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So one of my commenters keeps urging me to write something about the Skripal case, even hinting at a conspiracy to keep “bad news” from Unz.com denizens. I was going to briefly mention in my weekly Open Thread, but not anything more, because I don’t see this news are either important or unexpected. But given the urgency of these exhortations, and my respect for said commenter, I’ll do this right now.

We have two suspects who have been captured on CCTV, Alexander Petrov (a Russian “John Smith”) and Ruslan Boshirov (“Bashirov” is a typical Tatar surname, with 48 hits in a database of Russian military deaths in WW1; but there are no results for “Boshirov”, a surname which nobody seems to have heard of before and which gets underlined in red when I type it into my WordPress post creation box).

impossible-photo

Furthermore, as Craig Murray pointed out, the CCTV snapshot of the two men showed the exact same time mark to the second. As he himself acknowledges, there could be innocent explanations for this. Perhaps the two men passed through different gates in exact synchronicity – unlikely, but not impossible. Or as for-the-record suggested on my blog, perhaps the camera clock was stalled.

While a poorly executed stitch-up might not be the likeliest possibility, you can’t rule it out entirely. When I was just out of high school (“secondary school”), I recall browsing through a career book, in which I read that the starting salary in MI6 was around 18,000 GBP, compared to the 50,000 GBP or more you’d be making in London investment banking right off the bat. The spooks aren’t going to get the best people with these paltry sums. A couple of generations ago, when patriotism was less superficial, and income differentials were much smaller, you’d have had more competent spooks (though they were still pretty incompetent). Though in all fairness, their human capital isn’t any better in Russia.

Even if it wasn’t, as Craig Murray goes on to point out, it only deepens the mystery:

Meanwhile the new evidence throws the previously reported timelines into confusion – and demolishes the theories put out by “experts” as to why the Novichok dose was not fatal. …

The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes. Do you recall all those “experts” leaping in to tell us that the “ten times deadlier than VX” nerve agent was not fatal because it had degraded overnight on the doorknob? Well that cannot be true. The time between application and contact was between a minute and (at most) just over an hour on this new timeline.

In general it is worth observing that the Skripals, and poor Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, all managed to achieve almost complete CCTV invisibility in their widespread movements around Salisbury at the key times, while in contrast “Petrov and Boshirov” managed to be frequently caught in high quality all the time during their brief visit. …

It is also telling the police have pressed no charges against them in the case of Dawn Sturgess, which would be manslaughter at least if the government version is true.

If “Boshirov and Petrov” are secret agents, their incompetence is astounding. They used public transport rather than a vehicle and left the clearest possible CCTV footprint. They failed in their assassination attempt. They left traces of novichok everywhere and could well have poisoned themselves, and left the “murder weapon” lying around to be found. Their timings in Salisbury were extremely tight – and British Sunday rail service dependent.

Murray also tosses out the possibility they might have been Ukrainians.

While some extreme Ukrainophobes claim that Ukrainians are too incompetent to carry out covert operations, such as the assassination of Zakharchenko, I would argue that they can do that – just not very competently, and with a tendency to collateral damage. The bombing of the Separ restaurant also reportedly killed five other people, and certainly severely injured a pure civilian, the leader of a Donbass youth group, Natalia Volkova.

But sure, I certainly don’t exclude that it could have been Russia too. The best Russians don’t go into espionage either. And it could have been botched on purpose, anyway. Commenter Dmitry has made good arguments that Russia’s ideal position wrt the West is a cold peace, and commenter Sean has made good arguments that this personally benefits Putin as well. My own sources tell me that Putin’s retirement is now one of the main topics in Kremlin circles, and any successor will find it far harder to make a heel turn towards the West – which would jeopardize the accumulated wealth of Putin’s elites and even Putin’s own safety – if relations between the two are purposefully poisoned.

Anyhow, you notice something? We are still in pure speculation mode. That the Brits would produce something eventually was to be expected, so I agree with The Big Red Scary that there is absolutely no reason to update our priors:

As far as I can tell, the British government has shown some pictures of some guys in what appears to be an airport, then some pictures of what appear to be the same guys on a street somewhere. They claim that these same guys entered the UK under some particular Russian names, and that they found residue of “Novichok” in their hotel room. Since the British government is not giving any means to falsify this story, and since they are known to lie about all kinds of other things, why should I pay attention?

Of slightly greater interest has been the effect on the world at large, but even there, this revelation seems to be a damp squib so far.

1. The USD – ruble rate has barely budged, and this probably was tied to a greater extent to general EM trends. The US sanctions process against Russia as it relates to the Skripals is potentially extreme, but it is already in process and its costs/risks must already be priced into the financial markets.

2. The UK by itself can’t do much against Russia.

It can kick out and harass Russian oligarchs, and many Westerners would love it do so. But for that matter, most Russians – including Putin – would love the UK to help solve their comprador elite problem for them.

But the UK isn’t going to do that. Not because Theresa May is controlled by ROG, or whatever the latest conspiracy theory is, but the rather more banal reality that wealthy Russians play a large role in propping up elite housing prices in London. A sector in which many British MPs are invested into.

3. The Euros will make ritualistic noises in support of the UK, but with things the way they are with Brexit, it is highly unlikely any of them will actually stick their necks out for them.

 
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  1. LondonBob says:

    I have made some comments on this elsewhere so I won’t repeat those but I will add that Annie Machon thought the policeman might have been observing Skripal. That would be consistent with my theory he was seen as a flight risk back to Russia and thus would have been watched.

