Tag Archives: poisoning

Do you believe the latest tall story about the alleged Skripal poisoners?

Identity crisis: Alexander Petrov? Or Alexander Mishkin?

What do you think?

When Bellingcat claimed to have revealed one of the suspects in the Skripal poisoning as Anatoliy Chepiga, I published the claim on This Site and received a lot of flak for it.

Bellingcat had simply gone into photographs of GRU agents and found one that looked like the suspect, according to many critics.

Well, now that website has claimed it has identified the other man as Alexander Mishkin.

What do you think of that claim?

The name of the second suspect in the Salisbury case is actually Alexander Mishkin, the BBC understands.

The Bellingcat investigative website says the man who travelled under the alias Alexander Petrov is in reality a military doctor working for Russian intelligence, the GRU.

Last month, Bellingcat named the first suspect as Anatoliy Chepiga, a claim rejected by Russia.

Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March.

The British open-source website said it had identified the suspect using testimonies from people the suspect knew and a scanned copy of his passport.

Source: Skripal attack: Bellingcat names second Salisbury suspect – BBC News

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Russians named as suspects in the Salisbury poisonings – but can we trust lying Tories?

Suspects: Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

It’s looking bad for Russia, isn’t it?

The trouble is, the Conservative government is not known for its record of honesty in this case.

This Site, and others, have reported inconsistencies in the Tory story, time and again since the poisonings of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March this year.

So I am not prepared to accept Theresa May’s claims unquestioningly. It is interesting to note that the statement from investigators did not pin the blame on the Russian GRU, but Mrs May did.

Let us not forget that she has systematically weakened the UK’s intelligence-gathering capabilities that could have prevented the attack from happening.

And notice that no other line of inquiry is being pursued. Is this because the Tories were determined to pin the blame on Russia and ignored alternative possibilities?

I await analysis by those with more expertise than myself, and would advise you to do the same.

Two Russian nationals have been named and charged over the novichok poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, Wiltshire. British police and prosecutors made the announcement on Wednesday.

Police said the two men were travelling on authentic Russian passports under the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and arrived in the UK on an Aeroflot flight days before the attack. The Crown Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to charge them. British investigators said the two men were believed to have worked for Russia’s GRU secret service.

The CPS said it had charged the two men with conspiracy to murder the Skripals and DS Nick Bailey, who fell ill after going to the Skripal home after the Russian pair were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury.

The two Russian suspects are also charged with the use and possession of novichok, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act. They are also charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and DS Bailey.

They have not been charged with the later poisoning that killed Dawn Sturgess and left Charlie Rowley seriously ill, after they became unwell on 30 June at an address in Amesbury, Wiltshire.

The investigation has recovered CCTV of the two suspects after they flew into Gatwick airport and stayed in the City Stay hotel in east London. After arriving on Friday 2 March on an Aeroflot flight, they went to Salisbury on the Saturday in what police said they were satisfied was a reconnaissance trip.

They returned to London that day and went back to Salisbury on Sunday, when police say CCTV showed them in the vicinity of the Skripal house. Police believe that after contaminating the front door of the property, they immediately went to Heathrow via train and London underground and flew back on Sunday night at 10.30pm. Health experts said no one they travelled with on the flights or trains is believed to be in danger and no one else is reported to have fallen ill.

Source: Salisbury novichok poisonings: police name two Russian suspects | UK news | The Guardian

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MI5 chief’s stale story about the Skripals is behind the times

Andrew Parker: You’d think the UK’s top spy chief could come up with better lies.

Isn’t it strange that the head of MI5 is wheeled out to reinforce the Tory government’s fairy tale about the Russians poisoning the Skripals, days after we were told something far more believable?

Here‘s what Andrew Parker had to say:

The Russian government is the “chief protagonist” in a campaign aimed at undermining western democracies, the head of the UK intelligence agency MI5, Andrew Parker, has said.

