Boris Johnson Issues Completely New Story on “Russian Novichoks” 324

Boris Johnson has attempted to renew the faltering case for blaming Russia ahead of the investigation into the Skripal attack, by issuing a fundamentally new story that completely changes – and very radically strengthens – the government line on what it knows. You can see the long Foreign and Commonwealth Office Statement here.

This is the sensational new claim which all the propaganda sheets are running with:

The Foreign Secretary revealed this morning that we have information indicating that within the last decade, Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination. And part of this programme has involved producing and stockpiling quantities of novichok. This is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

This is an astonishing claim and requires close investigation. If this information comes from MI5 or MI6, there is a process of inter-departmental clearance that has to be gone through before it can be put in the public domain – even by a Minister – which is known as “Action-on”. I have been through the process personally many times when working as head of the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, monitoring Iraqi arms acquisitions. It is not, unless actually at war, a Saturday night process – it would have had to have been done on Friday.

So why is this essential information being released not to Parliament on Friday, but on Andrew Marr’s sofa early on a Sunday morning, backed up with a Sunday morning official statement? This is very unusual. Furthermore, it is absolutely incompatible with what I was told last week by FCO sources – they did not know this information, and one of them certainly would have if it was based on MI6 or GCHQ reporting.

I can see only two possible explanations. One – and the most likely – depends on looking yet again extremely carefully at what the statement says. It says “we have information indicating that within the last decade”. If does not say how long we have held that information. And “within the last decade” can mean any period of time between a second and ten years ago, Very tellingly it says “within the last decade”, it does not say “for the last decade”.

“Within the last decade” is in fact the exact same semantic trick as “sale price – up to 50% off”. That can mean no more than 0.1% off and its only actual meaning is “never better than half price”.

The most likely explanation of this sentence is therefore that they have – since last week when they didn’t know this – just been given this alleged information. And not from a regular ally with whom we have an intelligence sharing agreement. It could have come from another state, or from a private source of dodgy intelligence – Orbis, for example.

The FCO are again deliberately twisting words to convey the impression that we have known for a decade, whereas in fact the statement does not say this at all.

There is a second possible explanation. MI6 officers in the field get intelligence from agents who, by and large, they pay for it. In my experience of seeing thousands of MI6 intelligence reports, a fair proportion of this “Humint” is unreliable. Graham Greene, a former MI6 officer, was writing a true picture in the brilliant “our Man in Havana”, which I cannot strongly recommend enough to you.

The intelligence received arrives in Vauxhall Cross and there is a filter. A country desk officer will assess the intelligence and see if it is worth issuing as a Report; they judge accuracy against how good access the source has and how trustworthy they are deemed to be, and whether the content squares with known facts. If passed, the intelligence then becomes a Report and is given a serial number. This is not a very good filter, because it still lets through a lot of rubbish, but it does eliminate the complete dregs. One possible source of new information that has suddenly changed the government’s state of knowledge this weekend is a search of these dregs for anything that can be cobbled together. As I have written in Murder in Samarkand, it was the deliberate removal of filters which twisted the Iraqi WMD intelligence.

In short, we should be extremely sceptical of this sudden new information that Boris Johnson has produced out of a hat. If the UK was in possession of intelligence about a secret Russian chemical weapons programme, it was not under a legal obligation to tell Andrew Marr, but it was under a legal obligation to tell the OPCW. Not only did the UK fail to do that, the UK Ambassador Sir Geoffrey Adams was last year fulsomely congratulating the OPCW on the completion of the destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons stocks, without a single hint or reservation entered that Russia may have undeclared or secret stocks.

On the Andrew Marr programme, Boris Johnson appeared to say for the first time that the nerve agent in Salisbury was actually made in Russia. But this is a major divergence from the published FCO statement, which very markedly does not say this. Boris Johnson was therefore almost certainly reverting to his reflex lying. In fact the FCO statement gives an extremely strong hint the FCO is not at all confident it was made in Russia and is seeking to widen its bases. Look at this paragraph:

Russia is the official successor state to the USSR. As such, Russia legally took responsibility for ensuring the CWC applies to all former Soviet Chemical Weapons stocks and facilities.

