Talk:Poisoning of Sergei Skripal

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This is a talk page for discussing Poisoning of Sergei Skripal. For sources, claims and narratives see the main page. (To see what is hot, see recent changes)

Skripal and Steele dossier

I do not think Skripal' played a big role in Steele dossier. He is not a 'trusted compatriot', obviously, and even less an insider like 'a former intelligence officer still active in Kremlin', or 'a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure' , etc (in Steele dossier open version, info is attributed to trusted compatriots who are friends of insiders, or some auxiliary figures like hotel workers with allegedly first-hand knowledge

Source E provided an introduction for a company ethnic Russian operative to Source F, a female staffer at the hotel when TRUMP had stayed there, who also confirmed the story.--here I am not getting the language, what's the 'company' that operative is working for?
"Company" in the Steele dossier refers to Steele's company "Orbis Business Intelligence". -- Petri Krohn (talk) 23:40, 8 March 2018 (UTC)

Not being an insider or trusted friend, his role is at most minimal. On top of it, the report is pretty ridiculous and I think nobody took it too seriously. So what's the point going after Skripal, for his (alleged) role in the report? This would create much more damaging to Russia situation than Steele report itself--Resup (talk) 23:23, 8 March 2018 (UTC)

What would be the point of accusing Trump of murdering Skripal? Gee! Maybe Trump and Putin murdered him together!
Quote: The dossier has sparked a formal investigation in the US into Russian collusion in the US presidential election, to the fury of both presidents Trump and Putin.
If the Kremlin believed that Col Skripal might have helped with the compilation of the dossier, it could explain the motive for the assassination attempt in Salisbury town centre.
-- Petri Krohn (talk) 23:44, 8 March 2018 (UTC)


  • Poisoned Russian spy Sergei Skripal’s daughter Yulia could have unwittingly released nerve agent after opening gift ‘from friends’ - The Sun, March 8, 2018
    A theory not totally without merits, but unlikely. Bringing gifts is traditional; tainting a gift does not require sending operatives; it lowers threshold and may be attempted as personal revenge (say, by somebody directly affected by his actions, as it is said that he passed list of Russian agents to British services). But unlikely, everybody is aware of such possibility, even more so a former intelligence officer, and his daughter is enough of an adult and was with him long enough to know, too. I believe the occasion was anniversary of his son death, who had sudden liver failure, and poisoning suspected. It is unlikely that they will celebrate the event by drinking or eating something of uncertain origin, that would be odd. A gift is most likely opened at home well before the collapse, not taken to a restaurant (where it is said that traces found, and which is a likely place for poisoning to occur). Also, that 'gift' will be found and quite likely traced (assuming no false flagging). If it is traced to Russia, it can be brought to a Russian court, and cooperation is not out of the question. --Resup (talk) 08:28, 11 March 2018 (UTC)
Let's say there were two gifts, one left at the house and one taken to the restaurant; and Rozzer got poisoned when he inspected the remaining gift, or at least the packaging.
I'm guessing the gift was opened on the park bench and not before. I'm also guessing the poison wasn't that common as there would have been some official statement - rather that wild-arsed self-publicising guesses by HBG and equally self-serving vacuum filling rambling by Kaszeta. --Charles Wood (talk) 08:43, 11 March 2018 (UTC)


  • Was Russian spy poisoned by flowers? Chemical experts examine bouquet left by the double agent at his wife's grave -Daily Mail, March 10, 2018
  • Russian spy poisoning probe 'focusing on flowers he took to wife's grave' amid claims nerve agent found at restaurant -The Mirror, March 11, 2018
    That seems unusual, fresh flowers coming from a 'friend'. 'Women's day' (March 8) approaching, could not resist? But it is said that the placed the flowers on the grave some time (few hours) before they collapsed. Not impossible, but not very convincing either, unless confirmed by tests. Tabloids do not say who the 'friend' was, or from which side of the iron curtain. --Resup (talk) 15:47, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

Litvinenko again

One thing that is common to the Skripal and Litvinenko cases is that traces of poison were found in multiple places, all of which could not be explained by a single act of poisoning. Litvinenko met Mario Scaramella in a sushi restaurant in Piccadilly before he met Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun at the the Millennium Hotel. Both places had traces of Polonium 210.

