What is Novichok, the poison Germany says was used on Alexei Navalny?

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News: German government has said that Russia’s opposition leader, Alexei Navalny has been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

Facts:

  • Novichok: The name Novichok means “newcomer” in Russian and applies to a group of advanced nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.
  • How was it developed? Novichok was developed under a Soviet programme codenamed Foliant.It can be delivered as a liquid, powder or aerosol and is said to be more lethal than nerve agents that are better known in the West, like VX and sarin.
  • How does it work? The poison causes muscle spasms that can stop the heart, fluid buildup in the lungs that can also be deadly and damage to other organs and nerve cells.
  • Is this chemical banned? Russia is believed to have never declared Novichok or its ingredients to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons(OPCW) which oversees a treaty banning their use.

Additional Facts:

  • OPCW: It is the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention(1997).It has 193 members including India.
    • Aim: To promote and verify the adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention which prohibits the use of chemical weapons and requires their destruction.
    • Headquarters: The Hague, Netherlands.
    • Significance: The organisation was awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons.