Disinfo: Novichok is produced in Georgia and the US

Summary

Laboratories producing chemicals of the Novichok group are located in Georgia and the United States, while Russia does not produce such substances.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative on the Navalny poisoning and the Lugar lab. The narrative is also a classic example of whataboutism.

The Kremlin has already falsely linked Novichok to a laboratory in Georgia two years ago, read more on EUvsDisinfo.

At a news briefing on April 12, 2018, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Maria Zakharova spoke on the investigation into the Skripal poisoning case and focused on the issue of “American bio laboratories in the post-Soviet space”, thus indirectly linking poisoning of Skripal and his daughter to Public Health Research Centers. Georgia and Ukraine were first named as the countries allegedly producing Novichok nerve agent by Zvezda nationwide TV channel. The latter did not rule out that Novichok came to the UK either from Georgia or from Ukraine.

See a further debunk by Polygraph.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 210
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 03/09/2020
  • Language/target audience: Russian
  • Country: US, Georgia
  • Keywords: novichok, Lugar Laboratory, Alexei Navalny

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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Russia doesn’t have Novichok anymore

For some, the creation of Novichok in the USSR is equivalent to say that Russia and its special services are guilty of the poisoning of Alexei Navalny. But Russia not only doesn’t have the monopoly over Novichok, but it has also stopped the development and production of these substances and destroyed its reserves. It is also known that Vil Mirzayanov, the chemist that worked with the creators of Novichok in the 1970s and 1980s and run to the US afterwards, published the formula of the nerve agent that, according to his own words, was repeatedly synthesised outside Russia.

Disproof

The claims are false. In September 2017, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed the full destruction of the 39,967 metric tons of chemical weapons possessed by Russia, but Novichoks were never declared to the OPCW and weren’t included in the Chemical Weapons Convention until 2019. Also, Dr. Vil Mirzayanov didn’t state what is affirmed. After the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with Novichok in Salisbury in 2018, Mirzayanov said that “many countries could have had test samples, but production was only refined in the U.S.S.R. and Russia” and that Russia had to be behind the attempt on the Skripals because it “is the country that invented it, has the experience, turned it into a weapon... has fully mastered the cycle”.

This is part of a pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny after the use of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group was established beyond any doubt by a specialist Bundeswehr laboratory.  The use of multiple and simultaneous versions about an event involving questionable actions by the Russian government or its allies, in order to confound citizens about the actual truth, is a recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation strategy, already seen in the cases of the MH17 downing, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the murder attempt against Sergei and Yulia Skripal or chemical attacks in Syria.

The continuous poisoning of Russian dissidents ‘implicating’ the Kremlin is suspicious

If Russia had anything to do with poisoning dissidents, it wouldn’t repeat that continuously and against all of them, according to an expert. For him, the continuous presence of supposed dissidents who are poisoned with something implicating the Kremlin is suspicious. He thinks that the story is pre-made, which is shown by the fact that it repeats itself, is continuous and essentially aims to corner Russia, impose economic sanctions on it and prevent new relations with the European Union.

Disproof

Contrary to the conspiratorial claim, international reactions to the poisoning of Alexei Navalny are not “a pre-made story aiming to corner Russia”. There is a long list of Russian dissidents poisoned in controversial circumstances, and at least in the cases of Alexander Litvinenko and Sergei Skripal, there is strong evidence of the involvement of Russian intelligence operatives and high-level Russian officials. The reaction of the Russian government, who instead of fully cooperating with an open investigation opted for launching a disinformation campaign on the poisoning and accused Germany of launching a “fact-free information campaign against Russia”, further reinforced international suspicions and criticism.

The use of multiple and simultaneous versions of an event involving questionable actions by the Russian government or its allies, in order to confound citizens about the actual truth, is a recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation strategy, already seen in the cases of the MH17 downing, the illegal annexation of Crimea, the murder attempt against Sergei and Yulia Skripal or chemical attacks in Syria. See other examples of pro-Kremlin disinformation narratives on Alexei Navalny’s poisoning in our database, such as claims that only caffeine and alcohol were found in his blood, that the US wanted to use it to block Nord Stream 2 and Russia’s vaccine against coronavirus, that the West hopes that he dies to have an excuse for new sanctions, or that Western accusations about Navalny’s case are as false as they were about Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko.

Navalny couldn’t have been poisoned by Novichok, otherwise he would be dead

The symptoms of Russian opposition member Alexei Navalny have nothing to do with the poisoning by a substance of the Novichok family, said Russian scientist, who took part in the creation of this chemical agent. He said that poisoning with this substance would cause death and not a coma, as in Navalny’s case.

Disproof

This is part of a pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign on the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The use of a chemical nerve agent of the Novichok group has been established beyond any doubt by a specialist Bundeswehr laboratory.

Contrary to the claim, Navalny’s symptoms are consistent with other cases involving Novichok nerve agent, such as the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, both of which survived. Also, other victims of Novichok poisoning did recover from it, such as Detective Nick Bailey, who assisted the Skripals after the attempt against their lives, and Charlie Rowley, who was accidentally affected by the nerve agent remaining in the bottle disposed by the attackers in a trash bin in Amesbury.