    Interesting we have the same narrative shift as Litvinenko, the obvious Itsu poisoning being shifted to an otherwise undiscovered magical teapot as that is the only way to implicate the two Russians. The focus has now gone from Zizzi and after to a magical gel or spray which might never have been touched by their bare hands and amazingly never spread. Again discovered long after.

    Really nothing new, the media has been hysterical about Russia for many years now.

    https://www.conservativehome.com/platform/2018/09/bob-seely-ten-steps-to-defend-our-country-against-the-aggression-and-subversion-of-putins-russia.html

    Managed to get my comments deleted a few times.

    Am concerned this ties in with the encouragement of a false flag in Idlib and the potential for that to descend in to an escalation spiral.

  2. [MORE]

    A sector in which

    This sentence seems incomplete.

    AK: Thanks.

  3. AP says:

    I came across a source someone posted on facebook (some Ukrainian newspaper, I have no idea how credible) that the elder Skripal was helping Spanish authorities track down Russian organized crime in their country and that those criminals had links with people in the Russian government.

    In which case, the rogue elements within GRU might not have done what they did to sour West-Russian relations, but were simply trying to get rid of a nuisance. This still of course makes Russia look very bad.

  4. @AP

    That’s a possible explanation. And yes, it doesn’t at all reflect well on Russia.

  5. LondonBob says:
    @AP

    Skripal left Russia in 2010 and was in prison and the GRU before then, I know more about Russian organised crime. As the Steele dossier, something I suspect Skripal was involved in, shows these people are clueless. Skripal’s handler Pablo Miller being a close friend and colleague of Steele’s, and happening to live in Salisbury.

  6. Basically the new element is that either you believe that a lot of evidence was planted (which is almost 911 truther tier thing, for example they didn’t even plant the evidence for the Iraqi WMD – either the investigators are in on it, in which case a lot of people need to be involved, or they aren’t, in which case it’s pretty risky), or you are forced to believe that two Russians were there. Further, Russia hasn’t even denied that there were passengers with these names on those planes (claiming that the UK didn’t yet tell them the patronymic – well, I guess it should be possible to find the guys based on the photos and first and family names only).

    So at the very least we know with high probability that a couple of guys with Russian passports traveled there, spent some time in Salisbury on the day of the poisoning, and then left quickly. They were obviously not tourists.

    Then there’s the novichok (traces) found in their hotel room. Again, the evidence could be planted, but strangely they don’t use weasel language in that case (it’s not “of a type developed by Russia” tier weasel), they just flatly state that traces of novichok were found in their hotel room.

    This makes a number of other explanations impossible or at least highly unlikely.

    There are a few other explanations, but I think it’s more or less likely that these two guys were there to kill Skripal. And Russia probably knows who they are, but protects their identity. (So sorry, unlikely to be Ukrainians.)

    Basically, either we cling to unlikely explanations as gospel, or we accept that Russia is to a large extent responsible for the whole thing. At least if evidence means anything to us.

    And yes, the British political class is still a bunch of traitorous liars, but in this case they may not have been so bad as we had believed previously.

  7. LondonBob says:
    @reiner Tor

    Not familiar with the Litvinenko case then? No different.

  8. iffen says:
    @reiner Tor

    the British political class is still a bunch of traitorous liars

    We know that British, American and Russian politicians lie.

    Why is it important in this instance to determine which one is lying the most?

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  9. Only true believers who are able to ignore all evidence due to the strength of their beliefs can possibly buy the official British story. It is full of holes and inconsistencies.

    Why was the poisoning allegedly done right before the World Cup that Putin has bet so much on? Skripal was released from Russian jail in 2010, along with three other spies, as a part of the spy swap. If GRU/FSB wanted him killed, why wait seven years for the least opportune moment?

    If GRU or FSB is so devious as to arrange Skripal poisoning in the UK, why didn’t he or his daughter die after the application of “deadly” nerve agent?

    Why was this agent in a perfume bottle (that turned out to be leaky), which would be the most suspicious item in male’s luggage?

    Why did the versions put forward by the UK government change so many times in the first weeks (eatery, car ventilation system, door knob, to mention just a few)?

    Why would one of the photos replicated by various MSM feature two clowns in spacesuits and a perfectly happy unaffected British bobby without protective gear right next to them?

    Why didn’t British government present any proof of its claims, not only to Russia, who is presumed to be the enemy, but even to supposed allies?

    Why do the Brits keep both Skripals incommunicado, so that we can’t even be sure they are still alive?

    Why there is the same time stamp on the surveillance camera frames released recently as “proof” of Russia involvement?

    I can continue in this vein, but what’s the point?

    The timing, the inconsistencies of the official narrative (more like narratives, plural), and the rest of the evidence point in the same direction. And it’s not Russia.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  10. g2k says:
    @reiner Tor

    This is hardly going to make a difference to anything because the us and eu believed the British government’s account 100% from day one. No doubt the uk government will try to milk any new developments in this case for all they’re worth to try and get additional sanctions, but, if it wasn’t this, they’d find another pretext.

  11. Update: TESLA SHARES EXTEND LOSSES TO FALL 10%; BIGGEST LOSS IN 2 YEARS

    Congratulations Thor.

  12. neutral says:

    What I don’t get is what the UK elite is trying to get out of contrived bullshit. They couldn’t be bothered to about children being blown up in terror attacks or children being raped by Muslims, so clearly the average man on the street cannot sincerely believe that this Russia nonsense is the biggest problem. This is clearly a manufactured outrage, for what reasons I really cannot fathom, perhaps it is a useful distraction because of Brexit, but other than that what does the elite gain from this?

