Czech president says Novichok produced, tested in country

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PRAGUE, May 4 (Xinhua) -- The Novichok nerve agent was in a small quantity produced and tested in Czech Republic, then it was destroyed, President Milos Zeman said on Thursday night when interviewed by Czech TV Barrandov.

Zeman said his information was based on a report drafted by the Military Counter-intelligence (MZ).

According to the report, the nervous-paralytic substance, denoted as A230 that was produced for testing purposes by the Military Research Institute in Brno, was Novichok. While the civilian BIS counter-intelligence has arrived at the conclusion that the gas was not Novichok, Zeman said he had preferred the view presented by the MZ after studying the reports of both secret services.

"There is the conclusion that Novichok was produced and tested here, though in a small quantity and then it was destroyed. We know when and we know where it was ... It is hypocritical to pretend that this was not so," Zeman was quoted as saying.

Czech Defence Minister Karla Slechtova wrote on her twitter late Thursday that she would not comment the president's words that his information of Novichok was based on the report of MZ, because she only has information on a classified level.

She said the Czech Republic is exclusively dedicated to the protection of these substances, and if they were tested, they were destroyed immediately after that. There is no Novichok anywhere on the Czech territory at present.

The Czech government, including Prime Minister Andrej Babis, military experts and the Institute for Nuclear Security, said earlier the Novichok had never been produced in the Czech Republic.

Czech expelled in March three diplomats from the Russian embassy in Prague together with their families in reaction to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury. In this connection, Zeman asked secret services to look for the origin of Novichok in the Czech Republic.

Zeman added that the Czech Republic has an excellent chemical warfare unit, testing of hazardous substances was therefore understandable and necessary. Enditem

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