The curious case of the Salisbury poisonings (updated)

ARTICLE UPDATED on weekly basis, as new information & aspects are made known."Snippets curator" of information, articles on the Salisbury poisoning incident.

The recent incident is worrying on a number of levels, first legally, then the corporate MSM’s attitude and also the lack of coherent details on the chemical product. 

  • The UK government statement that the posioning was due to a substance developed by Russia, first said on 8th March; then 'Novichok' was mentioned in a UK statement on the 12th.  No information on method of delivery or location of where the victims made into contact is yet known on 18th March. As of 25 March, the police still do not have a method of delivery.
  • The asssertation by the UK government & Main Stream Media (MSM) that Russia is responsible beyond all doubt, ignoring any other possibilities; in fact the UK media is now drawing the attention of the alleged activities of Kremlin Trolls & bots instead of asking basic questions.
  • The insistence of the UK MSM to push the UK government narrative, totally ignoring a range of publicly available information relating to  'Novichok', instead, there is a tendency to concentrate on interviews from one Soviet 'defector;
  • The UK authorities' inability to define more precisely the substance, using vague language: 'Novichok'- type, does not match recent scientist research on Chemical Weapons (CW).  Anonymous UK officials have mentioned A-234 but that's it.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May hastily singled out Russia as 'highly likely' to be the culprit. “Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the U.K.” 

The now ex-U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump, French president Macron and Angela Merkel all joined in the accusations against Russia as the only suspect. Tillerson said to US reporters: “This is a substance that is known to us and does not exist widely,”... “It is only in the hands of a very, very limited number of parties. And I don’t want to say anything further than that.”

But the fact that Novichok type substances are in the hands of "limited parties' and derivatives synthesised by Iranian scientists in 2016, doesn't make the UK media look good, does it by persistently singling out Russia. That's the first of a series of oddities in this story. It also make the UK government line on 'developed by Russia' a total lie. Successful Novichok Synthesis was in 2016 by Iranian scientists, in Cooperation with the OPCW

The Guardian - article from last week

1. Background — on the scene at Salisbury

Here we have a nasty incident, in the UK, that took place at a moment when the relations between the UK and Russia are already ‘poisoned’, with a level of rhetoric directed at Russia that is rancorous and vindictive.  Two weeks later, the UK police do have not a culprit or have been able to confirmed how the nerve agent was administered.

The reality in Salisbury was the 4th March poisoning resulted in 3 people still in the local hospital, Mr Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a police officer. Since then there is little information on the situation, no interviews and no updates on their condition, expect for a brief one on the police officer. Here is what is quoted "the officers may have touched the Skripals’ clothing or skin, which could have been contaminated with the nerve agent"

Ultimately the immediate medical first responders who handled the victims at the scene were seemingly unaffected, although the media did report the police officer as being affected in the park. We now have the kids in the park story according an UK tabloid.  This new sensational twist is making the whole story more ludicrous, given the dozens of first responders, police and medical staff would too have come in contact with the Skripals, but a piece of bread could be more worrying than the exposure to reported SLUDGE signs experienced by the Skripals?

The Times claimed that 40 people needed treatment for nerve agent like symptoms, yet in a letter to the newspaper, a doctor denied this number, referring to just the 3 individuals affected. Even more intriguing is the apparent time delay of several hours between the time that the Skripals were found unconscious on a park bench, and when the police presumed they were in contact with a substance at their home, on a door handle. The story has been evolving over the last 3 weeks, from being sprayed on the bench, to unwittingly handling a substance planted in luggage from Moscow, to being attacked in Mr Skripal’s BMW car through air vents.  

Now, it is the turn of the door handle being suspected as a method of delivery, (while dozens of hazmat suits specialists have been investigating various sealed off sites around Salisbury, checking for 'clues' and destroying evidence since 9 March). The latest item coming under investigation is a bag of breakfast buckwheat cereals, apparently brought in by a friend of Yulia, from Moscow.  

What's going to be next item, a bag of mushrooms???

The door handle scenario is not 100% plausible, given that there are 3 victims involved, if we are take Theresa May's words at face value, that Novichok is extremely deadly military grade nerve agent. "If that were really the case, they would have collapsed on the spot and be dead in minutes," said retired FSB general Alexander Mikhailov.  But the Skripals, drove to cemetery, walked, drove into town, parked, drank at a pub and then waited for a while before having a meal at a restaurant, after that walking briskly to the park.  This does raise the question of what kind of substance was it then?

