The red mercury of our days: why does every next poisoning by Novichok cause more and more doubts?

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The red mercury of our days: why does every next poisoning by Novichok cause more and more doubts?
The red mercury of our days: why does every next poisoning by Novichok cause more and more doubts?

Alexei Navalny came to his senses after poisoning, which in Germany is believed to be caused by Soviet-developed chemical weapons. However, close analysis of the data available in the open scientific literature raises doubts that this is the original Novichok. This situation is much more like trying to pretend that it is him. I must say, this is very good news: if the "Novichok" were real, each of us would be under a non-illusory threat at any moment to be a victim of such a weapon. Let's try to figure out what exactly is wrong in the versions of poisoning with this chemical weapon.

Red mercury

What is "Newbie"?

The first thing to start with is that nowhere is there a specific formula for the "Novichok" that was tested at the end of the Soviet era. Yes, Vil Mirzayanov, who was responsible for the preservation of information about this chemical weapon and, as a result, himself passed it on to the Western special services, repeatedly claimed that he allegedly published specific formulas of compounds of the Novichok family in the literature. But in fact, there is no confirmation of his words. In 2019, at the session of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, substances of the Novichok group were included in the list (under numbers 13 and 14) prohibited - but, again, without their exact formulas, only on the basis of the presence of certain fragments in their composition.

Why was Mirzayanov unable to publish the complete and accurate formula in print? When developing the Novichok family, one of the tasks was to obtain a substance that is very toxic, but at the same time easy to manufacture. Imagine the consequences of publishing his exact formula. It is widely known that terrorists around the world have huge funds at their disposal, regularly transferred from, for example, a number of countries in the Persian Gulf.


It would be natural to expect that they would try to reproduce such a weapon. Then it will only be necessary to buy more drones on Ali Express for $ 300, wait for mass events in one or several countries of the Western world and then spray the resulting substance from a height.

The order of the numbers must be taken into account here. According to estimates in Western literature, the lethal dose of the Soviet Novichok is about two milligrams. It is not so difficult to bring in some of it disguised as something else. Suppose 20 kilograms will be sprayed - that is, ten million lethal doses - and 99.9% of this substance will get somewhere, but not into the body of the victims. As a result, tens of thousands of people may die.

It turns out that "Novichok" is an easy and simple way to arrange a terrorist attack on a larger scale than the destruction of the Twin Towers and Beslan combined. At the same time, nothing prevents terrorists from using not 20 kilograms, but several quintals of the same substance.

To make a "Novice" according to a ready-made formula can even in a country where, in principle, there are no world-class scientists. Obviously, no one would go to publish his exact formula. Even if such a wild idea had occurred to Mirzayanov, the Western special services themselves would not have allowed it.

And it's not just the terrorists: work on substances of the Novichok family was recorded in 2012 in Iran - a country, we recall, capable of launching satellites into space.What would happen if Tehran, with its wide arsenal of missiles, gained access to such weapons? After all, it has ballistic missiles with warheads weighing up to a ton with five separable blocks. When loaded with Novichok, the effect of such a rocket attack will be comparable to that of early nuclear bombs. How, then, could the United States conduct containment in the region?

Due to the unknown formula of "Novice" this name can be used to designate almost any substance containing certain fragments recognized as "newcomers" by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And if so, no one has any opportunity to directly verify the reliability of the statement “So-and-so was poisoned by a Novichok”. However, when there are no direct opportunities, there are always indirect ones.

To find out if a person has been poisoned by the original Soviet Novichok, one can try to use logic. This is what we will do.

From the point of view of history: how did the Soviet special services liquidate people?

The USSR has been actively using a variety of chemicals to solve sensitive issues since at least the 1930s. White General Yevgeny Miller was drugged with drugs in Paris, and then brought to the USSR in 1937 (two years later he was executed), 83 years before Navalny's alleged poisoning. Since the same 1937, the toxicological laboratory at the All-Union Institute of Biochemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences was transferred to the NKVD. Then it became the toxicological laboratory of the NKGB, then again the NKVD, then the MGB and (as you might guess) successfully survived to this day.

This laboratory was already operating at a very good level at that time. For example, in 1947, the MGB, by order from above, liquidated Theodore Romzhu, the bishop of the Greek Catholic Church, whom Moscow considered guilty of cooperation with the armed detachments of the OUN in Western Ukraine (the war going on there in those years gave the law enforcement agencies losses equal to the first Chechen one).


The open murder of the bishop was impractical: instead, they simulated a robbery with an accidental fatal outcome - a typical event of those years in Western Ukraine, teeming with armed people who were in conflict with the authorities. However, the attack was supposed to start with a hit by a truck, and he could not kill the right person - the bishop only got injured and went to the hospital.