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  13. notanon says:

    they’re priming people for when they blame Russia directly for the next gas attack

    (it’s like the tales planted in the media a few years back about Isis in Syria developing the capacity to make anti-air missiles as a cover story for the CIA supplying them with manpads.)

  14. 5371 says:

    You lost me at “commenter Sean has made good arguments”.

    • LOL: Digital Samizdat
  15. Jon0815 says:
    @AP

    I came across a source someone posted on facebook (some Ukrainian newspaper, I have no idea how credible) that the elder Skripal was helping Spanish authorities track down Russian organized crime in their country and that those criminals had links with people in the Russian government.

    In which case, the rogue elements within GRU might not have done what they did to sour West-Russian relations, but were simply trying to get rid of a nuisance.

    If that were the motive, why not just use a bullet or a car bomb, rather than an exotic poison that would inevitably link the crime to Russia? Why time the attack to coincide with the World Cup? Etc.

    I don’t think there’s much doubt that the perpetrators of this crime were motivated at least in part by a desire to worsen relations between Russia and the UK/West. The proximity to the World Cup, and fact that Putin’s retirement is likely at least five years away, also makes me suspect it was less about Putin’s successor, and more about embarrassing Putin himself, as well as (assuming the perpetrators were Russian) trying to force him to take a harder line.

    • Replies: @AP
    , @reiner Tor
  16. LondonBob says:

    Christopher Steele and Annie Machon went to Cambridge, Richard Tomlinson too, and was some sort of prodigy. It was the Cambridge Five, it isn’t always about money.

    • Replies: @DFH
  17. @reiner Tor

    either the investigators are in on it, in which case a lot of people need to be involved, or they aren’t, in which case it’s pretty risky

    As I pointed out on the other thread, there are at least three ultimate suspects: the British, Russian, or Ukrainian government. If Russia, then it’s “pretty risky” and incredibly incompetent, with no clear gain to be had. On the other hand, as I said on the other thread, if it was the British, it’s easy to imagine how not very many people need to be involved: by my count, four or five, including “Boshirov” and “Petrov”.

    Epistemological aside: We could construct various plausible stories, and try to estimate the simplicity of each, but Occam’s razor is not a tool for knowing the truth about a particular matter, but rather a sound betting strategy for being right on average.

    Ultimately, however, this is all speculation, so what’s the point? I’m more concerned about Idlib escalating.

  18. DFH says:
    @LondonBob

    Christopher Steele and Annie Machon went to Cambridge, Richard Tomlinson too, and was some sort of prodigy

    But that’s not really surprising since most people intelligent enough to be in charge of large organisations go to either Oxford or Cambridge

  19. @Jon0815

    Putin’s retirement is likely at least five years away

    And he was just ahead of elections.

  20. utu says:

    Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are very important to the story of Skripals particularly for those who were willing to believe that the Sripals event was a hoax/false flag perpetrated by British security agencies. It is no longer possible to claim that there was no Russian connection.

    It does not look good for Russia. The image emerges that Russia is crude, ruthless, primitive and incompetent. The latter is the worst. Being caught is the worst offense.

  21. Jon0815 says:

    As I pointed out on the other thread, there are at least three ultimate suspects: the British, Russian, or Ukrainian government.

    I think you can almost completely eliminate the British government from that list, because of the weird incident with the two druggies and the false perfume box. Why would British agents conducting a false flag operation, have placed a novichok dispenser inside such a box, and then abandoned it someplace where it would only be discovered by pure chance months later? It’s much more likely that the box was used to smuggle the novichok through Customs.

    • Replies: @The Big Red Scary
    , @5371
  22. @Jon0815

    This is a fair point. I forgot about the junkies, which would make this more risky and more reckless for the British government, soo I update my prior down for the British government. (By similar logic, I have a low prior for the Russian government’s responsibility, for the reasons people have outlined above.) I wouldn’t go so far as to completely eliminate any party, though, since I don’t see how any of this is more risky and reckless than the wars in which governments routinely engage.

  23. bb. says:

    OT(?) latest news:
    France Suspects Russian Space Attack Targeted Military Satellite
    >https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-09-07/france-suspects-russian-space-attack-targeted-military-satellite?cmpid=socialflow-facebook-business&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=business&utm_campaign=socialflow-organic

    “We are in danger,” she (Parly-French Defense Minister) added. “The stakes are high. This is an absolute priority.”

    • Replies: @El Dato
  24. Gerard2 says:
    @AP

    that the elder Skripal was helping Spanish authorities track down Russian organized crime in their country and that those criminals had links with people in the Russian government.

    In which case, the rogue elements within GRU might not have done what they did to sour West-Russian relations, but were simply trying to get rid of a nuisance. This still of course makes Russia look very bad.

    A fairly cretinous theory , when the likes of Khodorkovsky, all the other criminal swines and the Ukrop pricks who run the show have next to no danger of their criminal proceeds being confiscated….it’s obviously some provaction by the west……particularly to do it like this

    I came across a source someone posted on facebook

    Some American-canadian Banderatard random idiot blog—which explains all yourattention-whore drivel on here

    This still of course makes Russia look very bad.

    What , like the embarrassment of the SBU Nazi’s of arresting Poroshenko’s translator for supposedly being part of Russian intelligence…..even though he had worked for him for 2 years?!
    Wouldn’t surprise me if he was translating all Poroshenko’s BS from..Russian, after all Poroshenko’s Russian is perfect, just like his grandchildren are Russian and he made all his money due to Russian market, Russian loans and so on.

