Moscow, Apr 6 (AFP) Moscow today rejected a British news report that the nerve agent used in the poisoning of a former double agent originated from a town on Russia’s Volga river.

Yesterday, The Times newspaper cited British security sources saying they believed the so-called Novichok chemical was manufactured at the Shikhany facility in central Russia’s Saratov region.

“This laboratory was never part of the scope of our work,” Mikhail Babich, the Kremlin’s envoy in the Volga Federal District, told Interfax news agency.

“All the bases where chemical weapons were stored are well-known. Shikhany is not one of them,” said Babich, who is the former chairman of the state commission for chemical disarmament.

He added that there used to be a different “facility” in the Saratov region but it was not located in Shikhany.

The Times said the facility was the Russian equivalent of Britain’s Porton Down defence laboratory.

The closed town of Shikhany is the location of a branch of the State Scientific Research Institute of Organic Chemistry and Technology, or GNIIOKhT.

The Soviet Union created a network of closed towns to house secret military installations and research facilities to which access was hugely restricted.

Several chemists including Vil Mirzayanov, who first revealed the existence of Novichok, said the nerve agent was invented by scientist Pyotr Kirpichev in Shikhany.

Last month, Russian scientist Leonid Rink told state media he worked at a state laboratory in Shikhany for 27 years, where the development of Novichok formed the basis of his doctoral dissertation.

According to the website of GNIIOKhT, its branch in Shikhany is now involved in work related to “ensuring the security” of the country and destruction of chemical weapons.

In September 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow had destroyed its last chemical weapons.

Britain blames Russia for the March 4 poisoning on UK soil of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with what it says was a Soviet-made military-grade nerve agent, a charge the Kremlin furiously denies. (AFP) KIS KIS

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.