It wasn’t until the 6th day after the incident, that the government decided to deploy specialist CW military personnel to carry out checks and decontaminate areas, who handily had just completed an annual CW exercise, "Toxic Dagger" not far.

The authorities  in a vain attempt to calm fears of people subsequently told the public to wash their clothes in case they were contaminated and told those at the restaurant to use baby wipes to clean mobile phones & bags. Is this really the best advice to give to someone who had potentially been in contact with a deadly substance, more lethal than VX? Again the media mentioned that it could 'linger'.

The Telegraph article 13 MARCH 2018

The MSM howl in unison

There is so far no substantial evidence to prove the allegations, and on the 15th March, the investigation is at the “unidentified sources” and “working on theory” stage according to the more sober UK media articles, that’s despite all of the initial sensationalism of the previous week. 

The UK media didn’t hesitate to swiftly pin blame on Moscow well before Friday 9 March, & certainly didn’t wait for the findings of the ongoing police investigation of a poisoning that allegedly involved ‘Novichok’. Curious when you think how the Skripal case poisoning  is being handled by the media, and has taken a different approach to what happened with the Litvinenko case, no photos, no medical reports or consular access or information about one of its own citizens.

The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May said in a speech to Parliament: “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable“.   So the vague language used by the UK government continues, “of a type developed by Russia”, would be akin to saying Sarin is a type developed by Germany, (back in 1937). The UK government is putting itself in a very clear hostile position, while the actual investigation is still “work in progress” & is said to be complex.  

Practically all of the UK media has been releasing articles all of the time blaming Russian state involvement in the Salisbury poisonings.  More people are being swapped in a sea of hysteria, aided by a very compliant lazy MSM. The willingness of the UK media to immediate toe the UK government’s line, full of bellicose rhetoric, without a hint of even of a reasoned debate, is absolutely staggering. I could be very cynical in saying that there is a deep malaise reminiscent of the old Soviet ‘Pravda’ journalistic ethics at work here. To find anything that actually is different from the script, you have to read articles in an Irish newspaper. https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/unlikely-that-vladimir-putin-behind-skripal-poisoning-1.3425736 

To add injury to insult, anyone daring to challenge this hastily scripted ‘official version’ is labeled as a ‘Kremlin stooge’.  The 21st century ‘witch-hunt’ mentality has to stop. The vitriol, the death threats to those who disagree with the official narrative needs to stop. 

Meanwhile a recent police statement on 22 March on the investigation:"The investigation is highly likely to take many months and where it is operationally possible, updates will be issued to the media."

2.  The twilight zone & grey-area of espionage 

The collective finger-pointing, based on what seems to have come directly from a warped version of a Le Carré novel, except  it isn’t fiction. 

‘It’s all a little unclear,’ one expert said about Novichoks.  Indeed, if after 16 years in the making, it is still unclear even to top experts, maybe there is something that is at odds. Maybe somewhere in all this haziness, this vagueness, especially in scientific circles, there is a false trail of deception, to make out that Novichok is a feared nerve-agent. 

Why do I say that?  Maybe there is a possible connection between the development of Novichok as part of a Soviet CW programme, codenamed 'Foliant' and an long-defunct US FBI counter-intelligence project, codenamed “Operation Shocker”. This was a long-running US operation aimed at wasting  Soviet resources & money in trying to develop a new super nerve gas the US believed unweaponizable, known as GJ, deemed to be an hopeless unachievable programme. The aim of the US operation was to misinform the Soviets about the US CW and BW programmes, through a fake 'defector'.

"  The Soviet military did, indeed, expand and intensify its efforts to develop a super nerve gas like GJ. However, as time went on, there was increasing evidence that Soviet scientists had succeeded where their American counterparts had given up, and that the Soviets had successfully developed a usable, much more toxic, and highly effective nerve gas called Novichok. Whether Novichok is directly descended from GJ is not entirely clear, but the unexpected outcome raises an intriguing and important question. "  Flynn, M., Garthoff R. L. (2000) Playing with Fire

The Soviets, it seems also played the same game as the US, if this account holds up to scrutiny, a game of double bluff. A Russian writer Andrei Lazarchuk claims that  'Novichok", never actually existed as an extremely deadly nerve agent, was in fact referred as a "deza" where the KGB intended to mislead its opponents. 

