident. He told a press conference that 34 of those patients had been assessed and discharged, with Mr Skripal, his daughter and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey remaining in hospital and one person being monitored as an outpatient.

The officer said anyone known to have been in the same area as the victims has been directly contacted, adding: "This is over a week later - people are not presenting symptoms, we are not seeing them."

Mr Basu said he could not comment on how the nerve agent was administered but vowed that police would leave "no stone unturned in establishing the full circumstance of the attack".

He issued a new appeal for anyone who saw the pair in Mr Skripal's car - a red BMW - in Salisbury between 1pm and 1.45pm on the day of the attack to call police.

Ms Skripal had arrived at Heathrow to visit her father the previous day, and they arrived in the Sainsbury's upper level car park in The Maltings at 1.40pm. They went to The Mill pub before going to Zizzi's for lunch. Emergency services received the first report from members of the public who saw them slumped on a bench at 4.15pm.

Irish Independent

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