  25. @reiner Tor

    which is almost 911 truther tier thing

    Does Ron Unz take requests?

  26. @The Big Red Scary

    Epistemological aside: We could construct various plausible stories, and try to estimate the simplicity of each, but Occam’s razor is not a tool for knowing the truth about a particular matter, but rather a sound betting strategy for being right on average.

    No, that’s not what Occam’s razor is.

    Occam’s razor does not apply to the Skripal case in any way, shape, or form. Nor does it apply in 99.99% of the other instances in which modern people erroneously cite it. Occam’s razor has nothing to do with any kind of directly experienced physical reality whatsoever. It was an entirely metaphysical postulate. The question in Occam’s mind was whether or not God acts through the mediation of subordinate powers. Occam was clearly of the opinion that He did not, and it was these entities that Occam insisted should not be multiplied without need. The razor was something set over against the great cosmic hierarchies of Neo-Platonism. The idea that it was ever meant to pertain to what we today would call “physical reality” was something entirely remote to the mind of Occam and his contemporaries and would have been incomprehensible to them.

    Also, it is worth pointing out that this idea was rejected by the Church and Occam was condemned for heresy. He died an unrepentant heretic, having never reconciled himself to the faith nor recanted his erroneous doctrines. So it is doubly amazing that an idea which was never meant to apply to physics but only to metaphysics, and which was incorrect even in its own domain, is now regularly employed by people calling themselves scientists and purporting to be pinnacles of rationality.

    (Note to the The Big Red Scary: I recognize, of course, that you were not doing this. You were actually arguing against the use of Occam’s razor in this particular instance, which is good. But since your comment made use of the same global assumptions abut what the razor is and where it ought to be applied, I wrote my objection anyway simply to reject those notions. It has nothing to do with you personally.)

    • Replies: @The Big Red Scary
  27. notanon says:
    @The Big Red Scary

    As I pointed out on the other thread, there are at least three ultimate suspects: the British, Russian, or Ukrainian government.

    or money – what do ex-spies do for a living – my guess is they often do things which are morally and legally dubious like getting hold of nerve agent from a CW lab to sell for cash.

    i think the most likely explanation is Skirpal got hold of some agent from someone working at Porton Down and spilled it during the handover to the buyers.

    with the UK govt deciding to use the incident as propaganda.

    Ultimately, however, this is all speculation, so what’s the point? I’m more concerned about Idlib escalating.

    how might they be related?

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  28. @The Big Red Scary

    it’s easy to imagine how not very many people need to be involved: by my count, four or five, including “Boshirov” and “Petrov”.

    That’s a very low estimate. There’s a chain of command, you need to get the novichok out of Porton Down, which already means a number of people will know it. Or does the MI6 or the secret British cabal have access to one Porton Down scientist who was willing to smuggle it out of the facility? Moreover, there must also be a coverup of the fact that the UK had already managed to produce novichok. It’d be a bombshell if it turned out that novichok had already been produced in the UK before March 2018 – and a lot of people need to do about it. After all, Porton Down is a huge bureaucratic institution.

    Similarly, there need to be someone who would plant the traces of novichok into the hotel room. This guy’s mission needs to be planned, someone has to find out which hotel room Boshirov and Petrov stayed in, etc.

    Besides, if Boshirov and Petrov (both of who had a Russian passport) have nothing to do with the Russian government, then it’d be easy for Russia to just show the two guys to the world. These guys could confess about some British person promising them money to travel to the UK, and there’d be traces of it. They’d suddenly gotten richer in March 2018. Or something. It’s impossible to lure a couple of guys to a city without any traces of it existing whatsoever.

    Regarding Ukraine, theoretically there could be some ethnically Russian (or even Ukrainian) people in Ukraine, who would be in the employ of the SBU or some other Ukrainian intelligence service. But it’d take a few hours for Russia to point out that both Boshirov and Petrov are Ukrainian double citizens, and that they live in Ukraine. These things have paper trails. Russia could seriously embarrass Poroshenko for this.

    Basically the big problem is that if it was anyone else, Russia could easily deflect the blame at this point. They don’t do that. The only reason I can think of is because they are guilty.

  29. @Intelligent Dasein

    I spent too much of my youth reading medieval philosophy, and am familiar with the history of Occam’s razor, as you are apparently aware of the term has evolved over time. I am not bothered by anachronistic terminology being used as an understandable short-hand.

  30. @iffen

    Reality is important. It’s important to know if the leaders leading the West are truly madmen (and -women), or if they are, although being stupid, mostly or at least partly just reacting to something Russia does.

    For example, if Assad really did commit the chemical attacks (not impossible, though at least regarding the 2018 I consider it highly unlikely), then he’s stupid, and he’s at least partly responsible for the almost-WW3 escalation. On the other hand, if the incidents were manufactured out of whole cloth, then the blame is entirely shifted to the US/etc. leadership.

    If reality wouldn’t interest me, I wouldn’t be commenting here. And this particular issue is an important part of the escalation between Russia and the West, so it’s particularly interesting to know if it was aggressive Russian stupidity (or perhaps deliberate policy? or a rogue group, which, however, goes unpunished?) or Western propaganda which pushed us closer to a WW3 confrontation.

    • Replies: @iffen
  31. @neutral

    “for what reasons I really cannot fathom, perhaps it is a useful distraction because of Brexit, but other than that what does the elite gain from this?”

    Everyone has to have someone to hate, as the Great Khan said. Our elites are worried that what with 25+ years of falling real wages, rising real house prices, and mass immigration, that we’re hating the wrong people i.e. them.

