Chemical arms watchdog OPCW to meet over UK-Russia spy poison case

The forensic tent, covering the bench where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found, is repositioned by officials in protective suits in Salisbury, Britain, on March 8, 2018.
The forensic tent, covering the bench where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found, is repositioned by officials in protective suits in Salisbury, Britain, on March 8, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The world's chemical weapons watchdog said it would hold a meeting at Russia's request on Wednesday (April 4) to discuss Britain's allegations that Moscow was behind the poisoning of a former spy in England.

"The chairperson of the Executive Council... has received a request by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation... to convene a meeting of the Executive Council," the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Tuesday (April 3) on its website.

It said the meeting behind closed doors will start at 10am (0800 GMT) at the OPCW's headquarters in The Hague.

Britain has said it is "highly likely" that Moscow was responsible for an attempt to poison former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the quiet English city of Salisbury on March 4.

London has accused Russia of using the Novichok nerve agent, developed in the latter days of the Soviet Union. Moscow has angrily denied any involvement.

In a letter dated last Thursday (March 29), Russia's ambassador to the OPCW Alexander Shulgin asked for the meeting to discuss the British allegations "in a confidential sitting".

After the poisoning, Britain announced it would expel 23 Russian diplomats, the first in a series of moves in diplomatic retaliation against Moscow by Western countries.

Britain suspended high-level diplomatic contact with Moscow and said it would not send any members of its royal family to the football World Cup Russia is hosting in June.

In response Russia expelled 23 British diplomats, closed a British consulate in Saint Petersburg and halted the activities of the British Council educational and cultural organisation.