“The Russian state’s now well-practised doctrine of blending media manipulation, social media disinformation and distortion along with new and old forms of espionage, and high-levels of cyber-attacks, military force and criminal thuggery is what is meant these days by the term hybrid threats.”

He cited the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, describing it as reckless, putting not only the former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, at risk but numerous others in the community. The Skripals’ recovery was down to the “near miraculous” medical treatment they had received, Parker said.

Russia had offered 30 different alternative theories about the attack, which he described as criminal thuggery. “Whatever nonsense they conjure up, the case is clear,” he said.

Hang on – Russia offered 30 theories about the attack? It seemed to me that it was the British authorities who couldn’t make up their minds, and the Russian government was responding to the multitude of bizarre conspiracy theories that resulted.

And what about the story that (so far) seems to ring true – that Sergei Skripal had been involved in the creation of the dossier on Donald Trump’s links with Russia – a dossier that appears to have been faked?

What about the claim that the attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter was carried out to stop the culprits being caught?

What about the possibility that the UK government is hiding information?

Not a word.

That isn’t good enough.

We need a statement from the UK government on the information that has appeared over the last few days – not a flat denial, referring to “intelligence” that seems to be nonexistent; something supported by provable facts.

Something we can believe.

Until we get that, there’s nothing our Tory government can say about this that is worth our attention.


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More evidence of false information on the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal

What’s wrong with this picture?

The Salisbury Poisoning story is beginning to unravel badly and the UK’s Conservative government is starting to look as guilty as sin.

The Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and the Media was established to facilitate research into organised persuasive communication (including propaganda and information operations) and media coverage, with respect to the 2011-present conflict in Syria, including related topics.

The poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury earlier this year is a related topic and the working group has been investigating it.

The findings seem clear:

The public has been told a series of stories about the poisoning of these people, none of which are likely to have been true. It seems clear that the government organisations telling these stories never believed they were true, also.

The UK government’s accusations against Russia are false.

The Skripals may have been targeted because of Mr Skripal’s connection with Orbis Business Intelligence, and possible involvement with the creation of a dossier containing questionable information on a connection between US President Donald Trump and Russia – as outlined in an earlier article on This Site.

The UK government’s position is further called into question by the fact that the person putting it forward, Sir Mark Sedwill, used uncorroborated “intelligence”. As he was one of the authors of the so-called “dodgy dossier” on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, it is entirely possible that his evidence in this case is just as unreliable.

It seems there is no reason to believe anything the Conservatives have to say on this subject. We should all seek our facts elsewhere.

The following briefing note is developed by academics researching the use of chemical and biological weapons during the 2011-present war in Syria. The note reflects work in progress. However, the substantive questions raised need answering, especially given the seriousness of the political situation in the Middle East and UK-Russian relations. We welcome comments and corrections.

Authors: Professor Paul McKeigue, Professor David Miller and Professor Piers Robinson

Working Group on Syria, Media and Propaganda (syriapropagandamedia.org).

 

