Many (including several of the United Kingdom’s most senior Government Ministers) may be surprised to hear that Новичо́к or as we say ‘Novichok’ is NOT the name of a substance.
The word itself means ‘New Kid on the Block’, ‘New Guy’ or even ‘Newcomer’.
‘Novichok’ refers to a series of highy toxic so-called V-agents with the generic formula CnH(2n+4)NO2PS with comparatively minor variants.
For instance, Novichok Nerve Agent VE has the formula C10H24NO2PS.
This particular series of nerve agents was developed by Russia over 20 years (1971-1993) and are collectively considered as the New Kids on the Block because they are Russia’s Second Generation agents with the first attempts having been produced in the Soviet Era – just after WW2.
They say that Novichok agents have never been used in anger because they are considered among the most toxic substances ever produced.
However, they have been synthesised by other states, notably by Iran less than two years ago. They produced five of the agents which Russia was known to have synthesised. This project was ostensibly completed purely for analysis, with the full co-operation and addition to a database belonging to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Porton Down boffins have established that the agent used to poison the Skripals in Salisbury was one of the second generation (Novichok) agents but as the formula and synthesis methods are not 100% secret to the Russians, it is difficult to pin the blame 100% on Putin and his cohorts.
I am no apologist for Putin and his Kleptocratic Oligarchy but one does wish that before everyone jumps on the ‘Putin done it’ bandwagon, they ensure that the facts are ALL in and that the Salisbury incident is not the work of someone wishing to cause mischief – whether it be Putin’s enemies, the CIA and their endless regime-change games or even a Middle Eastern State wishing to create even more friction between Russia and the West.
Yes, the circumstantial evidence appears very strong but now that we have another (anonymous) gas attack in Syria which has led to what can only be described as more dick-waving by the American President, followed by Theresa ‘I’m right behind you’ May huddling with her ministers in what is laughably called a ‘War Cabinet’, let’s pause and think.
If we don’t and act before thinking, it could be a very cold summer.