As Major General Pavel Sudoplatov testifies, after that, the head of the toxicological laboratory, Mairanovsky, delivered poison from Moscow to Western Ukraine, which Romzhe was injected by an MGB agent who entered the hospital. The real composition of the poison Sudoplatov does not disclose, calling it "kurare". But this statement should be considered clear misinformation with an attempt to hide the truth: curare causes loss of mobility and death by suffocation. Such symptoms would undoubtedly have worried the attending physicians, and the operation, like all such actions, was carried out in a highly secretive regime.

In fact, the poison from which Romzha died had an extremely unusual effect on him: although his breathing did not stop even in a very serious condition, an autopsy revealed traces of embolism of one of the arteries of the vital parts of the brain. “The substance of the brain is edematous, there are several hemorrhages on the surface and section of the cerebellum,” says forensic scientist D.N. Lyubomirov in custody dated November 2, 1947. The cause of death, which is natural for such a picture, was recognized as "cerebral edema with subarachnoid hemorrhage … as a result of injuries sustained in an accident."

What follows from this story? The fact that many decades ago the local state security could kill a person with such poison that even a forensic scientist would not think that something was wrong.

Of course, many people like to add after this: but at the end of the 1950s, the USSR decided to stop eliminating persons it did not like, on which to poison unnecessary people in the country and abroad.This bold hypothesis is based solely on the statements of Soviet officials and therefore cannot be taken seriously.

Let us recall the facts: in 2002, the terrorist Khattab was killed with the help of a poisoned letter, which he opened personally. Like the poisoning of Romzha in 1947, it happened on the territory of our country. In 2004, three representatives of the Russian special services (their departmental affiliation was recognized by Foreign Minister Ivanov) eliminated the terrorist Yandarbiev in the UAE. It seems that the refusal to liquidate in Russia and abroad took place mainly in the statements of domestic officials: real life suggests otherwise.

And it would be strange if things were different. The CIA conducted a whole program of developing poisons (including for the elimination of foreign leaders) and biological weapons for its operations, and if not for an accidental leak, no one would have known about its details. The organization even kept the poison at home, despite the direct ban of the US president, which is logical: presidents come and go, but the CIA remains. Why would his Russian colleagues refuse to liquidate with the help of poisons?

But it is important to understand: we will never know anything about most of such liquidations with the help of poisons - whether from the Russian side or from the American side. We know about the same Romzhe only because Pavel Sudoplatov was greatly offended by the Russian authorities, which is why he considered it possible for himself to write his memoirs in the 1990s. In the overwhelming majority of cases, people involved in the liquidation with poisons do not write any memoirs - and if they try, for some reason an accident immediately occurs to them.

And the doctors will not tell us about such liquidations. Because they are deliberately organized in such a way as to make death appear to be completely "natural". If someone wants to kill an opposition politician so that his death looks like that, then there is nothing particularly difficult about it. The poison, which reliably mimics the cardiovascular problem of a natural nature, was tested by the MGB laboratory back in the days of Theodor Romzha.

One thing is for sure: there is no reliable evidence that the domestic special services have ever killed people using connections that inevitably indicate the country of origin "Russia". Because this is the same as committing a secret murder and writing on the victim: "KGB killed."

But what about the Skripali?

The story of the Skripals in Great Britain is a typical example of a situation where all the problems outlined above do not allow one to believe that someone in Moscow was seriously planning to kill Sergei Skripal with Novichok poison. First, the most powerful chemical warfare agent in the history of mankind could not kill the target person. Is this exactly the same, "the most deadly", or someone's artifice, with common fragments, but without the effectiveness of the original "Novice"?


But this substance unexpectedly killed a homeless resident of Salisbury, who had nothing to do with it. He allegedly used a container of poison. That is, Russian military intelligence takes and throws away, like garbage, containers with the most dangerous BOV in the history of earthlings? But how, with such a disregard for safety precautions, they have not yet killed half of the population of Moscow, and themselves in addition?

Finally, the most pressing question. Why would the Russian special services commit murder with a substance that will certainly be linked to Russia? To ruin the whole operation and cause a sharp intensification of British counterintelligence? But why? To this question, like the other two above, no one has ever offered a single rational answer.

Now let's take and compare the events of 2018: if you believe the Western press, that spring Russian military intelligence tried to remove an unnecessary person, could not, killed a civilian of Great Britain, caused a major diplomatic scandal and showed unprofessionalism that defies any rational explanation.What should happen to her after that? That's right: some of its leaders should be removed, because the consequences are already very egregious, and the goal of the operation has clearly not been achieved.

What do we see in practice? In the fall of 2018, by the centenary of military intelligence, the Russian president is returning the name GRU, so beloved in the department, which she lost under Serdyukov. What is it? Knowing the mentality of the employees of this organization, you can only answer in one word - a reward. Putin awarded all GRU employees after, according to the British media, they staged a colossal and high-profile failure instead of a successful and quiet liquidation.

"As the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, of course, I know your, without any exaggeration, unique capabilities, including in conducting special operations, I highly appreciate the information and analytical materials and reports that are being prepared for the country's leadership in the General Staff Directorate."