It does not need me to point out, that if Porton Down had identified the nerve agent as made in Russia, the FCO would not have added that paragraph. Plainly they cannot say it was made in Russia.

The Soviet Chemical Weapons programme was based in Nukus in Uzbekistan. It was the Americans who dismantled and studied it and destroyed and removed the equipment. I visited it as Ambassador to Uzbekistan shortly after they had finished – I recall it as desolate, tiled and very cold, nothing to look at really. The above paragraph seeks to hold the Russians responsible for anything that came out of Nukus, when it was the Americans who actually took it.

324 thoughts on “Boris Johnson Issues Completely New Story on “Russian Novichoks”

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  • Squeeth

    See the unedifying spectacle of Cobyn’s allies running for cover? Gutless bastards.

    • JohnsonR

      Yes, John McDonnell deserves particular contempt as someone who ought to have had Corbyn’s back above all.

      • lysias

        Financial Times just featured a lunch with McDonnell. Maybe that was a sign that he was being encouraged by the powers that be to take Corbyn’s place.

    • N_

      That’s higher than I expected for both Putin and Grudinin. Turnout is estimated at 64%. Polls are still open in the eastern zones. Turnout may well be higher in Asia than in Moscow, but only about a quarter of the population are in Asia.

  • Orri

    The phrase “of a type developed in” reminds me of a line in the film “Shakespeare in Love” where the Globe’s financier gets a part.

    It goes , ” I have a hat of the type worn by an Apothecary ” . a bit part for a single scene in Romeo and Juliet as the man who sells the poison.

    Fun on multiple levels as it raises fiction and amateurism. That the only reason for getting the part is financial might also be worth considering.

    Of course I might not have all the details right.

  • Dave G

    I see Peter Hitchens has been sticking up for Jeremy Corbyn – good for him. His late brother, Christopher, had the “Hitchens Razor” dictum named after him, and that’s also relevant today – “That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”

  • John Goss

    Russian election results coming in. After 50% of votes counted Putin has about 75% of the vote. The Communist candidate, Grudinin, is in second place with less than 14% of the vote. If he does not get 15% he has pledged to shave off his moustache, which is nearly as much a part of his character as was that of Lech Walesa. A colourful character he runs a cooperative farm which pays above the normal wage for farm workers.

    Another interesting fact. This is the first election in which Crimeans have a vote.

    Putin talked about how Russia was still prepared to cooperate with UK over Skripal affair.

  • Matt

    The link to Sir Geoffrey Adams speech tot he OPCW is incorrect. It links to his address on Syria and chemical weapons use there

  • alan b

    This is all very worrying,
    It feels like we are just being used as pawns in much larger game (again)
    If it transpires that us `conspiracy theorists’ are correct then these recent events are the precursor of something very bad that is imminent.

        • Ben

          Can you think of a more isolated (geographically) GPS?

          Denuded of self defense from within the general population and dependence on public services and shipping General goods via traditional methods is not a good thing people.

          You’re ripe for another Chamberlain Party from within. They think it’s for the best. You,??

  • simon

    “What’s it going to be then, eh?”

    “Boris Johnson Issues Completely New Story on the Russian Novichoks
    Initiative comes to thems that wait A

    Its funny how the colours of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the big brother
    channel bbc 1 vidoplex screen.”

    john sweeney and neil kinnocks son and hilary benn der they said putin tolchocked an old tired russki vheck
    novichoked dosed him good
    pizza whacked are smiley are palmer are bond in town full to the brim with porton downers
    british soldier sailor raf err tinkers no tailors alas.mi5 and 6 is sis sas sbs no black watch as they cost cutted.
    a town full to the brim cctv not 5 eyes but 33 thousand and putin got in out in out.
    a spooky town an army town overflowing in a region renamed the
    county of the blind

    • Shatnersrug

      It becomes quite obvious which members of the PLP the American embassy considers an ‘asset’ isn’t it? Singing from the same hymn sheet as as the CIA and Democratic Party, about things that are extremely irrelevant in the uk. Very revelling I thought

    • Dennis Revell


      Might be worth it if in this case Teresa May plays the part the Archduke did in 1914.