Key points

  • The Skripals were exposed to a phosphoroamidofluoridate compound named A-234, of high purity indicating that it was most likely prepared for research purposes.
  • A-234 or similar compounds have been synthesized at bench scale by national chemical defence labs in Russia and the US in the 1990s, and more recently in Iran and Czech. A small quantity of A-234 from a Russian state lab was used in the murder of Ivan Kivelidi and Zara Ismailova in 1995.
  • No data on the toxicity of A-234 are available in the public domain. The police statement that the Skripals were exposed through contact with their front door is implausible as there are no known nerve agents that cause onset of symptoms delayed by several hours, and it is improbable that absorption through the skin would cause both individuals to collapse later at exactly the same time.
  • Although Russia is one of several countries that have synthesized A-234 or similar compounds, there is no evidence other than Vil Mirzayanov’s story that these compounds were ever developed (implying industrial-scale production and testing of munitions) for military use. Mirzayanov’s credibility as an independent whistleblower is undermined by his role in a Tatar separatist movement during 2008-2009, backed by the US State Department.
  • There are multiple indications that the UK is hiding information:-
    • the withholding of the identity of the compound as A-234. For example, the UK statement to the OSCE 12 April 2018 states only that ‘ the name and structure of that identified toxic chemical is contained in the fall classified report to States Parties’. See also this briefing. The Chief Executive of Porton Down, in his statement 3 April, referred to the compound only as ‘Novichok’.
    • the withholding of information about its toxicity
    • the issue of a Defence and Security Media Advisory notice on the identity of Skripal’s MI6 handler and the attempt to conceal or deny his role in Orbis Business Intelligence.
    • the sequestration of Yulia Skripal.
  • The UK government’s case against Russia, stated in a letter to NATO, is based on asserting that “only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals”. Each of these points is open to question:-
    • Technical means: it is not seriously disputed that compounds such as A-234 can be produced at bench scale in any modern chemistry lab. 
    • Operational experience: it is alleged that Russia has a track record of state-sponsored assassination, but this is not enough to support the assertion that “only Russia” could have enough experience to attempt unsuccessfully to assassinate two unprotected individuals. 
    • Motive: No other attempted assassinations of defectors from Russian intelligence services have been recorded. Even if such an assassination campaign had been ordered, the Russian state would have good reasons not to initiate it in the first half of 2018.  In contrast there are obvious possible motives (outlined below) for other actors to have taken steps to silence Sergei Skripal at this time. 

 

What was the agent used?

An early report that the hospital was dealing with poisoning caused by an opiate such as fentanyl was most likely based on the initial working diagnosis.  Signs of organophosphate poisoning – constricted pupils, vomiting, reduced consciousness and reduced breathing – could easily be mistaken for opiate overdose, usually a more likely diagnosis.   OPCW has stated that the BZ detected by the Swiss Federal Institute for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection in one of the samples sent by OPCW was not from Salisbury but was in a control sample.

The Russian ambassador reported that on 12 March the Foreign Secretary had told him that the nerve agent used against Mr and Ms Skripal had been identified as A-234.   The OPCW report issued on 12 April did not identify the agent but stated that they had confirmed the identification made by the UK and that this identification had been included in the confidential report provided to “States parties”.  On 14 April the Russian Foreign Minister  stated that A-234 had been reported by the Swiss Federal Institute for Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Protection that was one of the four accredited labs used by OPCW to analyse the Salisbury samples.

Based on public reports, a ChemSpider record for A-234 has been created which assigns it the IUPAC name ethyl [(1E)-1-(diethylamino)ethylidene] phosphoramidofluoridate. Its predicted vapour pressure is very low indicating that it is predicted to be non-volatile. No information on its stability is available.   The OPCW director Uzumcu stated in a newspaper interview that the agent “seems to be very persistent,” and “not affected by weather conditions”.  This was confirmed the next day by an OPCW press statement that: “the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions”.  Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was reported to have stated:  “The chemical does not degrade quickly.  You can assume it is not much different now from the day it was distributed”.   No experimental studies of the stability of A-234 have been reported.

 

Who could have produced A-234 in bench-scale quantities?

It is no longer seriously disputed that, as noted in our earlier briefing, any well equipped university lab can synthesize and purify such chemicals at bench scale.  OPCW reported that the agent (presumably A-234) was of high purity with “almost complete absence of impurities”.   This suggests that it was from a batch that had been synthesized for research, rather than for assassination purposes where it would be unnecessary to purify the agent.

Uzumcu stated in an interview with the New York Times that he had been told by UK officials that 50-100 grams of the agent was used.

“For research activities or protection you would need, for instance, five to 10 grams or so, but even in Salisbury it looks like they may have used more than that. Without knowing the exact quantity, I am told it may be 50, 100 grams or so, which goes beyond research activities for protection”

OPCW quickly contradicted this in a statement that “OPCW would not be able to estimate or determine the amount of the nerve agent that was used in Salisbury on 4 March 2018. The quantity should probably be characterized in milligrams”.