The President of Russia in the fall of 2018, speaking to military intelligence officers.

It doesn't take a genius to understand what all this means. Whatever the GRU was really planning in 2018 in Britain, it certainly wasn't the assassination of Skripal. This whole story with the subsequent showing of "Petrov" and "Boshirov" on television was nothing more than a loud informational cover for some completely different operation, taking place in the vicinity of the distracting "attempt on the Skripals." And judging by the return of the organization to its historical name, the planned was more or less successful. Apparently, the distraction of the Skripals' plot really succeeded.

Is a scenario in which Navalny was poisoned by Novichok possible?

To analyze the full range of possibilities describing what happened to Navalny, we must try to construct a situation in which the opposition leader was indeed poisoned by the most powerful chemical warfare agent on the planet.

To do this, it is necessary that people interested in his death were from the domestic special services, but at the same time they wanted to liquidate the politician either loudly and demonstratively, or did not assume that his body or blood samples would be issued to Western countries.


Is it possible? Of course, yes. Why, in spite of this, the politician was taken abroad? No rational answers to this question have yet been proposed. Apparently, there remains only a not entirely rational, namely, the colossal negligence and ill-conceivedness of the entire operation.

To fully understand its scale, one should remember: after being admitted to the hospital, Navalny was given atropine, a compound that could be an antidote to Novichok. It turns out that the liquidators did not work out the actions in case the oppositionist got to the hospital. They did not bother - in contrast to the liquidation of Theodore Romzha in 1947 - and send a man with a syringe to him, after the injection of which the politician would die from an embolism or something else that looked quite natural.

Unfortunately, even if such a scenario were a reality, we will never be able to find out about it. The fact is that when the Russian authorities asked what details in Navalny's blood tests indicate poisoning by Novichok, the German authorities refused, citing the fact that such details were secret.

“Additional information on the research results may allow conclusions to be drawn about the specific skills and knowledge of the Bundeswehr in relation to the substances concerned. In such a sensitive area, this is unacceptable for reasons of security and the interests of the Federal Republic of Germany"

From a logical point of view, this does not make any sense. It was Russia, not Germany, that created Novichok, and Germany actually does not have any secrets regarding this connection that it could keep from Russia. But judging by Berlin's reaction, logic and chemistry don't really work here.

"Novice": the red mercury of our days?

In general, this whole story with the allegedly used for murder BOV is increasingly reminiscent of the old perestroika cranberry about "red mercury" - a cranberry about which the British fourth state channel at one time filmed two serious documentaries at once (Trail of Red Mercury and Pocket Neutron) … They told in detail about the wonderful form of mercury, which had a density one and a half times more than usual and made it possible to make an extremely compact neutron (or even nuclear) weapon.

There was only one major problem with these British TV films: in fact, they were fictional. From a scientific point of view, there is no red mercury and never has been. Let's try to read about its supposedly properties:


“Red mercury is a chemical compound that is a salt of mercury acid … It is used in electronic guidance systems for missiles and torpedoes. The only deposit in the world is located in the USSR, “somewhere in the north”: there, under very high pressure in tectonic faults, mercury can combine with antimony. Nikolai Ponomarev-Stepnoy, deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute, and Anatoly Senchenkov, head of the institute's department, told the Kommersant correspondent that the KGB was indeed interested in red mercury. They confirmed that at the institute they studied the problem of creating this substance, but they did not manufacture it and do not have such installations."

Everything quoted most of all resembles the classic disinformation action of the Russian special services. It is hard to imagine that the deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute could not know chemistry and physics to such an extent as to believe in deposits in tectonic faults where mercury can combine with antimony - and throughout this story, with the "use in missiles and torpedoes" of non-existent red mercury. Perhaps the deputy director was asked to “help” the “right comrades”?

Why the Soviet KGB needed all this is not so easy to understand. According to one of the versions, a mysterious but non-existent substance was used for sale to terrorists trying to find really dangerous components for weapons of mass destruction. It is clear that good, high-quality education and terrorists are, normally, from different areas of life. Therefore, they, unlike Ponomarev-Stepnoy, easily believed in the power of the invented compound. And by revealing their interest in the subject, the special services could work with such people further. So it is or not, whether the KGB was behind the mercury myth or it was invented by someone else - today it is very difficult to establish.

One thing is certain. The British media have already talked about the mysterious and incomprehensible - the formulas of red mercury, like Novichok, have never been seen - but an extremely dangerous threat from Russia. It was told almost 30 years ago, and even then these stories contradicted both common sense and physics and chemistry. We are not quite sure that the current stories about the poisoning of a prominent political figure by the most effective (but for some reason not killing their victims) BWA in human history do not belong to the same field of "documentary" as the "red mercury" of the old days.

Note: due to the lack of specific data on a recent incident, the material may not take into account some important circumstances that will become known later. The text analyzes only the facts known for today, available in open sources.

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