It could happen in New York City: Russia could use one of the deadliest chemical weapons ever made to murder people in the city streets if Moscow is not punished for its alleged attacks on British soil.
That’s the warning issued Wednesday by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
“If we don’t take immediate concrete measures to address this now, Salisbury will not be the last place we see chemical weapons used,” Haley told the United Nations Security Council. “They could be used here in New York, or in cities of any country that sits on this Council. This is a defining moment.”
Haley’s comments were made during an emergency council hearing that was requested by British officials who say Russia used a “military-grade nerve agent” when it attempted to murder Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, on British soil.
The chemical weapon, known as Novichok, is extremely lethal and extraordinarily rare to find outside of Russia. Novichok, or “newcomer” in Russian, is a chemical developed by the Soviet Union in secret during the Cold War. It was created for the purpose of countering U.S. chemical weapons.
Even to this day, no nation aside from Russia is known to have developed Novichok.
In fact, the world only knows about the chemical because a disgruntled Soviet scientist and whistleblower, Vil Mirzayanov, leaked information about Novichok in the 1990s. The British government believes that it was either Russia that tried to murder Skripal or someone managed to acquire the nerve agent.
“It is difficult to imagine a scenario that doesn’t have Russian hands all over it,” chemical weapons expert Hamish de Bretton-Gordon told CNN on Tuesday. “So, the chance that perhaps some of these Novichoks have been stolen by criminals or terrorists from Russia is a possibility, and we wait to see an explanation from the Russian Ambassador to London tomorrow, but I think highly unlikely.”
In her warning before the United Nations, Haley said: “Time and time again, member-states say they oppose the use of chemical weapons under any circumstance. Now one member stands accused of using chemical weapons on the sovereign soil of another member. The credibility of this council will not survive if we fail to hold Russia accountable.”
In response to the attacks, British Prime Minister Theresa May banished 23 Russian diplomats who are believed to be spies.
May blasted Russia, accusing it of showing “contempt and defiance” after the attempted murder.
She told the House of Commons, “To those who seek to do us harm, our message is clear: You are not welcome here.”
May ripped Russian President Vladimir Putin’s refusal to provide an explanation.
“It was right to offer Russia the opportunity to provide an explanation,” she said. “But their response has demonstrated complete disdain for the gravity of these events. They have provided no credible explanation that could suggest they lost control of their nerve agent. No explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom; no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons program in contravention of international law.
“Instead, they have treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance. There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sgt. Nick Bailey. This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.”
Russian officials then blasted Britain’s response, saying it was “unacceptable, unjustified and shortsighted” and claiming it is a “provocation.”
The Russian embassy released the following statement: “Obviously, by investigating this incident in a unilateral, non-transparent way, the British Government is again seeking to launch a groundless anti-Russian campaign. Needless to say, our response measures will not be long in coming.”