Finding traces in multiple places unconnected to the assassination itself may be a sign that the traces were left intentionally as fake evidence. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 19:49, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

Litvinenko case may be different, or whatever, and I do not feel like going into it (not having anything to contribute too). Yet I note the official inquiry position: there were two poisoning incidents with Litvinenko, the first is much weaker, and estimated by hair growth to be some weeks earlier. While on October 16, 2006 he had a business meeting with Tim Reiley and the prime official suspects attending (6.87--6.101). They minus Reiley went to Itsu after that. Office where they met was found to be contaminated, and the officiial report attributes Itsu contamination to the same source (ie apparently 16 October, not Scaramella meeting of 1 November. Report also claims that a different table was contaminated (table they sat was provided by Scaramella) --Resup (talk) 21:22, 11 March 2018 (UTC)


  • A-230 Substance 84 the first one synthesized in 1981 by Petr Kirpichev, formula molecule drawing in Mirzayanov's book (2009)
  • A-232 (Novichok -5), synthesized in 1987, molecule drawing in Mirzayanov's book, said to accidentally poison scientist Zhelezhnyakov, said to be binary, and the only binary agent developed in the USSR

Mirzayanov book also has molecule drawings of

  • A-208 (substance 33), VR gas, Russian version of VX;
  • A-234
  • A-242
  • A-262
  • Also, he gives Russian code names of Sarin (A-235); Soman (A-255) (no drawings for those).

Mirzayanov arrest date, 22 October, 1992.

Early 1990's developments are said to be

Sources for Novichok 7,8,9:

Original sources for Novichok 7,8,9 claims are unclear, molecular formulas or drawings not known to us.

--Resup (talk) 18:25, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Some useful information on Reddit. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 11:34, 18 March 2018 (UTC)

Making Novichok

Novichok/derivatives synthesised at laboratory scale by CW researchers in 2016. Samples used to calibrate Mass Spectrometer equipment for later detection of field use of the agents.

Fragmentation pathways and structural characterization of organophosphorus compounds related to the Chemical Weapons Convention by electron ionization and electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry

The paper includes precise synthesis instructions including where to source the raw materials (Sigma Aldrich)


(Someone with more skills than me may care to make it a proper citation entry) --Charles Wood (talk) 18:13, 16 March 2018 (UTC)

Resembles A-230, A-242 from the book but different chain following N of P-N (unclear how derivative is the derivative...). Noted, Methylphosphonyl difluoride (cpd 1 in the article) is not from the shop and is a CW precursor --Resup (talk) 20:14, 16 March 2018 (UTC)
As resup notes. it is not entirely clear if they are making actual Novichok compounds or compounds with the same building blocks. We need a chem expert to comment. Irrespective, the syntheisis seems straightforward so making actual Novichok compounds should be equally as easy --Charles Wood (talk) 20:10, 16 March 2018 (UTC)

A summary of the state of affairs

  • Ryan De Vooght-Johnson, Iranian chemists identify Russian chemical warfare agents, Spectroscopy now, Jan. 1, 2017
    The Iranian researchers synthesised five ‘Novichok’ agents, along with four deuterated analogues. They were all O-alkyl N-[bis(dimethylamino)methylidene]-P-methylphosphonamidate compounds (i.e. molecules with the typical nerve agent phosphorus group coupled to N,N,N’N’-tetramethylguanidine). The O-alkyl group was varied, with the methoxy, ethoxy, isopropoxy, phenoxy, and 2,6-dimethylphenoxy derivatives being prepared. The syntheses were carried out on a micro-scale in order to minimize exposure.
    The data have been added to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Central Analytical Database (OCAD).
    --Resup (talk) 20:39, 16 March 2018 (UTC)

Craig Murray has taken note of the Iranian research.

The year is wrong. The original paper appeared in 2016, the summary in Spectroscopy now is dated January 1, 2017. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 21:28, 17 March 2018 (UTC)

Did the Novichok program exist?

A comment by yoffa on Moon of Alabama:

I think the underlying assumption of your post - that a Novichok programme existed - is open to serious doubt.
The only source for the story of a Soviet/Russian programme to develop a new class of military nerve agents codenamed Novichoks is a defector in the 1990s named Vil Mirzayanov. He claimed that one of these compounds was 5 to 8 times more toxic than VX and that production of these compounds had continued after the Chemical Weapons Convention came into effect. He explained the many publications in the open literature by Soviet chemists on compounds with similar structures as a deception to provide cover for secret research on other more toxic compounds, and gave structures for these compounds.
A review of chemical warfare agents in 2016 ( by Robin Black, who had just retired as head of the detection lab at Porton Down, states that there is no independent confirmation of Mirzayanov's claims about the chemical properties of Novichok compounds.
The report of the OPCW's Scientific Advisory Board's meeting in April 2013 made a similar statement, and did not recommend adding these compounds or their precursors to the list of scheduled chemicals banned or restricted under the CWC. The members of the scientific advisory board included people who, like Black, were heads of western chemical defence labs. These labs would almost surely have undertaken experimental tests of Mirzayanov's claims about the toxicity of these compounds. So if members of the scientific advisory board who were in a position to know the results of these experiments did not recommend adding these compounds to the list of scheduled chemicals, we can reasonably infer that they were not found to be military grade nerve agents.
The British government is now demanding that Russia make a full disclosure of its Novichok programme by Tuesday evening. A Russian denial that such a programme existed will be taken as proof of guilt.

