Brett Edwards Profile picture
Apr 15, 2018 48 tweets 10 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
A brief thread on Moscow spin today on #Skripal case- which involved an attempt to bring independent OPCW lab findings into question
At a press briefing earlier today- which was live translated in the UK ( so quite patchy). Lavrov mentioned BZ- and it was claimed this had been found by a Swiss Defence Lab, an accredited OPCW lab.
This was an odd claim. As the OPCW inspectors who visited the UK, had already published a summary of their findings here:…
The term 'Novichok' was not used in the report. But the report confirmed UK findings- and the UK had found Novchok. Russian Officals, Russian Media ( even Sputnik) had accepted this point.
In fact RT ( as have Russian officials), even went has far as identifying the agent they thought it was…
So this was odd- but it not stop RT and Sputnik running a series of pieces on the statement from Lavrov. In fact, these are still the stop trending news stories on google on this topic.

Here for example…
In this and other pieces, it appeared as if there was now a disagreement on which agent was employed- this accompanied a piece in Sputnik which was put out the day before- and doing the rounds.…
This was initially quite disorientating for a number of reasons. Not least because the claim was in direct contradiction to OPCW lab findings which confirmed Novichok.
Twitter Went bonkers. With a number of articles quickly appearing- with a number of tweets suggesting BZ rather than Novichok had been employed.
A sharp eyed correspondent, quickly noted that in the statement there had in fact been reference to the the idea the Novichok + BZ traces found. (Which started to be reflected in edits on RT articles on the statement)
It started to look as if there had been some initial 'miscommunication' by Lavrov. Which had been misrepresented by an over eager press outlets. Including at least one UK outlet- the Mirror ran with the headline:…
But this was still a massive claim, about OPCW lab findings. The OPCW had only published an executive summary- making no mention of BZ.
This then suggested that Spiez findings ( which Russia claimed undermined not only circumstantial cases of states but also technical evidence from OPCW) had somehow been ignored in a multi-lab investigation process. A big claim to make.
Indeed it was such a big claim that it was circulated to Russian embassies. Further more, the Russian Embassy to the UK even claimed that BZ rather than Novichok was most likely what caused injury-.
they stated that 'It looks highly likely that the “BZ” nerve agent was used in Salisbury. The fact that Yulia Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey have already been discharged from hospital, and Sergei Skripal is on his way to recovery, only supports such conclusion.'
Again. This is a huge statement to make. Considering that this directly contradicted OPCW lab findings- which agreed with UK lab findings ( i.e Novichok)
This then seemed like the type of thing that necessitated a response from the UK and the Swiss. And provided a further argument for the UK to publish it's findings- it also seemed to suggest an absence of transparency in reporting so far.....but moment....
The Swiss, whose reputation Lavrov had leverage in making such important claims - pushed back.
In particular they made clear that Lavrov's assertions about their ability to identify the nerve agent were wrong. Something Lavrov, by his own admission on the expertise of this body must surely accept.
So we can be sure that despite the suggestion by Lavrov, that Novichok has been confirmed. We can also be sure that Lavrov's claim to know better than the lab on this point can be rebutted ( on its own terms) and because...accredited lab.
But in the context of this cluster critique, we are still left with a niggling doubt.

What about the BZ- like isn't that important?
God. BZ Twitter really is worse than Novichok Twitter. Just done a quick search- the story is still circulating via zero hedge articles etc ' BZ not Novichok' so dumb.
we then go back full circle to the Mirror, which originally broke this story in an unqualified form…
So where are we?
a) Novichok was used- confirmed by OPCW labs
b) RU claiming BZ was also detected in samples by Spiez
c) RU claiming Novichok presence of secondary importance to alleged BZ presence
d) RU trying to bring into question OPCW lab findings and/or reporting
So Lavrov's claim about Novichok nonsense. But the BZ right? What about the BZ- suspicious right?
Not necessarily. OPCW associated experts suggest that BZ could be control agent in some of samples sent to Spiez. Basically you send blanks/ an other forms of positive along with sample to lab to ensure scientific confidence in results. It's good science.
See updated article from same author that Spiez cited here:… … I may have confused these two articles in an earlier tweet ( I don't speak German).
If this is the case. RU knew this. As they are very familiar with OPCW procedure. And if this turns out to be the case, then this reflects a very cynical attempt to bring findings into question.
So where are we now ? We are waiting for further statements. If it turns out that this is an artefact from the identfication process- Russia have sort to capitalize on something in a very cynical way indeed. We will see.
If this is true. Intended effect has already been achieved. Google BZ Salisbury. In this scenario assertions not designed to be convincing for long- just long enough to sow doubt in legitimacy of OPCW lab process - before EC meeting on weds.
I see spin all the time- from all states. But if this is the case, is really beyond the pale for me personally. OPCW technical legitimacy is a resource- if it is used up- we are back to a future with normalized chemical warfare.
Will also be interesting to see how all this impacts on parliamentary debates on Syria today - as well as OPCW Executive Council meeting today ( and the one on Salisbury on Wednesday).
There is an expectation OPCW will calrify this point on wednesday.
Interesting side note, at this point both RT and Sputnik still upping this story. Also interesting- Sputnik appear to be directly quoting statements about Novichok agent- they are been less clear about context of BZ claim in the report.…
As far as I can tell. RU current position is that:

a) It was not likely to have been Novichok
b) If it was it could not have been detected by OPCW labs
c) BZ also found
d) Others made the stuff found, or it was 'planted'

See above on all points

Note RU have OPCW findings
This is part of a tactic employed by states to open up debates about technical findings. Worth noting, that Russia participated in the the development of these technical procedures- and has often called for them to be respected.
Sputnik did run with the BZ postive control story on the 16th- but was still running the previous remarks of Lavrov at the same time in another article. The UK embassy was still tweeting Lavrov's orginal BZ statements on the 18th.…
SO OPCW DG report.
1) No BZ found ( as reported to all states already)
2) Only BZ precursor referered to in technical reports ( use as part of testing)
3) Not even reference to BZ in report…
Swiss not happy about Russian accusations (now shown to be made up)
Worth noting, and it was a distinction lost on me last week. Lavrov claimed 'BZ and BZ precursor'- which was faithfully reproduced. So muddle stemming presence of BZ precursor as part of sampling process, or Press mangling of statement (BZ precursor-> BZ) doesn't hold
He quotes...'Following our analysis, the samples indicate traces of the toxic chemical BZ and its precursor which are second category chemical weapons. BZ is a nerve toxic agent'…
And that folks, was the story of the time my weekend was ruined by an unsubstantiated claim by a Russian official.
:-( BZ....
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