It is said that"the KGB conducted a large-scale operation in the late 80s to  misinform the enemy, through selected channels by 'leaking' the information.  Twenty "fake" but very detailed projects were developed for "a new chemical superweapon that is not defined by existing  NATO detectors and from which there is no protection", (NOVA with indices, "Novice" with indices, ASD and others).One such convenient person through which to channel the information was said to be Mirzoyanov himself.

Who really knows what happened in the 80s and in the early 90s, but the story does have some twists and turns, and the vague scientific understanding  shown in the West of the nature of 'Novichok' can only add more fuel to the intrigue.

3. Spyswaps jeopardised

In keeping with the Le Carré theme, this Skripal case has the makings of a great rip roaring thriller, except for in reality, the incident has well & truly jeopardised all future spy exchanges, internationally.  Given that in a time-honoured manner, spies that were swapped became the responsibility of their new country, deemed to be a safe haven and as such could not be targeted for assassination. This happened time after time in the Cold War, and we are talking about people who have caused untold damage to the national security,  probably many times greater than Skripal had done in the 1990s.

The ex-MI6 ‘employee’, double agent Sergey Skripal case is an odd one to my mind, as there are too many unanswered questions.  Here we have an ex-military GRU officer who had already spent 6 years unharmed in a Russian prison & then pardoned by the then President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, prior to being swapped over in an exchange in 2010. Skripal had then lived in the UK for 8 years & no he wasn’t in hiding either. He had served 4 years of just a 13-year prison sentence, and to note that his sentence was reduced from 20 years because he cooperated with the authorities.  Basically, what we have here is a 2nd rate, retired convicted & pardoned intelligence officer, who committed his crimes during the Yeltsin era, with no apparent access to current intelligence that could be useful to today’s Western intelligence services. According to The Times newspaper, Skripal was giving lectures on KGB tactics.

Tie in the curious fact that Skripal was recruited by Pablo Miller, an MI6 officer, while he was in Spain, compromised by a Western intelligence honey trap. Skripal became a double agent at time when Christopher Steele, (the 'Trump dossier author), was an senior MI6 officer.  CNN reported that the now retired handler Miller lives in Salisbury. All have links to Orbis and it is possible that Sergey Skripal had some link or helped with information relating to the "Trump Dossier".

There is no hint as to what kind of circles did Sergey Skirpal actually do, apart from being a security consultant. It almost as if a D-Notice has been slapped, where the UK media are prevented from discussing in any detail. 

Compare the case of Skripal with those in the US that have been jailed for spying. There are people in the US who serving extraordinary long sentences for espionage decades ago during the Cold War and also for whistleblowing.  Just compare the 13 year sentence, with  those of Aldrich Ames, or John Walker Jr. who died in a prison hospital, while still serving a lengthy sentence. Most US convictions are between 25 years & life in prison with no parole. 

Addendum 24 March: The case of Mr Skripal gets more intriguing, judging by the BBC article on his apparent regret at having been a double agent. Add in the previous report made back on 9 March  where another UK political refugee was interviewed by Channel 4, a Russian businessman, Mr  Morozov, said that Sergey Skripal had regularly met with Russian embassy officials: "every month going to the [Russian] embassy to meet military intelligence officers." (Video:2m mark)

Mr Morozov also added  in a BBC interview that the poisoning could have been done to target not only Skripal but also Putin, and it may have been part of a criminal group on a mission to hurt Britain and Putin.




Upside down attitude to UK legal & international norms

When I hear people say ‘beyond probable doubt’, when referring to the supposed Russian government involvement, I like to remind them that UK criminal law requires a greater burden of proof & evidence to uphold a conviction, with the time-honoured phrase, "beyond a reasonable doubt” & it is for the prosecution to provide evidence of this proof.  In fact the head of the UK government has made a mockery of the legal system, by turning the concept of burden of proof on its head.

The UK government implies that it is Russia solely that is responsible, and as a result has thrown out the international legal rulebook on handling criminal cases. Wording such as “highly likely”, used by the UK government is counterproductive as there is still an ongoing police investigation.  I am not aware of any arrest warrant being issued for likely perpetrators that might have been identified, or any  initial requests for Interpol assistance. Yet Russia is in the crosshairs, and I’m hearing a chorus, ‘the Kremlin is responsible” from politicians & media alike.

Fortunately there are people on social media  and individuals who look into different aspects of this ‘novichok’ poisoning, something that used to be done by MSM journalists, as part of their job. Now, the UK MSM are acting as stenographers of what the UK government says or writes in press releases, and then heaping abuse on those who do not obediently toe the line.