    Brexit and Trump were a huge shock to our masters. So there are two obvious steps – first control social media much more tightly, to stop large numbers of people tuning into BadThink narratives and maybe even forming online communities of BadThinkers, and secondly to provide hate objects.

    For a long time, pre-Internet, South Africans were the approved hate objects, then “Nazis” i.e. anyone right of Blair/Cameron or Bush/Obama, and particularly white people organising around identity (minorities doing this are praised and indulged , by contrast) . But that doesn’t seem to be working well enough. Enter Russia.

    The Guardian, which in Reagan’s time (and before) had rather a soft spot for the Soviet Union when compared with Britain and the USA, is now totally anti-Russian. People like Luke Harding are hard to distinguish from old Cold War hawks.

    Still, a couple of bits of (relatively) good news. The Guardian reports that Kurdish fighters are joining Syrian Government forces to retake Idlib, having been sold out by the US allowing the Turkish incursion into Syria.

    When the city (Afrin) was under attack, the SDF’s calls for US support were rebuffed. Allies in one corner of the country, they were abandoned in another, with Washington’s already strained relationship with Ankara more important than its bond with Kurdish leaders.

    The episode brought the alliance to breaking point. Four Kurdish officials have told the Guardian in recent months that anti-Isis operations have all but stopped. “Those we are carrying out sometimes don’t involve the Americans at all,” said one senior figure. “There is not the trust there was and they should not be surprised if we look after ourselves.”

    And the head of Germany’s (internal security) MI5 equivalent has joined the premier of Saxony and IIRC the Bavarian leader in doubting the media narrative of mobs hunting down foreigners in Chemnitz.

  32. @The Big Red Scary

    I’m more concerned about Idlib escalating.

    There’s a number of worrisome developments there, too.

    Unfortunately Russia’s credibility just went down. We don’t know if they’re telling the truth (I’m still willing to believe them more than the US Deep State), but I’m less certain than before.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-09-06/top-us-official-says-lots-evidence-assad-prepping-chemical-weapons-russia-threatens

    • Replies: @Deschutes
  33. Deschutes says:
    @reiner Tor

    No, you seem to be talking out your ass if you believe this whole farcical Skripal thing is actually true. Why would Russia do this to a retired spy who already served time in Russia? Absolutely zero motive. That you slur the 9-11 truth movement also makes me think your heads up your ass.

  34. 5371 says:
    @Jon0815

    Assumes that the druggie incident happened as advertised, which is an unwarranted assumption. Why on earth would assassins from Wusha abandon the poison in a public place instead of taking it home with them the same day? As with the Litvinenko incident, the bongster story makes less than no sense.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
    , @notanon
  35. Deschutes says:
    @reiner Tor

    You seem so utterly lost, be it on the Skripal nonsense which is clearly a UK government false flag bullshit stunt against Russia, and now you actually think Assad is going to gas ‘his own civilians’. Yep, I’m sure you believed all the other times with the ‘white helmets’ were cases of Assad gassing his own. Sorry you’re so lost. You’ve been totally brainwashed by the US State Dept. Can’t help ya I’m afraid.

    Have fun reading about the Skripals anyways, or maybe more Nikki Haley UN rants? :-D

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  36. @5371

    Look, the story looks like a botched action, whatever it was. Even if it was a false flag, it makes little sense. (Other than an action to deliberately poison Russia-West relations. But we’re at Dmitry’s and Sean’s theory that some hostility between Russia and the West is desirable for Russia.)

    What is your theory on who the two Russians were? Were there no people with those names on the flights in question? Russia could point that out. Are they not Russians? Again, Russia could point that out. Do they live abroad? Did they leave Russia for a third country afterwards in haste? Again, Russia could point that out. Etc.

    • Replies: @5371
  37. @Deschutes

    To be clear, I don’t think Assad is “gassing his own people,” but I am less sure about it than I was last week.

  38. @notanon

    i think the most likely explanation is Skirpal got hold of some agent from someone working at Porton Down and spilled it during the handover to the buyers.

    Russia could investigate and arrest the Russian buyers of novichok. They are probably criminals, according to this theory. If so, we’ll know soon. I’m not holding my breath.

  39. notanon says:
    @5371

    whether assassins or buyers my guess is someone spilled it and so they threw the container away in a panic – bad luck for the druggies

    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein
  40. @utu

    As others have pointed out, the whole incident looks like as if it was designed to worsen relations between Russia and the West.

    As the commenter PeterAUS put it, these guys (the US vs. Russia) are like the Corleone and Barzini families. So, it might’ve been a move by Russia to show their resolve in the face of the US sphere onslaught. Something which you (and I) were missing – to show the Western leaders that they could be crazy. This increases, among other things, the strength of their nuclear deterrent. They are just showing that they could be crazy like the Soviets. So better treat them with the same respect once afforded the Soviets.

    • Replies: @iffen
  41. Anon[330] • Disclaimer says:

    Sanctions aren’t caused by spy murders or chem attacks.
    Rather a desire for sanctions creates necessary events.

    Given recent links between Ukraine and the democrats oppo research campaign, a Ukrainian link now seems likely. The link between Skripal, Steele and the DOJ/FBI/Democrats/US media is pretty well established now.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  42. @AnonFromTN

    I could answer your other points, but this one I don’t quite understand:

    Why was this agent in a perfume bottle (that turned out to be leaky), which would be the most suspicious item in male’s luggage?