-- Petri Krohn (talk) 03:05, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

'Novichok' is a word, not a weapon. Anything not seen before out of a broad class of chemicals, pesticide or nerve agent, may be called 'Novichok' and used for propaganda. It needs to be (1) specific chemical (2) detailed signature of the recovered sample. There could be a program called 'Novichok' back from Soviet days, or maybe there was no such thing, in any case this is classified. They are not going to declassify it on the basis of a magic word pronounced, this is not serious. Give them sample details, and not through May-media. Otherwise this is is really justification for whatever measures they have already prepared. --Resup (talk) 09:20, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Lavrov: Russia did not receive a request by the official channels (2) Russia 'immediately' (сразу же) officially requested access to the chemical [sample], and to all facts concerning the investigation, since Yulia Skripal is a Russian citizen. We have received 'an inarticulate answer' (невнятный ответ), and the request was 'denied' (отказано) --Resup(talk) 12:37, 13 March 2018 (UTC)
An amendment: it is said (see below) that 'Novichok' has over a 100 variants, with chemicals composing a few of them published by Mirzayanov (who was out of the program in the 1990's and since emigrated and works in academia in USA). Thus, a few (alleged) compounds are known, but with details openly published by 2009, others can figure out how to synthesize those; also with the development being Soviet, not Russian, other former USSR republics may have it too. For the unpublished versions of Novichok, the above comment applies, one can say that anything not seen or rare, of a broad class, is Novichok, in one of those many unpublished versions. And no leaks on Russian (i.e developed after 1991), not Soviet compounds. Compare with Theresa May statement, 'military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia', etc. Peter Wilson later statement uses same language. --Resup (talk) 05:33, 14 March 2018 (UTC)

There is a good description of the alleged chemical weapons program in this document on pages 18-20. The Interview with Vladimir Uglav originally appeared in Novoye Vremya in February 1993 and was translated into English be the U.S. Department of Commerce. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 13:11, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Uglev, p.18: During the entire 15 years of my work in the laboratory, more than a hundred substances of this class were synthesized. Only five of them representing a significant "war interest" went through the full investigation. The dubious honor of discovering three of them belongs to me.
Also: according to the Russian Wikipedia it is a family which consists of more than a hundred similar compounds, not one thing--Resup (talk) 13:36, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Sakahrov center: Mirzayanov was charged for treason in Russia, but then released and the criminal case dropped. He then emigrated to USA, where he works at university as has his chemical lab there. He posted some twits on Syrian chemical weapons (opposing Syrian and Russian governments), reproduced on Cassad . Supports British version on Skripal --Resup (talk) 17:34, 13 March 2018 (UTC)

Disinformation operation?

Andrey Lazarchuk writes on Facebook and also reposted here:

-- Petri Krohn (talk) 02:23, 18 March 2018 (UTC)

I have seen this, but my impression is that this is essentially denial PR. Several people came forward, Mirzayanov not the only one; one scientist, Zheleznyakov, received accidental poisoning (and said to support those coming forward), two more people said to die after unauthorized use. Most of it is coming from Mirzayanov, but I do not have an impression that he is intentionally lying. Disinfo campaign, a possibility in principle, but with the development running for many years with many people involved, colleagues, students, etc not likely. The attitude at the time of his publications was that CW program is going to be abandoned and convention implemented (thus Merzayanov was released and allowed to leave to the West); and KGB was in weak position overall, seen as repressive. So over-the top major disinfo effort, with massive staging, is not very likely, and if it was felt that CW are to be abandoned, -not very meaningful. -Resup (talk) 03:38, 18 March 2018 (UTC)


