Russia has lost a vote at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on it attempt top seek a new joint investigation into Salisbury poisoning, Reuters is reporting.
An unnamed diplomatic source told the agency that the vote was lost by 15-6 with 17 OPCW member states abstaining. Russia gained support from China, Azerbaijan, Sudan, Algeria and Iran, Reuters said.
- Russia has called for a meeting of the United Nations security council to discuss the Salisbury nerve agent attack. (See 5.11pm.)
- Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has accused Jeremy Corbyn of “playing Russia’s game” over Salisbury. (See 5.02pm.) He hit back at the Labour leader after Labour accused him of “misleading the public” in what he said about Porton Down being “categorical” about the nerve agent used in the attack coming from Russia. (See 12.47pm.)
‘Absolutely categorical’: Boris Johnson insists novichok was made in Russia – video
- The Foreign Office has deleted a tweet saying Porton Down confirmed the Salisbury novichok nerve agent was produced in Russia. (See 12.26pm.)
- Sergei Naryshkin, the director of Russia’s foreign intelligence service, has said the Salisbury attack was a “grotesque provocation rudely staged by the British and US intelligence agencies.” (See 12.13pm.)
That’s all from me for today.
My colleague Peter Walker is now taking over the blog.
The Russian embassy has tweeted this about its call for a meeting of the UN security council.
Russian Embassy, UK(@RussianEmbassy)
Russia to convene UN Security Council emergency meeting on 5 April on the Salisbury poisoning pic.twitter.com/xCj4fjw4mi
April 4, 2018
On its website the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has published various papers from today’s meetings.
They include the texts of statements delivered by 10 ambassadors or representatives, and an update from the director general.
Russia has requested a United Nations security council meeting tomorrow to discuss British accusations that Moscow used a nerve agent to attack a former Russian spy in England last month, Reuters reports. The Russian ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said the meeting would be convened on the basis of a March 13 letter sent to the UN security council by Theresa May, which said Moscow was “highly likely” responsible for the attack. The 15-member council first met on March 14, at the request of Britain, to discuss the attack in Britain’s Salisbury.
Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the UN Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images
A standard ruse for a politician facing criticism is to launch a diversionary counter-attack. That’s what Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, has done in three tweets he has just posted.
Johnson did not even try to explain the discrepancy between what the head of Porton Down said yesterday and what he told German TV. (See 11.23am.) Instead he accused Jeremy Corbyn of “playing Russia’s game” and siding with the Russian spin machine.
It is lamentable that Jeremy Corbyn is now playing Russia’s game and trying to discredit the UK over Salisbury attack.
Let’s remember the key facts:
April 4, 2018
1) Porton Down identified nerve agent as military grade Novichok; 2) Russia has investigated delivering nerve agents,likely for assassination,& as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks; 3) Russia has motive for targeting Sergei Skripal.
April 4, 2018
28 other countries have been so convinced by UK case they have expelled Russians. In contrast, Jeremy Corbyn chooses to side with the Russian spin machine.
April 4, 2018
The charge that Corbyn was “playing Russia’s game” might be true if the Labour leader was casting doubt on whether Moscow was to blame for the Salisbury attack. But he has not been doing that in what he has been saying today. Instead, Corbyn has just been asking Johnson to explain the discrepancy between what he said on German TV, about Porton Down being “categorical” about the nerve agent coming from Russia, and the Porton Down boss Gary Aitkenhead saying his laboratory could not prove that.
Jeremy Corbyn questions Boris Johnson’s claim on Russian-made novichok – video
I quote one of Corbyn’s comments on this at 1.38pm. The Press Association also quotes Corbyn as saying this:
[Johnson] claimed categorically, and I think he used the words 101%, that it had come from Russia. Porton Down have not said that, they said that they’ve identified it as Novichok, they cannot identify the source of it.
Either the foreign secretary has information that he’s not sharing with Porton Down or it was a bit of exaggeration. I don’t know which it is, but I think we need a responsible, cool approach to this.
We need to get to the source of this to prevent it ever happening again.
Corbyn has accepted that Russia is to blame for the Salisbury attack, but he has not said the Russian government was necessarily directly responsible. It might have been to blame by letting novichok get into the wrong hands, he implied. He set out his most recent position (slightly different from his initial reaction) last week in the House of Commons.