 

Recovery and lack of lethality 

Another oddity is that given the claimed deadliness of ‘Novichok’ by all and sundry in MSM and UK government officials, 3 people ended up in hospital.  Yet, May insisted on  8 March that  it was “weapons-grade nerve agent”. So what does that tell you? 

The flurry of activity with civilian & military decontamination teams in Salisbury  6 days after the event might have looked impressionable for the benefit of the general public.

Even more astonishing to hear that Yulia Skripal recovered consciousness, sufficient to be able to talk, in the last week of March, given all of the serious comments made in MSM & UK officials on the lethality of "Novichok", as evidenced on page 3 in the UK briefing by the UK embassy in Moscow. Just look at the compelling body of evidence shown in several slides,(not). It doesn't really stand up to any legal scrutiny. 

Moreover, Russian consular officials have not been given access to one of their citizens. You could imagine the scenario if the shoe was on the other foot and British Embassy was refused access to a British citizen in Russia? Mrs May made a statement after the round of Russian diplomat expulsions: “Together we have sent a message that we will not tolerate Russia’s continued attempts to flout international law and undermine our values.” Yet, the UK government seem to disregard the Vienna Convention on consular access, (detailed info is in the article).

I have an inkling that by magnifying the lethality of Novichok, the UK MSM has now a lot of 'egg on their face', and some serious amount of back-pedalling is going to happen, as result of people asking the question: "If it is that lethal, how come 1 victim is out of hospital, the other conscious & able to talk?".  Or the MSM just simply dismiss the inconvenient facts that are slowly coming out to the forefront. Regarding the UK government's "measured and proportionate response", (p 5 of the UK briefing), a lot of damage has been done, and probably more will be caused by the UK, all on some flimsy ideological belief & mindset.

Selective moral posturing on international rules 

No reasoned debate on the continued UK deceit to spice up unproven ‘narratives’. 

Prime minister, Theresa May spoke about a Russian anti-terrorism law in her Parliament speech, which she said: “the extra-judicial killing of terrorists and dissidents outside Russia were given legal sanction by the Russian Parliament in 2006”, except she’s has distorted this claim it for her own ends.

The manner in which the UK does this moral posturing, is seriously flawed  & contrived, given that the UK has a policy of permitting drones strikes against UK & other citizens in the Middle East. A whole host of legal and ethical issues have been raised regarding the use of armed drones. With this, the UK doesn’t have the moral high ground to lecture to Russia about assassination programmes.  No contradictions there?  The UK Foreign Office mentioned "International rules-based system” in one of its tweets:

The UK’s reaction to the event in Salisbury and its ludicrous stance is a snub to decades of old-school diplomacy internationally.  This snub towards international law was self evident with the “coalition of the willing” went ahead with invading Iraq in 2003, without UN approval.  A similar situation took place with the NATO attack on Libya, side stepping the relevant UN mechanisms and Resolutions. 

The UK’s rush to jump to conclusions seems to be foolish, and dare I say it, smells of a huge geopolitical deception, wrapped in the tiniest grain of ‘facts’. It undermines the international cohesion carefully developed & forged over the years in a number of international agreements, including the established OPCW protocols.

A web of deceit & intrigue still being woven

So for the UK government to say only Russia is capable of producing it is a outright lie, and the media goes along with that narrative, happily adding oil onto the fire.  This narrative bears the hallmark of the 2006  Litvinenko poisoning case with its numerous tangled subplots between Russian mafia, oligarchs, the UK security services & corrupt Russian security service entities.  The resulting Litvinenko public inquiry into his murder, seem to echo what is happening now with the Skripal case, (most of which was in fact conducted in secret closed  hearings, with testimony given by anonymous witnesses)> It was not a clear transparent inquiry, ultimately Lord Owen said that:"the assessment that the material is sufficiently sensitive to warrant being treated as closed evidence in these proceedings has been made not by me, but by the Home Secretary". (The Home Secretary back then was Theresa May). 

Theresa May also speaks about Russia having an “undeclared chemical warfare programme”, in the same tone as Iraq & now Syria had “undeclared chemical warfare programme”.  Does she not remember the salient points arising from the Chilcot Enquiry regarding the Iraqi WMD dossier, written to mislead the public & policymakers alike, to justify an invasion of Iraq?  

No reasoned debate in the media as why this is the case, except for a lone voice:

Was the Iraq debacle, with its Libyan post-script, not enough to convince us that a little modesty, some respect for the international rules we so laud when it suits us, might be in order?








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