 

Who has studied A-234 or similar compounds?

Bench-scale research on the toxicity of agents that might be used in chemical warfare is entirely legitimate under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and does not have to be declared to OPCW.

  • Russia

Since our last briefing note, more material from the investigation of the Kivelidi poisoning has been published by Novaya Gazeta, updating the earlier article published on 22 March.  The second article includes an image of the mass spectrometry profile of the sample recovered from the telephone handset, which matches that submitted by Edgewood to the NIST98 mass spectrometry database.  The Russian experts who commented on the original result appear not to have had access to the mass spectrometry profile of A-234, and to have incorrectly reconstructed the structure from a best guess, based on the mass-charge ratios of the fragments, as something like the GV agent (both agents have molecular mass 224 daltons, and a 58-dalton fragment).   This establishes that Russia had synthesized this compound at bench scale by the mid 1990s, but does not confirm that it was ever developed for military use as alleged by Mirzayanov.

  • US

1997 newspaper article refers to a secret US army intelligence report referring to Russian development of A-232 and its “ethyl analog” A-234, indicating that the designation of these compounds and their structures was known to the US by this time. As noted in our last briefing note, the Edgewood lab submitted a mass spectrometry profile for A-234 to the public database NIST98, which was current from 1998 to 2001.

patent application submitted by a US government lab in 2008 mentions “Novichoks”, but examination shows that the structures given for these compounds were the dihaloformaldoxime structures previously published as supposed “Novichoks”, not the phosphoramidofluoridates published by Mirzayanov later in 2008.   This does not indicate that the applicants were studying these compounds – most likely they included them to make their patent as broad as possible.

  • Iran and Czechia

study from Iran published in 2016 reported synthesis for research purposes of a compound similar to A-234, differing from it only by the presence of methyl instead of ethyl groups.  In an interview with Czech television, President Zeman stated that in November 2017 the related compound designated A-230 was studied at the Brno Military Research Institute.

  • Other labs

The director of Porton Down has declined to comment on whether Porton Down has stocks of A-234 for research purposes. The OPCW labs that identified A-234 in the specimens from Salisbury were most likely matching it against a mass spectrometry profile in OPCW’s Central Analytical Database.

 

What is known of the toxicity of A-234?

No data on the toxicity of A-234 are available in the public domain.  The printout of the entry in the NIST 98 database appears to cross-reference an entry in the database RTECS (Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances)but no entry for this compound now exists in RTECS.

 

Why was the structure of A-234 revealed?

The structure of A-234 was revealed in a book by Vil S Mirzayanov in 2008, some 13 years after he had emigrated to the US with the story of a secret programme to develop chemical weapons of a class named “Novichoks”. During 2008-2009 the US government, with an active part for the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was encouraging the development of a separatist movement in Tatarstan.  As part of this, Mirzayanov was declared head of a Tatar government-in-exile in December 2008.    The publication of his book may thus have been part of an effort to build up Mirzayanov’s status as a dissident.  His role in this operation may explain why subsequent discussion of his book by OPCW delegates was closely monitored (and discouraged)by the US State Department.   Mirzayanov’s involvement in this operation undermines his credibility as an independent whistleblower.

 

When and where were the Skripals exposed to A-234?

A summary of the different versions on which journalists were apparently briefed by security sources was given by the Russian embassy:-

– The Skripals could be sprayed with poison by attackers in the street (Daily Mail, 6 March, source: “Anti-terror police”).

– The nerve agent could be planted in one of the personal items in Yulia Skripal’s suitcase before she left Moscow for London. According to this theory the toxin was impregnated in an item of clothing or cosmetics or else in a gift that was opened in the house of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, meaning Yulia Skripal was deliberately targeted to get at her father (The Telegraph, 15 March, source: “Senior sources in the intelligence agencies”).

– The nerve agent could be planted in the air conditioner of the car of Skripals (Daily Mail, 19 March, source: “Security expert Philip Ingram”).

