Russian envoy says United Kingdom spying claims about Skripals a "big surprise"

Russia spied on Skripal and his daughter for at least five years: Press Association

Russia had spied on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter for at least five years before the poison attack that put them both in critical condition, the U.K.'s national security advisor said Friday.

MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are believed to have been poisoned at his Salisbury home by chemicals daubed on his front door.

It says that Russian Federation continued to produce the agents after the breakup of the Soviet Union, but did not declare the work to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

His claims were revealed in a letter to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg setting out the government's claims that Russian Federation is the only possible culprit for the attack on the Skripals.

The national security adviser said Moscow had created the nerve agent Novichok at the Russian research facility in Shikhany as part of an offensive chemical weapons programme with the codename Foliant.

However, the OPCW did not explicitly name Novichok in its published summary, nor did it say where the chemical may have come from.

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"It is highly likely that Novichoks were developed to prevent detection by the West and to circumvent global chemical weapons controls".

While it was "unlikely" that Novichok could be made and deployed by terrorists or criminal gangs, Sir Mark said Russian Federation had continued to produce and stockpile small quantities of the nerve agent within the last decade.

The ambassador said London's approach to the high-profile case followed a pattern of crimes, in which the United Kingdom chose to classify details from the public and ignore Russia's request to disclose them.

He said only Russian Federation has the "technical means, operational experience and the motive" for the attack.

"We have information indicating Russian intelligence service interest in the Skripals, dating back at least as far as 2013, when e-mail accounts belong to Yulia were targeted by GRU cyber specialists", Sedwill wrote.

He also said Russia could not be sure about the authenticity of a statement issued by Yulia Skripal on Wednesday in which she declined the offer of help from the Russian embassy.

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"If someone was spying, why were the British services not complaining about that?"

"This programme subsequently included investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles".

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that a new report on the poisoning of a former spy does nothing to support Britain's contention that Russian Federation was behind the attack. "Within the last decade, Russian Federation has produced and stockpiled small quantities of novichok under the same program".

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it is highly likely that Moscow was behind the attack although Moscow denies any involvement.

"I want to underline: the OPCW only has confirmed the composition of the chemical agent", Lavrov said at a news conference.

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