    Why is a perfume bottle suspicious in a guy’s luggage? I don’t know many guys who don’t use perfume at all. In fact, I don’t know of any guy – maybe some of my acquaintances don’t use perfume, but I don’t know about it. I know that my closer friends do use perfume. I do, too. I always have a small bottle of perfume in my carry-on luggage. No one has ever found it suspicious, though they always asked me to take it out of my luggage and put it into a transparent plastic bag. I often already have it inside a transparent plastic bag, as it is convenient. It’s not suspicious at all.

    • Replies: @Digital Samizdat
  43. @reiner Tor

    It would be interesting to know which people have been in the hotel room where the traces were left and what the nature of these traces is.

    I remember that Scaramella, the guy who most likely killed Litvinenko, had met with the Russian suspects in a hotel room thus laying a trail to them.

    I wouldnt be surprised if “they” played an improved version of this script.

    Since many facts are kept secret and the UK government lacks the credibility to make their inferences from circumstantial evidence believable, I cannot make any conclusions on this case.

    Anyway, the official policy is not determined by these kinds of events. Its the other way round: The policy determines how these events are instrumentalized for the policy (e.g. the US could have equally used 911 to attack Saudi Arabia, since it is the source of the attackers ideology; which, of course, didnt happen – petrodollar and all…). Since Russia resists the aspirations of the transatlantic elites to global dominance, it is treated as an enemy with all the concomitant propaganda. However the facts will turn out, Russia will be blamed.

  44. utu says:
    @reiner Tor

    if Boshirov and Petrov (both of who had a Russian passport) have nothing to do with the Russian government, then it’d be easy for Russia to just show the two guys to the world.

    Exactly!

  45. @notanon

    I would think that the containment and storage devices engineered specifically for lethal neurotoxins would be such as to make accidental spillage nigh unto impossible. You can’t even get to an aspirin these days without going through the childproof cap, the airtight safety seal, and the wad of cotton. A military-grade poison that one could accidentally spill would be an extreme danger not only to individuals but national security. I just don’t find it very plausible.

    I am not arguing for or against any particular version of what happened in the Skripal case, but on a prima facie basis I would hold “accident” to be among the least likely alternatives.

    • Replies: @notanon
  46. @reiner Tor

    He probably thinks it suspicious because in N. America, men don’t use perfume; they use cologne. Still, it wouldn’t be as suspicious as he thinks. After all, a lot of guys would be willing to buy a girl perfume as a gift.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  47. But sure, I certainly don’t exclude that it could have been Russia too. The best Russians don’t go into espionage either.

    Really? Is that true? Putin was a KGB station chief–I’ve always thought of him as a pretty clever guy. Is it just that standards have fallen since then?

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  48. 5371 says:
    @reiner Tor

    Russia can and does point out all kinds of things. Those whose job is not to listen to them, will not listen to them, whatever they are. Without the opportunity to interrogate anyone in British intelligence, attempting to explain their fabrication would be a sign of weakness.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  49. @Digital Samizdat

    I’m quite sure standards have indeed fallen. In Soviet times, going to the KGB was a great career path, and going to the FSB probably still is, but likely no longer the best career path. You can only make a lot of money if you’re dishonest and corrupt (it’s a requirement, probably), which was untrue in the KGB times (when you couldn’t make a lot money, but relative to other career paths, the perks were decent enough). People don’t like it, and those who are smart enough to have other choices will probably go elsewhere.

    • Agree: Anatoly Karlin
    • Replies: @AP
  50. @5371

    attempting to explain their fabrication would be a sign of weakness

    They could easily leave that task to RT or other media outlets. Believe me, we’d hear about it without Zakharova having to talk about it.

    • Replies: @5371
  51. 5371 says:
    @reiner Tor

    “Two scruffy guys we say were Russian once visited Salisbury for a day” is not a case that needs answering.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  52. @5371

    Well, in a propaganda war, it is.

  53. inertial says:
    @reiner Tor

    Besides, if Boshirov and Petrov (both of who had a Russian passport) have nothing to do with the Russian government, then it’d be easy for Russia to just show the two guys to the world.

    Not if Russia has no clue as to who they are. Their names appear to be fake; if so, then their passports must be fake as well. Who supplied them with the fake documents? You are implicitly assuming it must have been the FSB but there are a quite a few of state or even non-state actors able to manufacture a convincing Russian passport. For all we know, “Petrov” and “Boshirov” aren’t even the actual Russians but instead are Ukrainians, or Hungarians, or French Canadians.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  54. @reiner Tor

    I wrote a longish reply, which has disappeared. I’ll just summarize by saying that we can imagine any number of plausible stories and that it’s all speculation, but one should bear in mind two things: 1) It seems everyone has known how to make Novichok since at least the early 90s. In particular, an Iranian group published some fairly detailed information in 2016: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/rcm.7757. 2) The Russian government must of course know *something* about Petrov and the guy who can’t spell his own name (for example, whether some dudes with those names entered Russia at the expected time), but bumbling PR and cautious conclusions are standard practice for the Kremlins, no? Maybe time will tell.

    As for some secrets being too big to keep: this is a symmetric argument which applies to any government, though admittedly some governments seem better at keeping secrets than others. On the other hand, cryptography provides effective means for keeping conspiracies small.

    AK: Checked if it was in spam, but unfortunately not. I recommend using an extension such as Comment Save to not lose your comments.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  55. notanon says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    I would think that the containment and storage devices engineered specifically for lethal neurotoxins would be such as to make accidental spillage nigh unto impossible.

    yes, although containers like that might look suspicious going through customs.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  56. Anonymous[407] • Disclaimer says:
    @utu

    Well the “use of banned substance” and “Novichok” angle indicates that this is Very Loud Messaging by the perpetrator or the UK … or simply a dumbass accident involving Mr. Skripal.

