Czech president Milos Zeman told a Czech television station on May 3 that a report by the country’s military intelligence shows that a small amount of a nerve agent known as Novichok was produced, tested, and destroyed in 2017 in the Czech Republic.
His statement was immediately and eagerly exploited by the Russian media, but also by Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said today 4 that Zeman’s remarks were an “eloquent illustration of the untenable position” put forth by Britain, which blames Russia for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.
Zeman, who is known for his open sympathy for Putin, said: “We did produce and store Novichok in insignificant amounts. We know where and when. Let us not be hypocritical. We should not lie about this.”
Peskov said that Zeman’s statement was “yet another confirmation” of the “provocative and reckless nature of the whole story about the Skripals.” Russian officials have alleged that the attack could have been staged by Britain or another country to compromise Moscow.
Novichok was identified by Britain as the type of agent used to poison Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury on March 4. London blamed the poisoning on Russia and pointed out that Novichok was first developed in the Soviet Union.
Still, according to the director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the quantity used in the attempted murder was far from being “insignificant.” About 50 to 100 grams of liquid nerve agent was used in the March 4 attack on the former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
That quantity — a range from slightly less than a quarter-cup to a half-cup of liquid — is significantly larger than the amount that would be created in a laboratory for research purposes, meaning that it was almost certainly created for use as a weapon, the director general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said in an interview.
The Czech Republic in March joined a massive Western expulsion of Russian diplomats over the Skripal incident, ordering three Russian diplomats out of the country.