It isn’t easy, you know – getting someone to provide information that isn’t exactly false, but may not be the whole truth either.
That appears to be the dilemma that faced the UK’s intelligence services with the statement by Yulia Skripal a couple of days ago. Here it is:
And here’s the written version of the statement, as provided by BBC News:
“Good afternoon. My name is Yulia Skripal. I came to the UK on the 3rd of March to visit my father, something I have done regularly in the past. After 20 days in a coma, I woke to the news that we had both been poisoned. I still find it difficult to come to terms that both of us were attacked. We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination. Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful. The fact that a nerve agent was used to do this is shocking. I don’t want to describe the details but the clinical treatment was invasive, painful and depressing.
“I am grateful to all of the wonderful, kind staff at Salisbury hospital, a place I have become all too familiar with. I also think fondly of those who helped us on the street on the day of the attack.
“I was discharged from hospital on the 9th of April and continue to progress with treatment but my life has been turned upside down as I try to come to terms with the devastating changes thrust upon me both physically and emotionally. I take one day at a time and want to help care for my dad till his full recovery. In the longer term I hope to return home to my country.
“I wish to address a couple of issues directly and have chosen to interrupt my rehabilitation to make this short statement. I ask that everyone respects the privacy of me and my father. We need time to recover and come to terms with everything that has happened. I’m grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy but at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services.
“Also, I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier statement that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves.
“Finally, I would like to again thank everyone involved in my continued care.
“My focus remains on my recovery and my dad’s health.”
Notice that she says nothing about the circumstances in which the poisoning took place.
She simply says she was visiting her father and then woke 20 days later – when she was told she had been poisoned.
It seems, therefore, that everything Ms Skripal can say about what happened to her has been fed to her by the UK security services – who haven’t exactly covered themselves with glory when it comes to honesty.
So there is no possibility that she will be able to provide any useful information about what actually happened.
Furthermore – and I note that I am not the only one to notice this – her statement again says she does “not wish to avail” herself of the Russian Embassy’s services, when those are not her words in the video statement. In the video, she says, “I am not ready. I do not want their help.”
Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan whose commentary on this story has been the most reliable you can read, noted: “I do not wish to avail myself of their services” is simply not a translation of what she says in Russian and totally misses the “I am not ready” opening phrase of that sentence. My conclusion is that Yulia’s statement was written by a British official and then translated to Russian for her to speak, rather than the other way round. Also that rather than translate what she said in Russian themselves for the subtitles, Reuters have subtitled using a British government script they have been given.”
This would reinforce the possibility that Ms Skripal cannot say anything about the circumstances of the attack against her and her father – even if she did have information, she would not be allowed to release it.
Mr Murray also points out that both Skripals (Sergei having been released from hospital recently) have been denied access to telephones – as they have not been making their normal regular calls to family members in Russia: “This lack of contact is a worrying sign that the Skripals may be prevented from free communication to the outside world. Yulia’s controlled and scripted performance makes that more rather than less likely.”
And he makes a very good point that evidence suggests the Novichok substance – A-234 – that was used to poison the Skripals was not made in Russia. Iran and Germany have it, and an interview with Porton Down chief executive Gary Aitkenhead revealed that it is likely he has the substance there as well – he did not say he did not have it, and when asked if it could have come from the UK government’s defence, science and technology laboratory, he said: “There is no way, anything like that could…leave these four walls. We deal with a number of toxic substances in the work that we do, we’ve got the highest levels of security and controls.”
As Mr Murray states, “Aitkenhead’s repeated assertion that the security would never have let it out, is tantamount to an admission Porton Down does produce novichok.”
At long last, the suspicion that the UK government has been lying to us is being voiced in the mainstream media, too.
In The Guardian on May 24, Angus Roxburgh – while still claiming there is no realistic alternative to Russia being responsible for the attack – states: “There can be no one in Britain, surely, who feels they have been told the whole truth about the Skripal case by the British government. Even my own near-certainty that the Russians were behind the attack rests more on intuition and precedent than on incontestable facts.”
He wrote: “The theatrical spectacle of specialists in elaborate, yellow, chemical protection suits still busy “securing” sites around Salisbury, while citizens in ordinary clothes stroll around them, is bizarre.
“No one has satisfactorily explained how novichok, claimed to be one of the most lethal weapons-grade nerve agents, has affected only three people, and not even its intended victims were killed by it.”
The UK’s Tory government has been trying – increasingly desperately – to sell us a pup. And we’re not buying.
Public opinion is not with the Tories on this.
In fact, the constant attempts to mislead us have made us more suspicious of our own government.
So far, there has been no serious attempt to restore our confidence.
Perhaps Theresa May has realised she has painted herself into a corner and is simply hoping that we will forget what happened. If so, she still does not understand the power of the social media.
Nobody will forget the Tory government’s attempted manipulation of this situation any time soon. We are angry at the assumption that we are stupid. And we want straight answers.
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