Western security agencies believe the Kremlin intended to kill the opposition leader Alexei Navalny and only failed to achieve the deadly goal because of quick thinking by first responders when he suddenly fell ill in August.
The conclusion from lab tests is that Navalny was poisoned using a potentially milder strain of novichok than the one used in the Salisbury attack, pointing to an active chemical weapons programme in Russia capable of producing different variants of the poison.
Diplomats from Britain, France and Germany are now working together to try to get the OPCW chemical weapons agency to formally declare that Russia was responsible at a plenary meeting, which starts at the end of the month.
It is unclear if that effort will succeed, but European security agencies say in private there is “growing evidence” of Russian state involvement in the attack.
Navalny collapsed on 20 August while on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow. He fell into a coma and is probably only alive because the plane made an emergency landing in Omsk where he was given atropine, the only drug known to be effective, by the doctors first treating him.