nerve agent

Picture: Members of the Falcon Squadron, Royal Tank Regiment, in Salisbury (Image: MoD)

The Prime Minister has confirmed the highly dangerous substance used in the attack on ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a military-grade Novichok nerve agent produced by Russia.

A scientist who revealed Russia's secret chemical weapons experiments in the 1990s has described the "horror" faced by victims exposed to the agent.

Vil Mirzayanov said the effects of the poison could amount to "torture" and claimed that the use of the lethal toxin on the ex-spy was a "brazen attack".

In 1992 the chemist hit the headlines after claiming in a newspaper article that Russia had been developing a particularly lethal new nerve gas. 

Sergei Skripal
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal remains in hospital following nerve agent attack

Mr Mirzayanov was later arrested but now lives in the United States. The scientist was accused of betraying state secrets, but a subsequent trial collapsed after investigators did not find enough evidence to back charges that he had broken the law.

He worked in a secret laboratory which was developing the Novichok nerve agents. 

Speaking with the Daily Mail, he told them the toxins were "for paralysing people", adding:

"It causes you convulsions and you can't breathe and after that, you die. If you get enough of a dose of it."

"It's real torture, it's impossible to imagine. Even in low doses, the pain can go on for weeks. You cannot imagine the horror, it's so bad."

Yulia
Skripal's daughter Yulia was also poisoned with a military-grade Novichok nerve agent

Novichok, which means newcomer in Russian, was developed by the Soviet Union over several decades as a new kind of chemical weapon that would be harder to detect, and more potent than existing nerve agents.

"Around 1,000 people" worked across several laboratories, testing and developing the toxins, according to Mr Mirzayanov.

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