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Russia Seizes On Czech President's Statement About Novichok

Czech President Milos Zeman

The Kremlin has hailed Czech President Milos Zeman's statement that a small amount of the type of the nerve agent Britain says was used to poison a former spy was produced in the Czech Republic, saying it undermines London's claims about the attack.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman said on May 4 that Zeman's remarks were an "eloquent illustration of the untenable position" put forth by Britain, which blames Russia for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.

Zeman told a Czech television station on May 3 that a report by the country's military intelligence shows that a small amount of a nerve agent known as Novichok was produced, tested, and destroyed in 2017 in the Czech Republic.

"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.

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

Moscow has denied involvement and claimed the nerve agent used 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 at the time flatly denied the suggestion.

Peskov said 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 Czech Republic in March joined a massive Western expulsion of Russian diplomats over the Skripal incident, ordering three Russian diplomats out of the country.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and TASS