Russian Federation has been spying on Skripals for five years, security adviser says

Yulia Skripal was poisoned with a nerve agent in England last month

Yulia Skripal was poisoned with a nerve agent in England last month

Russian Federation had tested whether door handles could be used to deliver nerve agents and had targeted the email accounts of Sergei and Yulia Skripal since at least 2013, according to previously classified intelligence over the Salisbury attack that has been made public.

The strongest concentration of the Novichok nerve agent found in the Salisbury incident was on the front door handle of Mr Skripal's home.

Moscow has hit back by expelling Western diplomats, questioning how Britain knows that Russian Federation was responsible and suggesting it stemmed from a plot by British secret services.

Mr Sedwill - who published the letter on Twitter on Friday - also said that Russian Federation has tested means of delivering chemical agents "including by application to door handles", pointing out that the highest concentration of the chemical found after the attack was on Skripal's front door handle.

Sedwill said that after the Soviet Union collapsed, Russian Federation signed the Chemical Weapons Convention without reporting its ongoing work on Novichoks.

The agents were developed at the State Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology near Volgograd under the codeword FOLIANT.

The claims come after the global Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons backed Britain's assertion the Skripals were poisoned by Novichok. "There is no plausible alternative explanation".

However, the OPCW did not explicitly name Novichok in its published summary, nor did it say where the chemical may have come from.

Richard Guthrie, an independent chemical-weapons expert, says an important detail in the investigation is that the toxic substance is of "high purity".

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'The Russian state has previously produced Novichoks and would still be capable of doing so'.

He also complained at the continued refusal of the British authorities to grant consular access to Ms Skripal following her discharge from hospital.

He said Russian Federation had a proven record of state-sponsored assassinations and had tested ways of delivering chemical weapons, including the use of door handles to spread nerve agents, as Britain believes was done in the Skripal case.

Sir Mark said: "There is no plausible alternative explanation", adding that Russian Federation had continued to produce and stockpile small quantities of Novichok within the last decade.

"It is highly likely that the Russian intelligence services view at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination", he said.

Finally, on the motive, Sedwill said Sergei Skripal was a former Russian military intelligence (GRU) officer, convicted of espionage in 2004.

National security adviser Sir Mark Sedwill said cyber specialists from the GRU - Russian military intelligence - targeted Yulia Skripal's email accounts as far back as 2013.

Moscow has vigorously denied any involvement and suggested that the United Kingdom carried out the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.

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