– The Skripals could be poisoned through buckwheat that Yulia Skripal had asked her friend to buy and bring for her father, because she had forgotten to pick up the grocery gifts herself (The Sun, 1 April, source: “British investigators”).

On 28 March the police announced that “at this point in our investigation, we believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent from their front door”.  

Although it is possible that a nerve agent could be prepared in a formulation that would be absorbed only slowly through the skin, it is implausible that two individuals exposed through contact with the front door would have received doses that caused them to collapse suddenly and so nearly simultaneously that neither had time to call for help, at least three hours later.   It is more likely that they were attacked shortly before they were found collapsed on the park bench.

 

Sergei Skripal’s link with Orbis: possible motive for murder

In the first few days after the poisoning there were media reports that Sergei Skripal had been in regular contact with his MI6 handler,  whose Linked-In profile had stated that he was a consultant for Orbis Business Intelligence.  It appears that this  profile was deleted by March 7, and a Defence and Security Media Advisory Notice was issued to caution journalists against disclosing the identity of this consultant.  However at Skripal’s trial in 2007 his MI6 handler had been identified as Pablo Miller, and the link between Skripal and Miller had been described in detail by Russian opposition media on 6 March.

This link between Skripal and Orbis may be relevant to the dossier compiled by Christopher Steele, the founder of Orbis, containing derogatory information on Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.  This dossier had been used by the FBI to apply for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court order authorizing surveillance of Trump’s campaign.  By early 2018 the unravelling of this story was creating serious difficulties for Steele and for those he had worked with.  These difficulties included a referral for criminal investigation by two US Senators, a libel case in the US against the publisher of the dossier which had led to a court ruling that Steele should be questioned in an English court, and a libel case in England against Orbis and Steele.   It is not difficult to postulate a situation in which the potential for damage to US-UK relations could have provided a motive for actors on both sides of the Atlantic to ensure that Sergei Skripal would not be available to give evidence.

 

The UK government’s position

This was summarized in a letter from the National Security Adviser, Sir Mark Sedwill to the NATO Secretary-General on 13 April 2018.   Sedwill’s letter made several assertions that were substantiated only by “intelligence”:

  • By 1993, when Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, it is likely that some Novichoks had passed acceptance testing, allowing their use by the Russian military
  • Russia further developed some Novichoks after ratifying the convention
  • During the 2000s, Russia commenced a programme to test means of delivering chemical warfare agents and to train personnel from special units in the use of these weapons. This programme subsequently included investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles. 
  • In the mid-2000s, President Putin was closely involved in the Russian chemical weapons programme
  • Within the last decade Russia has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks

Appearing before the House of Commons Defence Committee on 1 May, Sedwill (11:39) extolled the government’s reaction to the Salisbury incident as “an example of the Fusion Doctrine in practice”.  The Fusion Doctrine brings other government departments under the National Security Council with “the introduction of senior officials as senior responsible owners to deliver each of the NSC’s priorities”.

Sedwill’s involvement in the preparation of the now widely discredited dossier ‘Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction, released in September 2002, calls into question his credibility in making these uncorroborated assertions.   The UK government’s case as set out by Sedwill is based on asserting that “only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals”.  Each of these points is open to serious criticism:-

  • Technical means: it is not seriously disputed that A-234 can be produced at bench scale in any organic chemistry lab.
  • Operational experience: it is alleged that Russia has a track record of state-sponsored assassination, but this does not support the assertion that only Russia has the operational experience for such an assassination. On the contrary, the failure of the assassination attempt, against two unprotected individuals, suggests that the perpetrators lacked the operational experience and competence that one would expect of state-directed assassins.
  • Motive: no other attempted assassinations of defectors from Russian intelligence services have been recorded. If the Russian state had decided to begin assassinating these defectors, it is unlikely that they would have chosen to start in March 2018, just before the presidential election and three months before the FIFA World Cup.   However, as noted above, it is possible to identify motives for other actors to silence Sergei Skripal at this time.