The Russian embassy in the Netherlands says 13 countries are backing a Russian-approved statement at the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) meeting in the Hague today.
Countries that supported the Joint statement to the @OPCW with connection with the incident in Salisbury: 🇧🇾 🇸🇾 🇰🇿 🇦🇲 🇦🇿 🇮🇷 🇷🇺 🇻🇪 🇰🇬 🇵🇰 🇹🇯 🇺🇿 🇳🇮 🇨🇺 #cwc #opcw pic.twitter.com/Gw1JTsFnl3
My colleague Patrick Wintour says they are the usual Russian allies.
The 14 strong coalition at the OPCW that backed Russia has a familiar look – Cuba, Pakistan, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, Belarus, Armenia, the Stans. https://t.co/hNhj9lv9Hc
April 4, 2018
The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said today that he hoped “common sense” would prevail in the dispute with the UK over the Salisbury attack. Speaking at a press conference in Ankara, in Turkey, he said:
We wait for the moment when, finally, common sense comes out victorious, and international relations stop receiving the damage that we are witnessing right now.
Vladimir Putin at his press conference in Ankara Photograph: MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/KREMLIN / POOL/EPA
Yesterday’s Porton Down statement represents a vindication of sorts for Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan (his book about his time there, Murder in Samarkand, is very good) who left the Foreign Office after becoming increasingly outspoken on the subject of human rights and who now blogs and campaigns, largely from an ultra alternative and anti-establishment viewpoint.
His suggestion that Israel is just as likely to have been to blame for the Salisbury attack as Russia would probably be seen by many people as borderline delusional.
But his Porton Down blog from three weeks ago has stood the test of time. He wrote:
I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve agent as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so. Porton Down would only sign up to the formulation “of a type developed by Russia” after a rather difficult meeting where this was agreed as a compromise formulation. The Russians were allegedly researching, in the “Novichok” programme a generation of nerve agents which could be produced from commercially available precursors such as insecticides and fertilisers. This substance is a “novichok” in that sense. It is of that type. Just as I am typing on a laptop of a type developed by the United States, though this one was made in China.
To anybody with a Whitehall background this has been obvious for several days. The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation “of a type developed by Russia” was used by Theresa May in parliament, used by the UK at the UN Security Council, used by Boris Johnson on the BBC yesterday and, most tellingly of all, “of a type developed by Russia” is the precise phrase used in the joint communique issued by the UK, USA, France and Germany yesterday …
When the same extremely careful phrasing is never deviated from, you know it is the result of a very delicate Whitehall compromise.
Murray has written another blog today saying the Foreign Office has been lying (which, of course, they deny – see 12.19pm.)
EU leaders also seem to be standing by their assessment that Russia was to blame for the Salisbury attack, despite yesterday’s comment from Porton Down. An ambassador speaking on behalf of the EU made that point to the Organisation for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons earlier. (See 1.24pm.)
In Brussels, when asked about this issue, the European commission’s spokesman, Alexander Winterstein, said:
Our understanding is that the role of the experts there was to identify the type of agent that was used, not the source of the agent. That’s also what the experts have done. They did identify the nerve agent Novichok. That is what they have done.
In Berlin the spokeswoman for the German government, Ulrike Demmer, said “nothing has changed” in the light of the Porton Down comments. She went on:
We share Britain’s view that there is a high likelihood that Russia is behind it.
And the French embassy in the UK has tweeted this.
French Embassy UK(@FranceintheUK)
On #Skripal case, Paris
– says @OPCW is in charge of lending assistance to verify UK investigation’s findings;
– urges Russia to answer UK’s questions;
– and reiterates solidarity with UK https://t.co/LamcJXOGWc pic.twitter.com/YEURehTaGX
April 4, 2018
Sir Vince Cable, the Lib Dem leader, told the Press Association today that yesterday’s comments from the Porton Down boss had not led him to change his mind about Russia being to blame for the Salisbury attack. He said:
It hasn’t changed my view. I was a cabinet minister for five years, I worked very closely with the intelligence agencies.
I trust them. I think they’re highly professional and objective, and what they tell us and what the prime minister has said is that the overwhelming circumstantial evidence is that the Russians were involved, and I believe that.
I’ve many other differences with the government, but I do support their position on this issue.
Vince Cable Photograph: Paul Davey / Barcroft Images