Novichok 5, and likely 7,8,9 are binaries, presumably mixed on the spot from precursors. Detecting presence of the agent as such should be doable (GC; MS; spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, NMR), and there may be tests developed to do it quickly, but detailed signature pointing to the origin (purity, impurities, by-products, etc) is difficult as it is mixed locally and detailed composition depend on the local mix. So they need to find a way to do it despite those local mix variations (and essentially detailing precursors, not the mix) , and it is not clear whether they are capable of doing it reliably (and quickly enough). Also, this needs to be done on real samples taken from victims or the scene and so containing lots of contaminants not just the agent (unless they found true source of poisoning, unclear they did). --Resup (talk) 20:37, 15 March 2018 (UTC)

The convention says: synthesis of Schedule 1 chemicals for research, medical or pharmaceutical purposes, but not for protective purposes, may be carried out at laboratories in aggregate quantities of less than 100g per facility. But 100g should be enough for what happened, and those 100g may be produced afresh, not taken from a big batch of CW in industrial quantities. In that case, no signature, or it is at least very difficult, or impossible if there are no further clues to help. --Resup (talk) 18:26, 17 March 2018 (UTC)

Other poison possibilities

Doctors see no sign of a nerve agent being used.


Fentanyl transdermal patches are available for pain control. So it can obviously cross the skin barrier but probably not quick enough to knock people out (incidentally I've had Fentanyl in medical procedures. It's not that active when administered topically)

There is a chemical derivative of Fentanyl Kolokol-1 which is gaseous and is alleged to have been used in the Moscow Hostage Crisis. It's possible, but probably ineffective in an open air setting --Charles Wood (talk) 08:53, 11 March 2018 (UTC)

A recent case of death from exposure to fentanyl in the United States: -- Petri Krohn (talk) 03:08, 13 March 2018 (UTC)


Parathion, an agricultural chemical, was used as a nerve agent in Rhodesia when it was impregnated on clothing to be picked up and worn by insurgents. Along with Thallium an estimated 1000+ insurgents were killed by these means. It works slowly enough to be considered a possible poison in the Skripal case - though what it was carried on is yet to be determined. --Charles Wood (talk) 18:28, 11 March 2018 (UTC)


Botulinum toxin

See also main page

I now suspect that Sergei Skripal and her daughter are suffering from botulism, caused by the "Risotto Pesce" they ate at the Zizzi restaurant. There was no "novichok agent" involved. The British investigators seem not to have a sample on the nerve agent. They do not know when and where it was administered to the Skripals. They have not identified the container used to transport it into the country or to the attack site. They have no suspects for the assumed attack. Maybe Yulia Skripal brought the nerve agent from Russia, but then it would need to have been in some container the police would have found by now.

Botulinum toxin is a neurotoxic protein with effects somewhat similar to those of nerve agents. It is the most acutely lethal toxin known, with an estimated LD50 of under 2 ng/kg intravenously. There is no evidence for the use of a nerve agent except the words of politicians, and maybe a reading on some mass spectrometer in Porton Down. For all I know the blip can be the result of random impurities, contamination of the environment around Porton Down or simple mass hysteria. -- Petri Krohn (talk) 21:06, 17 March 2018 (UTC)


See Tetrodotoxin on Wikipedia

Tetrodotoxin would fit the timeframe of eating seafood risotto at the Zizzi restaurant and getting paralyzed on the park bench.

Wrong Identification?

IMO, Botulinum toxin quite unlikely different mechanism and speed of onset, so I guess different symptoms, severity, treatment. Molecule is a protein monster compared to nerve agents, (here), and result is muscle tone weakness while for nerve agent a spasm. It also likely needs incompetence or outright falsification at Porton, and it's unlikely. I'd think there may be false positive bump on GC, less likely on mass spectrometry, ions mass to charge measurement is accurate and a misinterpretation or malfunction needed for this to go wrong; and spectroscopy is very accurate, so it will need a serious misinterpretation. But once they are serious onto confirming the theory, they can do all those tests, and failing them all is not going to happen. Also, they will test for everything, including bacteria, and will find botulinum bacteria. Does not mean that it's definitely fool-proof though, but needs something like this: (1) there is a pesticide out there with chemical structure close enough to pass all the tests which they actually had time to do, and it may be less testing then everything available as they were pressed with time and conclusions Seafood, especially farmed one, is the most polluted food out there, collecting everything. (Or maybe, as a theory, Porton Down somehow produces enough pollution to be detectable by Porton Down itself--Mirzayanov job in the USSR was to guard against similar issues) (2) bacterial test did not come back yet. That may take weeks, up to a month, farming bacteria in a dish and counting. (3) something else, apparently more sudden and violent then 'normal' botulism, put the victims in their jeopardy, and (4) pretty many of people are eating stuff that looks like a nerve agent to the chemlab nerds --Resup (talk) 22:19, 17 March 2018 (UTC)