    One *could* suppose that there was hope that no-one would detect a “rare” nerve agent and a very bizarre death, Bulgarian Umbrella style.

    But…

    > 2018, where analysis gear is excellent, plentiful and cheap
    > Porton Down is just next door
    > After priming by Dioxin and Polonium events
    > In a society that is regarded as one of the most under telesurveillance

    How dumb would you have to be?

    And why not use something less “Russian”. VX is not hard to come by.

    (Interestingly, how come there were at first denials that Novichok is actually a thing? Is it really?)

    • Replies: @utu
  57. @inertial

    Their names appear to be fake; if so, then their passports must be fake as well. Who supplied them with the fake documents?

    The Russian government. Or else how did the Russian border guard not notice that the passports were fake? Since some of the commenters appear to have little experience with border passport controls, the way it is done is that the passport is put into a scanner, which automatically reads the passport number and thus all data from the database is shown on the border guard’s computer. He then compares the pictures in the database to that of the actual passport, and of course both to the actual guy. Even if the border guards were extremely sloppy (twice!), which intelligence service would risk doing that?

    Now it’d be interesting if they left and entered Russia using a different passport. (Perhaps possible.) The Russian government could, of course, show details of that, too. That they are instead mumbling about no patronymic is a sure sign that, well, obviously they are lying when they say they have no idea who these guys were.

  58. AP says:
    @reiner Tor

    I have a friend in Moscow who was an officer in the KGB and was then in the FSB. He left in the 1990s, order to sell expensive Western consumer goods to rich people (I won’t be specific) and now works in the corporate offices of an oil company. He complained about the pay in the FSB, about $200 a month when he left, and said that the guys who stayed on, who were not corrupt, are really dedicated patriots.

    • Replies: @iffen
  59. @The Big Red Scary

    As for some secrets being too big to keep: this is a symmetric argument which applies to any government

    Not a very symmetric argument. Intelligence services are very good at keeping their secrets. On the other hand, the activity you described would require the involvement of a lot of people who are totally uninvolved in the British intelligence services – people from Porton Down, people from the investigation, and so on. On the other hand, the Russian intelligence services (if it were, indeed, one of them) have no need to hide it from Russian investigators, since there is no investigation going on against them, and no need to do that. Therefore, if it was the Russians, it’d only involve members of their intelligence services (and a secret and already illegal Russian chemical lab), whereas with the British it’d require the involvement of people like the police investigators.

    Besides, these intelligence services (and probably some other government agencies like the Porton Down facility) have an ethos of patriotism or serving the public. This means that it’s more likely that a Porton Down scientist would blow the whistle in the case of a false flag than in the case of a straightforward intelligence operation. (E.g. if novichok was used to murder some ISIS leaders, then the likelihood of a whistleblower would be significantly lower than if it’s used in a way which endangers the lives of British citizens, including a policeman.) So if it was the Russians, then there’d be a very low chance of a Russian whistleblower here, after all, they’d killed a traitor (and yes, an alcoholic civilian also died, boo hoo!), whereas, if it was a British false flag, then there’d be a lot of people involved who might think that this is wrong. Intelligence services are, after all, not there in principle to perpetrate false flags, murdering their own citizens for effect.

    • Replies: @The Big Red Scary
  60. El Dato says:
    @bb.

    “Attempting to listen to your neighbors is not only unfriendly, it’s an act of espionage,” she said. Parly then raised alarm over Russia and China (surprisingly) developing advanced space capabilities.

    “We know for a fact that other great space powers are putting some intriguing objects into orbit, testing potentially offensive capabilities,” she said, claiming that they’re making maneuvers “that leave little doubt about their aggressive motives.”

    “We are in danger,” she added. “The stakes are high. This is an absolute priority.”

    France complaining that someone is spying on them? France has had listening stations on their faraway islands since when Echelon was fresh.

    I wonder what “absolute priority” entails? Go to “Condition de Défense Deux”?

    Yeah, sounds like another priming for an Idlib event. Macron wants to ride shotgun with Trump, badly.

  61. utu says:
    @Anonymous

    how come there were at first denials that Novichok is actually a thing

    Lying and killing with impunity because there was no body to challenge the lies became a cultural norm in Soviet Union.

  62. El Dato says:
    @notanon

    yes, although containers like that might look suspicious going through customs.

    For milligram amounts of poison? Customs wouldn’t even notice it’s there.

    You might also FedEx the thing directly from Cherepovets as a car replacement part for rare Russian car or something.

    • Replies: @notanon
  63. anon[205] • Disclaimer says:

    “There was no evidence found for the use of nerve agents, but controversy over the use of chlorine gas. The rebels had reason to carry out a false flag operation, as the regime and Russians suggested, but the regime refused to let U.N. inspectors in to test for chemical weapons until after a lengthy delay, which was suspicious,” he concluded.

    Notable that the weapons of mass destruction are surprisingly ineffective and so frequently non lethal. Further chlorine is the most primitive CW. A sarin false flag is now beyond the ability of the rebels. Cui Bono. Syria seems to be designed to keep Trump engaged. I don’t have anything new.

    Among other things…why would any country bother to eliminate CWs if they are the go to false flag.

    Notable…’false flag’ is slowly popping up in MSM.

  64. Anonymous[356] • Disclaimer says:
    @utu

    The image emerges that Russia is crude, ruthless, primitive and incompetent.