      That’s brilliant, even though I didn’t understand half of it.


  • mike

    Haha! They’re stockpiling it now ! Huge fuckin heaps of the stuff. Mountains of novichoks just waiting to the sprayed across the free world by giant invisible Russian mega-jets !

    And they’re coming to a defenceless cricket pitch near you in 45 minutes ! Where’s Colin Powell, with his little phial and big photos, when you need him?

    Inside, Boris Johnson is 12.

  • Johanna Drysdale

    To be a good liar one needs to have an excellent memory! Boris ad libs, forgets his lines and tries to bluff his way out of problems!
    Mrs May fails to remember the agreed story too, at times and needs scripted questions and answers. God help the U.K. with present government running things!
    I hope my country breaks free of the Accursed Union soon before WM gets us into another war!!

  • Tom De Guerre

    Excuse my ignorance: is there a strict legal meaning for “stockpiling”?

    Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination. And part of this programme has involved producing and stockpiling quantities of novichok. This is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

    If there is wiggle room in the definition of “stockpiling” is it possible that what Johnson is accusing Russia of here is a crafty way of representing what one now assumes Porton Down has also done?

    i.e., synthesized and maintained “quantities” (doesn’t say how much?) of nerve agents of the novichok type for defensive research purposes? And investigated ways of delivering it, also for defensive purposes?

    As Johnson says, done clandestinely this would be in breach of the Convention.

    However given the apparent undisclosed prior knowledge of novichoks at Porton Down it looks increasingly more likely the same accusation could be leveled at the UK.

    • MJ

      I thought the main point of it was that it didn’t need to be stockpiled and that it was designed to be synthesised from commonly available ingredients so all you needed was the formula and access to a garden centre. I may be wrong.

    • pablo

      would it not be more likely that IF Russia wanted to covertly make nerve agents they would have developed in the last 20 years something far more potent? or indeed potent at all, The Skripals would be considered a botched job.

      • Ben

        Why can’t he have Saddam’s numbers?

        Is Russia a half-measure democracy?

        Normal democratic vote results never exceed 60 percent..yet Putin derived what, 75%?

        What the fu<k is Russia?

        • MJ

          I think Putin got 64%. Russia is a country that has just out-smarted the US big time in Syria.

        • Squonk

          I was watching the BBC the other night and they had on some Finnish politician, who they didn’t tell us anything about, to talk about the EU reaction to the nerve agent incident. His name was Torvalds and I thought aha as in Linux so I looked him up. Turns out he is the father of Linus Torvalds!

          Also turns out he stood in the last Finnish Presidential Election and got 1.5% (which the BBC didn’t mention). The winner got 62.6%.


          Candidate Party Votes %
          Sauli Niinistö Independent 1,875,342 62.6
          Pekka Haavisto Green League 371,254 12.4
          Laura Huhtasaari Finns Party 207,337 6.9
          Paavo Väyrynen Independent 185,305 6.2
          Matti Vanhanen Centre Party 122,383 4.1
          Tuula Haatainen Social Democratic Party 97,294 3.2
          Merja Kyllönen Left Alliance 89,977 3.0
          Nils Torvalds Swedish People’s Party 44,776 1.5
          Invalid/blank votes 9,800 –
          Total 3,002,710 100
          Registered voters/turnout 4,498,004 66.8

          • Squonk

            John, he said the Russians were obviously behind it.

            Ben – only kernel thing I know connects them is that Linus Torvalds was asked once if he had been approached by the NSA to put a backdoor in the kernel. Linus replied with the word “No” while nodding his head. vigorously. According to Wikipedia his father added more info.


            Linux kernel statement

            Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, joked during a LinuxCon keynote in 18 September 2013 that the NSA, creators of SELinux, wanted a backdoor in the kernel.[14] However, later, Linus’ father revealed that the NSA had actually asked for the installation of backdoors in Linux.[15]

            When my oldest son [Linus Torvalds] was asked the same question: “Has he been approached by the NSA about backdoors?” he said “No”, but at the same time he nodded. Then he was sort of in the legal free. He had given the right answer, [but] everybody understood that the NSA had approached him.
            — Nils Torvalds, LIBE Committee Inquiry on Electronic Mass Surveillance of EU Citizens – 11th Hearing, 11 November 2013

            Short youtube clip of the question to Linus Torvalds

        • N_

          “Normal democratic vote results never exceed 60 percent..yet Putin derived what, 75%?
          What the fu<k is Russia?"

