Toxic Salisbury

This week in the British media, disturbing reports appeared of a man and a woman hospitalized in Salisbury Hospital in the UK with symptoms of poisoning by an unknown substance. The victims were found unconscious in a private house near Salisbury. Incredibly, once again reference was made to "Novichok". In this situation, it will not be easy for neither Theresa May nor Boris Johnson to explain their previous high-profile statements. Interestingly, once more no explanation based on concrete evidence of the tragic event is offered, only speculation based on assumptions. It is likely that the investigation will be inaccessible to the public. So what happens in the ill-fated Salisbury in reality?

Almost four months have passed since the poisoning of the Skripals, but the final outcome of the official investigation of the Salisbury incident never reached the public domain. In the dark shadow of the ballyhoo, remains Porton Down, a mysterious military biology laboratory, which by ‘accidentally’, is located in a suburb of Salisbury.

Officially, this laboratory is engaged in scientific research and technology in the field of defence and security, as well as the disposal of obsolete weapons. However, among other things, Porton Down has an impressive history of experiments in the use of toxic substances. According to open sources, from 1949 to 1989 the laboratory experiments were conducted with the participation of volunteers from the British military. Later on, from 1999 to 2006, a special investigation of the laboratory was organized, according to which up to twenty thousand people could have been participants in the experiments.

In addition, in the mid-50s, VX gas was tested in the research centre grounds, belonging to the same class of combat toxic substances as the well-known "Novichok". However, most interesting of all, is that specialists of Porton Down were involved in the Toxic Dagger exercises in the days of the Skripals’ poisoning. About three hundred Royal Marines and specialists of the Porton Down laboratory worked out the issues of detection and combating of chemical contamination. Accidental or not, the final report on the exercises was published on the official website of Royal Navy on March 6, that is, two days after the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter.

Despite the initial response, this information was pushed out of the public domain in a relatively short time. Maybe Skripal and his daughter could become random (or not random?) victims of British exercises. Significantly, more than thirty scientists and biologists over the last twenty years lost their lives in Salisbury and the surrounding area under mysterious circumstances. The discerning intelligent observer may draw his/her own conclusions as to where the truth lies.

The staging of the Skripals’ poisoning in Salisbury, as well as the monstrous hoax in the Syrian Duma, including the use of children to simulate the effects of a chemical attack, have provoked a fresh wave of debate on the topic of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). This is a good development. However, we need to guard against disorientation, if we lose sight of important facts in this discussion.

In mid-March, the developer of the neural paralytic agent "Novichok" eighty-three-year-old Will Mirzayanov said that only states are able to produce such substances. His claim was soon refuted by David Collam, Professor of Organic Chemistry at Cornell University. Collam said that his students working in various laboratories could develop this poison within a short period of time.

As it transpired a whole list of countries could produce such a poisonous substance. For instance, representatives of the Iranian authorities reported that a number of states, including NATO members, own the formula for the production of "Novichok".

Another interesting question concerns the fate of former Soviet laboratories. We would be probably amazed to learn about the island Renaissance in the Southwestern part of the Aral sea on the Kazakh-Uzbek border. Here the US not only study samples of toxic substances created by Soviet scientists, but also create a network of new laboratories. In 2015 not far from Kazakhstan's Almaty, the Americans opened a high-tech laboratory for the study of bubonic plague - without a clear explanation of why they need it. The United States sent significant funds to support civilian research laboratories in the city of Stepnogorsk. Since 1999, American specialists have been taking part in the work of the laboratory in the Uzbek city of Nukus, where research on the development of the "Novichok" was conducted.

It seems that the US is using small states with unstable political regimes, ridden with economic difficulties. Apparently, Washington seeks to create an extensive network of laboratories whose activities bypass the strict control rules adopted in the US and in European countries. In addition, these laboratories are completely beyond the control of international inspectors. The activities of such centres are believed to be under the coordination of five American ministries: defence, energy, agriculture, health as well as the State Department. It would be interesting to thoroughly examine whether they stimulate large-scale illegal business of biological and chemical weapons.

Under the guise of the need to provide services to the UN in observance of relevant Security Council resolutions, the United States get access to all significant projects in the field of biological and chemical weapons. In this connection, Washington finances public or private companies that the government deems necessary.

At the same time, London and Washington pushed for change in the mandate of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The outcome of the special session of the conference of the participating states of the OPCW Convention granted the right to establish the fact of culpability in conducting of chemical attacks.

It is no secret that the change in the OPCW's mandate was adopted in order to bypass the veto of Russia and China in the UN Security Council, transferring part of its functions to the OPCW. Therefore, this can be regarded as an attack on the exclusive prerogatives of the UN Security Council. The United States and Britain seek to overstep the OPCW Convention. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has since its inception been mandated to engage in purely technical activities. The UK-US drive is to impose on the OPCW the prosecutor's function, the function of investigation. There is nothing like this in the Convention.

London's policy to grant the OPCW new powers risks the OPCW regime collapse. Disputing the fundamental principles of the organization, puts its very existence in danger. The question of expediency of what is happening arises. The whole situation smacks of the Titanic disaster: the vessel receives water through a hole and begins to sink. Unilateral decisions can have serious consequences for the world order.

Nevertheless, the last incident in Salisbury furnishes a great opportunity to test in practice the new warrants of OPCW, London so eagerly promotes. There is hope that OPCW will conduct an investigation and identify the culprits of this crime in terms fixed by the revamped OPCW mandate. May be the next exercises of Porton Down military biological laboratory…