Novaya gazeta has today published an interview with one of the team from the State Scientific Research Institute for Organic Chemistry and Technology. The man who invented the nerve agent Novichok was Petr’ Kirpichev, who died of natural causes two years ago. Vil Sultanovich Mirzayanov saw one of his friends in the team collapse and die five years after having inadvertently exposed himself to a tiny amount of the nerve agent in 1987. The team was headed by a man who also headed the KGB institute that worked on the same chemical weapons. The agent was destined for use by the Soviet army but they all realised that since the enemy had chemical protection gear, the net result would inevitably be the death of the surrounding civilian population instead.
Mirzayanov is now 83 and lives in New Jersey. When he became disillusioned after realising that experimentation was continuing even after the collapse of the Soviet Union he published an exposé in Moskovskie novosti in September 1992. Within a month the KGB whisked him off to the notorious Lefortovo prison. The newspaper publicised his plight and he was released to house arrest. In order to get a passport he had to appear before a special commission chaired by the present Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; then a very different man. Lavrov and Sergei Kovalev secured him the passport despite the opposition from the KGB representative. Once in New York he published a book not only about his experience but also the recipe for Novichok which, without the proper skills and the most precise equipment, would be impossible to replicate. So when used, it has to have emanated from Russia.