          A country with a popular leader?

  • Tom

    Johnson is just making things up as he goes along. His string-pullers must be getting really desperate.
    He looks as though he could do with a detox too.

    • N_

      Boris Johnson has had problems with his nose recently. Maybe he switched to crack? Almost everything he says is intense crazed manic sh*t. I mean if British spies found out that Russia has been stockpiling CW illegally since supposedly destroying its remaining stocks a few months ago, why not call for a challenge inspection under OPCW rules?

      MI6 won’t be telling Johnson anything. He flies by the seat of his pants. It’s obvious he’ll crash, just as it was always likely that Boris Berezovsky would die otherwise than by natural causes, especially after he lost the case to Roman Abramovich. How and when he will is unclear.

  • Tim Thomson

    When did the United States become party to the Chemical Weapon Convention? Surely they should have destroyed their stocks by now?

  • Francis Urquhart Barr

    As many other excellent contributors – to this and other articles by Craig – have pointed out, one should always look past the completely obvious diversion to see what is being deliberately obscured.

    The problem is in identifying what that might be, especially as there is a lot of 3-dimensional chess going on.

    In that regard, I do wonder if this is an anti-Brexit strategy, and that Theresa/Boris are the ones being played by the deep state? Get them to front up all the anti-Russia rhetoric, then release information which makes them look like total wazzocks, thus diluting their trustworthiness.

    Just a (slightly far-fetched) thought.

    • N_

      If there is a third Brexit referendum, Theresa May and Philip Hammond will have to have left office first. Why? Because they would be left with nothing to do.

      They couldn’t realistically support Leave, giving the message “We were pro-Remain, and we only backed Leave because we love the voters so much. But then we got convinced, so hey voters, can you vote Leave this time?”

      And they couldn’t realistically support Remain, conveying the message “We were pro-Remain; then you told us you wanted Leave; and we love you so much that we negotiated Leave; but what we negotiated is a pile of cack compared to Remain, so would you mind voting Remain again?”

      So if there is to be a third referendum, those two will have to be out first. The most likely Tory leader is then Jacob Rees-Mogg, unless someone has nobbled him first.

      I am just trying to help you develop your thesis, @Francis! 🙂

    • lysias

      The best argument for Athenian-style democracy, where offices were held by average citizens chosen by lot, is looking at the behavior of elected politicians.

    • Shatnersrug

      Churchill was a war monger a racist and an arse the idea that just posting one of his sozzled quotes somehow means you’ve won some kind of moral article is utterly delusional.

      By the end of the 1930s the unions were strong becoming strong enough to overthrow the established order in the uk. Then WW2 conveniently broke out and many of those working boys were killed, more were called up and sent to their deaths, when Churchill, with the aid of the USSR won by default the returning working men and women kick his arsed out and so began the modern era. And era that the heirs of Churchill have spent the last 7 years demolishing.

      Churchill was a sham, WW2 was a sham that made armourment owners and press barons rich beyond their wildest dreams.

      • giyane

        Churchill was interested in Kurdistan’s oil in Mosul, also in boys. When the Kurds caught him asking for boys and humiliated him, he called them ‘uncivilised’ and broke their country up. Turkey suffered the loss of their Caliphate because they sided with the Germans against the British, and lost. Not wishing to make the same mistake twice they have now sided with the Russians, jumping the NATO ship like rats. The result is of course that Erdogan is attacking USUKIS’s Kurds.

        There is absolutely no truth in Mrs May’s weird allegations against Russia, but she would rather like the Turkish rats to come back to her sinking NATO ship, please. Western economies are about to flip again, being based on a weird dogma that the market has a mind, and the West has decided to re-arrange the deck-chairs and listen to the band. Anyway nobody is listening to the desperate MayDay signal, and the UK is set to sink with all hands.

