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

Salisbury incident

Sedwill also said Russia had a clear motive for attacking Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer who had been imprisoned in Russia for spying for Britain, only to be set free in a spy swap.

Mr. Skripal remains hospitalized almost five weeks after he was poisoned, but his daughter, Yulia, has recovered and was moved to a secure location this week. Britain has blamed Russian Federation for the attack - a charge that Moscow has strongly denied.

Earlier on Friday, the national security adviser to Britain's prime minister told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a letter that email accounts of Yulia had been targeted in 2013 by cyber specialists from Russia's GRU military intelligence service.

As it was stated in the letter, Russian special services were conducting experiments with the Novichok nerve agent for years, they put the nerve agent on the door-handle, in particular.

Last week, the chief executive of the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory in Porton Down, Britain's premier chemical weapons laboratory, said its scientists could not identify "the precise source" of the chemical, though its purity indicated that it was nearly certainly created by a "state actor".

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

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.

In the 2000s, Mr Sedwill said Russian Federation had trained military personnel in using these weapons, including on door handles.

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He questioned the authenticity of a statement issued by Ms Skripal through the Metropolitan Police saying she did not want to meet Russian officials.

He said that it included investigating ways of delivering nerve agents by applying them to door handles.

In his letter, Sir Mark set out why the United Kingdom believes that only Russian Federation has the "technical means, operational experience and the motive" to carry out the Salisbury attack.

He then claimed Russian Federation saw at least some of its defectors as legitimate targets for assassination, suggesting Skripal could be among them.

Lavrov said the report does nothing to back the British allegations that Moscow was behind the attack.

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.

After the demise of the Soviet Union, Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention without reporting its ongoing work on Novichoks, Sedwill said, adding that it was highly unlikely that any former Soviet republic besides Russia pursued such military research. "Within the last decade, Russian Federation has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks under the same program".

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