The Shikhany research base, 500 miles from Moscow, is thought to have produced the novichok poison. The facility also contains shops, hospitals and schools
The Shikhany research base, 500 miles from Moscow, is thought to have produced the novichok poison. The facility also contains shops, hospitals and schools
A Russian military research base has been identified as the source of the nerve agent used at Salisbury in a British intelligence briefing for its allies, The Times has learnt.
It was used to persuade world leaders that Moscow was behind the poisoning and said that the novichok chemical was manufactured at the Shikhany facility in southwest Russia.
The briefing led to the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats from 28 countries. Also included was information suggesting that Shikhany, Russia’s equivalent of the defence laboratory at Porton Down, was used during the past decade to test whether novichok could be effective for assassinations abroad. The weapons-grade nerve agent was used to poison the former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, a month ago.


The stockpiles detected at Shikhany were far smaller than would be used in a battlefield weapon, suggesting their use in targeted killings. Hamish de Bretton Gordon, the former commander of Britain’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment, who has seen the intelligence, called it very compelling. “The intelligence Britain has clearly points to Russia and Shikhany,” he said. “No doubt the Russians are scrubbing it down as we speak.”
Mr de Bretton Gordon said that there was nothing to support claims that novichok could have come from elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, such as Ukraine or Uzbekistan.
Yesterday Ms Skripal spoke publicly for the first time since the poisoning, saying that her strength was “growing daily” in a statement released by the Metropolitan Police on her behalf.
Officials were working to determine the authenticity of a phone call broadcast by Russian state television said to be between Ms Skripal, 33, and her cousin, Viktoria. The woman said to be Ms Skripal claimed in the call that her father, 66, was also recovering, contradicting hospital reports that he is critical but stable. Russia repeated a demand yesterday that it be given consular access to the Skripals.

Yulia Skripal, daughter of the former spy, thanked hospital staff
Yulia Skripal, daughter of the former spy, thanked hospital staff

Britain is understood to be anxious not to reveal its sources over the briefing but intelligence services are growing frustrated at Russia’s upper hand in the propaganda war. They have lobbied Downing Street to release more of the intelligence that helped to convince allies of Moscow’s guilt. Whitehall sources said that the intelligence sharing with allies had been unprecedented.
Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to London, insisted yesterday that his country had never developed the novichok agent. “This is a creation of some other countries and some scientists,” he said.

The Shikhany facility also contains shops, hospitals and schools
The Shikhany facility also contains shops, hospitals and schoolsEAST2WEST NEWS

In a 90-minute press conference he veered from sarcasm to giggles to praise for the embassy’s notorious Twitter feed. One journalist took Mr Yakovenko to task, saying: “You keep smiling and joking. That suggests you are not taking this seriously.” “That’s just my style,” Mr Yakovenko retorted. “Don’t read too much into it. Russia is taking this very seriously.”
Britain and Russia clashed at the UN last night after Moscow called an emergency session of the security council. Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian ambassador to the UN, said: “We have told our British colleagues that you’re playing with fire and you’ll be sorry.” He demanded that Britain produce further evidence of his country’s involvement.
Karen Pierce, the British ambassador to the UN, said that Russia was like “an arsonist turned firefighter but in this particular instance the arsonist wants to investigate his own fire”.
She told Mr Nebenzia that when Britain said it was “highly likely” that Russia carried out the attack “it is a reflection of our judicial process and should not cast doubt on our certainty”. “We do not have anything to hide but we fear Russia has something to fear,” she said.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former foreign secretary, told the BBC that Russian diplomats were using sarcasm and colourful language as a diversion tactic. In his address to the security council Mr Nebenzia recited from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and compared the poisoning to the detective drama Midsomer Murders.