        • N_

          I didn’t know about Churchill and boys in Kurdistan. I knew he loved chemical weapons.

          The Dave’s Deal talks were all about the City. Possibly the City was on the offensive, possibly the defensive – it’s not clear. The story that Brexit was wholly a British thing, and had no help from elsewhere in the EU, is for mugs. Still the government talks of building more houses. They really couldn’t give a f*** whether more houses are built or the housing stock declines. What matters is the total amount of debt, and the hold their masters have over the population using debt, and the profits that are reaped by that means, whether it’s in the form of rent or interest or whatever. The government is a government of bankers’ runners.

          I agree the country will sink soon. It’s hard to envisage it getting past the harvest season in 2018, let alone limping on to the 2019 harvest. Pieces about the army helping people caught in the snow, and food shortages, and how the Beast from the East is coming (mark 2 – note the theme of monster reborn and even more evil the second time – can we think of what country they want us to have in mind when they say that?), and the NATO name of “Satan” for the Russian “Sarmat” missile, etc. – they all play to the theme.

          PS Churchill went to Harrow – why not call him a poor soul? (Just kidding 🙂 )

      • lysias

        Churchill was also responsible for the Bengali famine of 1942-3, which killed up to 4 million Bengalis. Other officials like Secretary of State for India Amery and Viceroys Linlithgow and Wavell protested, but Churchill turned a deaf ear to them,because of his contempt for Indians, and Bengalis in particular. Amery wrote in private that he could see no difference between Churchill’s morality and Hitler’s.

  • simon

    Haha! They’re stockpiling it now
    yes and boris has known for 10 score years and more

    the putin does not do the decent thing
    as are friends in europe do.
    no butter or wine cheese mountains
    in the sorry sad home of new hitler
    just himalaya peaks of tolchocking novchoks

    for cruel revenge on innocent weak poor blighty

  • mark golding

    You have unwound the Novichok plot Craig and I believe the British people should thank-you. From the start the ruse failed from a lack of tangible evidence. Also it is clear to a number of military personnel, scientists and others that a military nerve weapon of the group announced by this corrupt Tory government would certainly have killed and as likely as not, assassinated instantly.

  • Harry Law

    Stephen Lendman said today..
    Theresa May’s government refused to supply Russia with samples of the alleged Skripal incident toxin as required by the CWC.
    Britain can hand OPCW inspectors anything it wishes, including its own produced Novichok, claiming it came from Russia.
    Sergey Lavrov explained UK officials refused to send an official request to Moscow with regard to involving the OPCW in evaluating the alleged Skripal nerve agent – violating its legal obligation.
    They have no legal justification to proceed this way, he stressed, adding:
    “(I)f you appeal to (the OPCW), you must comply with (CWC) provisions…that stipulate filing a request to us, because we are suspected of being a country of origin and even the country which had used this poisoning agent, and, providing us with samples of this agent, so we, together with OPCW experts, can analyze it.”
    OPCW analysis of the alleged Skripal nerve agent (supplied by Britain) has no validity without Russia having access to the same samples.
    Why then is the organization acting extrajudicially?

    • N_

      Britain can hand OPCW inspectors anything it wishes, including its own produced Novichok, claiming it came from Russia.

      Yes indeed. How will the inspectors know it came from the bodies or clothing or other effects of the three victims? Especially when the consultant medic at the hospital says no patient there has actually shown any symptoms of nerve agent poisoning. This is all about propaganda for war. There will be more.

  • Rab Mac

    The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that it “was likely to take two weeks” for the OPCW to identify the nerve agent.

    If this is indeed the case, then how on earth could Porton Down possibly have done it within a week?

    After all, the FCO statement makes it clear that PD is an OPCW accredited facility.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      You can identify a nerve agent’s presence very quickly using AcE inhibitor assays. To go from saying an agent exists to ‘this is the chemical formula’ takes a bit longer. You must purify the active substance and perform chemical analysis on it to deduce a proposed structure. To then carry out biological assays to show bioequivalence to a supplied standard of the proposed formula takes another couple of days minimum.

  • P

    It’s 15 years ago today that the truth was put on hold, not for the first time in the history of global conflict but on that occasion it was never universally restarted.