Acknowledgements

We thank Professor Rudy Richardson of the University of Michigan for advice on the toxicology of nerve agents. 

Source: Briefing Note: Update on the Salisbury poisonings | Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media


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D-Notice over Skripal poisoning suggests the information we’ve been given was false

Yulia Skripal (right) and her father Sergei: Attacked to hide lies about Trump?

Isn’t it interesting that the news media were told to hide the fact that an intelligence officer dealing with the Skripals worked for Orbis Business International!

It’s also interesting that the D-Notice was ineffective as a person who never received it – former UK ambassador Craig Murray – gave the game away on his blog.

He wrote: “There is no doubt that Skripal was feeding secrets to MI6 … and at the the time that Pablo Miller, another member of Orbis Intelligence, was also an MI6 officer in Russia and directly recruiting agents. It is widely reported on the web and in US media that it was Miller who first recruited Skripal. My own ex-MI6 sources tell me that is not quite true as Skripal was “walk-in”, but that Miller certainly was involved in running Skripal for a while… It is again widely alleged on the web that [Miller was] a consultant for Orbis Intelligence and a consultant to the FCO and – wait for it – with an address in Salisbury.

“It was of course … Orbis Intelligence who produced for the Clinton camp the sensationalist dossier on Trump links with Russia … that is a key part of the “Russiagate” affair gripping the US political classes. The extraordinary thing about this is that the Orbis dossier is obvious nonsense which anybody with a professional background can completely demolish… [The] motive was, like Skripal’s in selling his secrets, cash pure and simple.

“I do not know for certain that Pablo Miller helped knock together the … dossier on Trump, but it seems very probable given he also served for MI6 in Russia and was working for Orbis. And it seems to me even more probable that Sergei Skripal contributed to the Orbis Intelligence dossier on Trump… Who better to lend a little corroborative verisimilitude in these circumstances than … old source Skripal?”

So we now have several possible reasons for the Skripal poisoning – and they point to the United States – not to Russia.

Did it happen to cover up the source of the information in the Trump-Russia dossier?

Did it happen to hide the possibility that the information in the dossier was false?

Was it revenge for Skripal feeding the intelligence services a pack of lies in return for a fat wodge of cash?

And why has there been no new information on the Skripals in weeks?

The Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee (DSMA) – a Governmental body – issued a so-called D-Notice requesting the censorship of numerous mainstream media outlets regarding the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury on the fourth of March this year, allegedly by Russia, using the Novichok nerve agent. Sergei Skripal was a double agent for the UK who was obtained and brought to Britain under a ‘spy-swap scheme’ in 2010. The circumstances surrounding his alleged poisoning have been translucent at best, and altogether weird.

It now appears to be the case that the media was censored in how and what it reported of the Skripal poisoning in the days following its revelation.

A D-Notice is, essentially, an instruction issued by the DSMA to the media not to publish matters of certain sensitivity.

The D-Notice issued on 7 March 2018, three days after the Skripal poisoning happened, stated the following:

“Private and Confidential: Not for Publication, Broadcast or for use on Social Media TO ALL EDITORS The issue surrounding the identify of a former MI6 informer, Sergei Skripal, is already widely available in the public domain. However, the identifies of intelligence agency personnel associated with Sergei Skripal are not yet widely available in the public domain. The provisions of DSMA Notice 05 therefore apply to these identities. DSMA Notice 05 inter alia advises editors against the: ‘inadvertent disclosure of Sensitive Personnel Information (SPI) that reveals the identity, location or contact details of personnel (and their family members) who have security, intelligence and/or counter-terrorist backgrounds, including members of the UK Security and Intelligence Agencies, MOD and Specials Forces.’”

The D-Notice instructs the media not to report on matters surrounding security personnel associated with Sergei Skripal.

The individual to whom the D-Notice refers is in fact one Pablo Miller. He is a former MI6 operative. The Telegraph has also previously published that Miller worked for Orbis Business International, a corporate intelligence consultancy.

