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Czech Government Says Nerve Agent Cited By Zeman Not Novichok


Czech President Milos Zeman (file photo)

The Czech-made nerve agent that President Milos Zeman described in a television interview as Novichok is of a different type than the toxin Britain says was used to poison a former spy, the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement on May 4.

Novichok -- first developed in the Soviet Union -- was identified by Britain as the type of agent used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. London blamed the poisoning on Russia.

In a TV interview broadcast on May 2, Zeman said the military reports he was citing identified the type of Novichok used in the poisoning as A-234, while that produced in the Czech Republic was type A-230.

"We did produce and store Novichok in insignificant amounts. We know where and when. Let us not be hypocritical. We should not lie about this," said Zeman, who is known for his pro-Moscow stance.

However, the Czech Foreign Ministry said that the nerve toxin A-230 is different from the one called Novichok.

"The nerve-paralyzing poison used in the U.K. attack is called A-234 and is therefore a different variant than the one tested by the Czech Military Research Institute in Brno," the ministry statement said.

It said that a few milliliters-- of A-230 was produced, tested, and destroyed by the institute in the southeastern city Brno in order to study ways to defend against it.

The Brno institute functions with the approval of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the statement said.

The Czech Foreign Ministry statement was issued hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman hailed Zeman's statement, saying it undermines Britain's claims about the attack.

Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Zeman's remarks were an "eloquent illustration" of what he called the "untenable position" put forth by Britain.

Moscow has denied involvement in the attack in Salisbury and has claimed the nerve agent used in the attack could have come from the United States, the Czech Republic, or other countries that it claimed have conducted research on the same group of chemicals.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has flatly denied the suggestion that it could have been made in the Czech Republic.

Peskov asserted that Zeman's statement was "yet another confirmation" of the "provocative and reckless nature of the whole story about the Skripals." Russian officials have alleged that the attack could have been staged by Britain or another country to compromise Moscow.

The attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal has further aggravated already severely strained ties between Russia and the West. The Czech Republic in March joined dozens of Western nations in the near-simultaneous expulsion of Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning, ordering three Russian diplomats out of the country.

Sergei Skripal, 66, a former colonel in Russia's military intelligence agency, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court that found him guilty of spying for Britain. He was released in 2010 and sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap.

He remains hospitalized but is no longer in critical condition, while Yulia Skripal, 33, was discharged in early April. Her location has not been disclosed by British authorities.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and TASS
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