    Truth had served its purpose for those that abused it, it generated fear, that was a far more useful commodity.

    But truth had not ceased to exist, it’s influence has continued to corrode its abusers and jailers, that’s what truth does.

    For the rest of us it provides insight, and insight breaks the shackles of fear.

    Immediately before the invasion of Iraq it no longer mattered if Saddam had WMD or if the people that were funding the destruction of Iraq (the taxpayers) believed Saddam had them or not. It didn’t matter to Iraq, to the war makers or the peacemakers, war was going to happen. And it continues.

    It doesn’t matter if Russia poisoned the Skripals or are assisting Assad poison his own people that part of the distraction is over.

    So lets have some truth, because the truth is now getting restless;

    The intention is that the US government will attack Syria, the UK government will support them.

    Russia has no strategic or tactical use for chemical weapons, they have no need for stockpiles. The OPCW permits all its members to research, develop, manufacture and store assassination quantities of CW.

    When the US&UK were falsely claiming Saddam had CW (knowing 100% he didn’t have any) the US had stockpiles of M687 artillery shells designed to create mass destruction from various Binary CW’s. The US had hundreds of tons of stockpiled CW, Saddam had none. The US knew this, the taxpayers didn’t.

    On Skripal;

    The brave detective was not in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Nobody in Salisbury was contaminated by nerve agents on the 4th March, whether the Skripals die from nerve agent poisoning remains to be seen

    Nerve agents kill quickly, you don’t have time for a drink and a meal. You don’t get better.

    Skripal and his daughter’s job was to make war. A war that his adopted and home countries’ will suffer from. Putins’s job ultimately requires him to make war when pushed, a war that would harm Russia.

    Mrs May, Mr Johnson et al are lying to create war a war that will obliterate the UK.

    The US has a problem. The reason that Russia don’t need CW is because they will not fight regional wars (why? Because they would lose). Russia has more nuclear weapons than the US, they have more advanced delivery systems than the US. The US will not decide which war Russia fights, the Russians will fight a war of their choosing, one they cannot lose (they may not win).

    An attack on Assad will result in response from Russia that the US cannot defend against. The US cannot win a war with Russia of Russia’s choosing.

    If the US go to war with Russia, it will not be a regional conflict, the US will be destroyed.

    The truth has been resting too long.

    • N_

      Morale is also much higher in Russia than in the US. As for resilience, if we compare Russia with a country like Britain, it’s almost a joke. If the economic collapse of the early 1990s in Russia had happened in Britain, there would have been widescale famine. It’s almost funny too to watch the West whinge like crybabies about Russian cyber and “hybrid” war – the latter being a crybaby term if ever there was one.

  • giyane

    I just heard a woman on the Westminster Hour 10 minutes ago re-iterate the lie about a poison “of Russian origin”. Talking with George Freeman.

    We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn till night
    We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up everything in sight
    We dig up diamonds by the score
    A thousand rubies, sometimes more
    But we don’t know what we dig ’em for
    We dig dig dig a dig dig

    Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
    Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
    It’s home from work we go
    (Whistle) Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
    Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
    (Repeat chorus until end)

  • simon

    OPCW they are flying in soon

    the porton downers have a lab ready for testing
    have the champagne on ice rent boyz and local salsbury hookers epstein island cctv camera crews standing by.

    the samples ready statements of as one outrage already written.
    the ground broken this coming week
    for the new 60 million pound boris and may tolchok
    novicock wing
    all is good in chicken town

  • durak

    Check out the Daily Mail comments section on related articles.

    It seems the vast (over 80%) majority of Mail readers don’t believe the government narrative!

    And they aren’t too complimentary about Boris either.

    Quite an eye opener.

  • Dr. Ip

    “When there is more to hide, there is a need for bigger and more effective masks, for louder noises off-stage to distract attention, and for greater efforts to undermine whomever dares raise his/her voice to criticize or offer alternatives.”

    Marx’s Critique of Ideology
    Introduction to Essays in Critical Theory: Toward a Marxist Criticism of Liberal Ideology by Richard Lichtman

    By Bertell Ollman

    Radical Social Theorist Richard Lichtman Dead at 88

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