Source: The UK government issued a media censorship order over Skripal poisoning links to Trump-Russia dossier | Evolve Politics


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Police release Yulia Skripal ‘statement’. Nobody believes she made it

Yulia Skripal (right) and her father Sergei: Held under duress?

Salisbury poisoning victim Yulia Skripal, who was released from hospital earlier this week, has in turn released a statement via the Metropolitan Police. It’s just a shame that she didn’t write it.

I could be wrong, of course. But there seem to be contradictions and nuances of language that suggest I am not.

Here‘s the statement:

“I was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital on the 9th April 2018. I was treated there with obvious clinical expertise and with such kindness, that I have found I missed the staff immediately.

“I have left my father in their care, and he is still seriously ill. I too am still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against us.

“I find myself in a totally different life than the ordinary one I left just over a month ago, and I am seeking to come to terms with my prospects, whilst also recovering from this attack on me.

“I have specially trained officers available to me, who are helping to take care of me and to explain the investigative processes that are being undertaken. I have access to friends and family, and I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can. At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.

“Most importantly, I am safe and feeling better as time goes by, but I am not yet strong enough to give a full interview to the media, as I one day hope to do. Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves. I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being. Her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father’s.

“For the moment I do not wish to speak to the press or the media, and ask for their understanding and patience whilst I try to come to terms with my current situation.”

It was immediately criticised by former ambassador to Uzbekistan (now an influential blogger) Craig Murray. On Twitter, he wrote:

On his blog, he expanded on his concerns:

“There is also the very serious question of the language it is written in. Yulia Skripal lived part of her childhood in the UK and speaks good English. But the above statement is in a particular type of formal, official English of a high level which only comes from a certain kind of native speaker.

“’At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services’ – wrote no native Russian speaker, ever.

“Nor are the rhythms or idioms such as would in any way indicate a translation from Russian. Take “I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being. Her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father’s.” Not only is this incredibly cold given her first impulse was to phone her cousin, the language is just wrong. It is not the English Yulia would write and it is awkward to translate into Russian, thus not a natural translation from it.

“To put it plainly, as someone who has much experience of it, the English of the statement is precisely the English of an official in the UK security services and precisely not the English of somebody like Yulia Skripal or of a natural translation from Russian.”

Many others have picked up on the strange use of language.

https://twitter.com/TimeForceCop/status/984153611658723330

As a writer, I avail myself of such words quite often. But then, I am a writer and I like to exercise my command of my own language. I don’t hear other people using that expression unless I am in rarified company, so I think these critics are right.

And then there’s the discrepancy between the phone call, in which Ms Skripal described her father’s health as “fine”, and the statement, in which she said he was “seriously ill”. Has he had a relapse?

We can only conclude that Ms Skripal’s words are not her own and that she is not free to go about her own business.

In effect, the UK government has kidnapped this poor woman, is attributing words to her that are not her own, and is most likely trying to indoctrinate her into believing its unlikely claims about what happened to her, while depriving her of access to alternative viewpoints.

It seems clear, then, that the government are the bad guys in this situation. But so, it seems, is the Russian government.

Are there any good guys?

Of course, the best indication of what happened to the Skripals would be offered by the record of their medical treatment.

It is significant that no information about that has been released to the public and no staff at Salisbury District Hospital have been at liberty to discuss the matter since one doctor wrote to the papers, informing them that nobody had been exposed to any kind of nerve agent at all.

The hospital is on lockdown, under the orders of the UK government, it seems.

But this is a matter of public interest and we have a right to know – especially as this case is being used to create hostility between our country and Russia.

It affects us all.

We demand the facts.


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‘You cannot decide in 24 hours what type of poison was used’ – first OPCW head condemns UK reaction to Skripal poisoning

Jose Bustani.

This is self-explanatory.

No doubt the UK government will try to condemn this as fake news because it is from Russia Today – but Jose Bustani’s words are reported verbatim. Watch:

What do Boris Johnson and Theresa May have to say about that?


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