The diplomatic row over the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy intensified on Friday, as Britain’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson pointed the finger directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin. Johnson said that it's "overwhelmingly likely" that Putin decided "to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the U.K., on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War."
The British government concluded Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, who are both still hospitalized, were exposed to novichok, a toxin developed by the Soviet Union. VICE News spoke to Dr. Vil Mirzayanov, a scientist who worked on developing novichok and later became a whistleblower. Mirzayanov fled to the U.S. in 1992, and he's been campaigning to get the chemical agent banned internationally ever since. Skripal and his daughter were found slumped on a bench near a shopping center in the town of Salisbury on March 4.
Mirzayanov said novichok is "at least 10 times stronger than any known toxic substance in the world. It strikes the central nervous system and shuts off the person's breathing." Because the chemical agent was only developed in Russia, Mirzayanov said he believes the odds are high that Russia was behind the attack.
"I think it was a public display of the sort of fate that could await any potential opponent of the Kremlin," he added.
This segment originally aired March 16, 2018, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.