asia

Novichok creators expose devil weapon's origins


Poisoning is a method of killing that dates back to antiquity, but the alleged Kremlin deployment of chemical weapons to silence opponents via assassination has carried the practice into the 21st century.

Arguably the most infamous of such weapons in current circulation is Novichok – used, most recently, against Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

Though the name has a grim ring to the ear when spoken in English, in Russian it is bland and innocuous: it literally means “newbie” or “newcomer.” But there is nothing innocuous about its effects, which are the stuff of nightmares.

Novichok is in the top tier of a class of chemical weapons known as nerve agents, which were discovered during research into pesticides in the 1930s. These ultra-toxic substances prevent the nerves from working with potentially deadly effects: the body’s various systems simply stop functioning.

Russian officials, in maximum bluster mode, have denied that any such poison was developed in their country. However, those statements are contradicted by the testimonies of several former Soviet scientists who worked for a top-secret chemical weapon program in the last years of the Cold War – one of whom spoke to Asia Times. 



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