The government has been forced to delete a tweet published by the Foreign Office regarding the Salisbury attack.
The tweet stated that the Novichok agent had been produced in Russia. It was deleted by the Foreign Office after Porton Down revealed that they have been ‘unable to verify’ if the nerve agent that was used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter was of Russian origin.
This creates yet more embarrassment for the government, as now both the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have been caught lying about the attack.
Porton Down stated, “We have not identified the precise source, but we have provided the scientific information to the Government, who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions they have come to”. Despite this, the government maintain they were correct to expel Russian diplomats.
Security Minister Ben Wallace said the government assessment that Russia was to blame was not just based on the evidence uncovered at Porton Down. He also said, “Russia the only country in world to design and stockpile Novichok”. He also denied the situation was ‘a mess’.
Jeremy Corbyn has said Johnson has “egg on his face” because his claims were not backed up by evidence.
Analysis from Iwan Doherty, Founder and Editor in Chief
The government’s bad week continues. Most people would dismiss Boris Johnson’s lies as Boris being Boris, but this statement from the Foreign Office marks a new level of calculated deception from the government.
The public may now genuinely question if what they are being told is based on any evidence at al. The fact that the government says it has other sources and evidence that point to Russia, but they’re not telling anyone what said evidence is is sketchy at best. The security services have managed this situation extremely poorly; it seems they have not learned from mistakes.
Ben Wallace categorically stating Russia is the only country to have these weapons is worrying, as it remains the government’s only, publicly stated evidence that the culprit is the Russian state, and you therefore wonder whether the government is using this assumption as their starting point. However, you would hope NATO’s intelligence services could not be outwitted so easily.
Domestically you would think this should trigger Johnson’s resignation, but with Theresa May forecast to lose ground in next month’s council elections, it remains to be seen if she can afford to lose Johnson and hold her government together.