March 13, 2018 01:19:55by

Scientist describes "torture" of Novichok nerve agents 'used on former spy'

Scientist describes \

A Russian scientist has described the "horror" and "torture" faced by victims exposed to Novichok nerve agents - which Theresa May says was used on a former spy and his daughter.

Vil Mirzayanov claimed that the use of the lethal toxin on Sergei Skripal and Yulia was a "brazen attack" as he said the toxins were for "paralysing people".

The chemist, who revealed Russia's secret chemical weapons experimentation in the 1990s, said the effects of the poison could amount to "torture".

The chemist hit the headlines in 1992 after alleging in a newspaper article that Russia had been developing a particularly lethal new nerve gas, the Press Association reported.

Mr Mirzayanov, who was later arrested but now lives in the United States, had worked in a secret laboratory which was developing the Novichok nerve agents.

He told the Daily Mail that 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."

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.

Novichok nerve agents are believed to be five to 10 times more lethal than VX and Sarin.

They cause the heart to slow down and restrict the airways, leading to death by asphyxiation.

Mr Mirzayanov said "around 1,000 people" worked across several laboratories, testing and developing the toxins.

After his newspaper article, 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.

The suspected poisoning of the former double agent, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, is being treated as an attempted assassination ordered by Russia.

They were found ill on a bench near a shopping centre in Salisbury, Wiltshire.

A police officer who was among the first on the scene is also critically ill and all three are believed to be in a coma.

Prime Minister Theresa May has said it was "highly likely" that Russia was responsible for the March 4 attack.

Mrs May said the Skripals were poisoned by a substance that was part of the Novichok group of nerve agents which were developed by the Soviet military during the 1970s and 1980s.

But Russia has denied any involvement in the case and has asked for access to samples of the rare nerve agent.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claims Britain has denied Moscow's request to access to materials related to the ongoing investigation.

But Mr Lavrov denied allegations that the nerve agent came from Russia and said President Vladimir Putin's government has no connection to the poisoning.

The UK ambassador to Russia, Laurie Bristow, has been summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry in Moscow.