    I believe that was the point.

  65. Beckow says:
    @reiner Tor

    I agree with your point that lying has limits. Most of the case as presented is basically true, there were two guys who flew in, they went to Salisbury, etc… But the story makes no sense – this is not how you kill, something is missing.

    The two guys could had been there for another reason – e.g. as couriers or to meet with someone, possibly even Skripal. The actual killing would be bizarrely absent-minded, as if they were spraying graffiti on their way out of town. That happens, so I don’t exclude it. One thing we see is that all sides in this story have lied, they are all hiding something. That includes Skripals. So I wouldn’t rush to conclusions.

    I generally believe that everybody lies about something. A key to understanding most people is to figure out what they are lying about. That is not easy, but one can assume that all spy agencies will lie simply in order to ‘win’. Our recently escalating secrecy blanket over most events – to protect ‘sources and methods‘, makes most claims hard to verify. We have entered an era of secret courts and secret evidence. For all the mocking of our past and its transgressions, we are heading down the same road. ‘Protecting sources and methods‘ is not any different than ‘reasons of state’, or simply ‘God wills it’. The two guys were there and were involved. Exactly how is at this point not clear. The fact that Russia has not shed any light on this is puzzling, maybe we have found what they will lie about.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  66. iffen says:
    @reiner Tor

    been a move by Russia to show their resolve in the face of the US sphere onslaught

    I have wondered if this wasn’t the explanation for the shoot down of MH17. It could have been Putin sending the message of “don’t fuck with me.”

  67. iffen says:
    @AP

    are really dedicated patriots.

    And what they do is frequently not accounted for these days.

  68. iffen says:
    @reiner Tor

    Reality is important

    Of course it is, but some questions can’t be answered.

    You need to get another bottle of merlot, relax and forget about WWIII.

  69. @Beckow

    The Russians’ first lie which I noticed in that case was simply the denial of the existence of the Novichok program. They said that there was never a program “under the title of Novichok.” Okay. And under a different title? That was a weasely denial, and I don’t like weasel language.

    Anyway, I fully or mostly agree with your points. Yes, something is missing. I could have better organized this murder attempt, and I have zero experience organizing hit jobs. This is not how you organize murder.

    The issue here is the following:

    1) the Russians went there
    2) they brought Novichok with them
    3) the Skripals got poisoned
    4) the bottle was left there

    If they didn’t want to kill anyone, why did they take the Novichok with them? What is a charitable explanation for carrying this illegal poison to the UK? The best I can think of is that they wanted to sell (?) it or give this illegal and highly dangerous poison to someone. If so, it’s basically worse than if they merely wanted to kill the Skripals. So the hit job is actually the charitable interpretation.

    Another point is that the trip involving the Novichok was connected to the Skripals. If they wanted to kill someone (which is the most charitable explanation), then they wanted to kill the Skripals, or at least one of them.

    So it’s simple, just idiotic. They cannot be that stupid. Something is missing. Just Russia is not looking good either way.

    For the first time since it broke, I think there’s a real possibility of the UK looking better on this issue than Russia.

    • Replies: @notanon
  70. Mikel says:

    Reiner Tor’s thought processes look very solid to me right now and I have also begun to lean towards the Russian culpability hypothesis for the reasons that he points out (having spent months arguing against that hypothesis in other media).

    But perhaps he is underestimating the factor of the Russians’ notorious lack of communication skills. Ever since the British media started speaking of some Russians flying back to Moscow on the same day of the poisoning (several months ago), the Russians must have found out who exactly was on any returning plane and prepared some sort of answer for when the Brits would reveal their identities. However, all we hear is indeed platitudes and their typical legalistic mumble.

    On a related note, most people in the West simply have no idea about the atrocities that Ukrainians have committed and are still committing against their fellow civilian countrymen in Donbas because the Western MSM are just not interested. Regardless of what one thinks about the Ukrainian-Russian dispute, one would think that the Russians would exploit as much as possible what the Ukrainians are doing to civilians in Donbas and make sure that everybody learns about those facts. But I don’t see them making any particular effort in that direction.

    On the other hand, it has also taken many months for the Brits to finally reveal the suspects’ identities. Perhaps they have finally decided to do it in a way that, for some reason, they knew the Russians would have no suitable denial against. There may be things we just don’t know.

    At any rate, the Russians’ innocence case is looking bad now. As is their competence.

    • Replies: @AP
  71. notanon says:
    @El Dato

    i don’t know what a a super safe nerve agent container looks like but my guess is it would look pretty sci fi and thus a bit suspicious going through customs tucked in someone’s underpants – so i’m thinking if someone was intending to take it through customs they might open the container and put the contents in something more innocent looking like a perfume bottle – if they were very dumb – and those two dudes look very dumb.

    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein
  72. notanon says:
    @reiner Tor

    2) they brought Novichok with them

  73. @reiner Tor

    I happened to communicate with two separate people today (one a modestly connected anti-Putinist, one a very well connected pro-Putinist) who both converged on the idea that it really was the GRU.

    So my probability assessment has strongly shifted towards Russia being responsible.

    Both were convergent on the idea that this was linked to Skripal cooperating with Spanish police on Russian mafia activities in Spain, with which elements of the GRU were involved. Spain is noted as a hotbed of Russian OC activity, and the former noted that this is something that Putin himself was involved with during the 1990s (according to the putnism blog). The latter thinks that it likely that it was rogue elements of the GRU that were involved, and that it is indeed the current consensus in well connected circles.

    With the current term fated to be dominated by jostling over Putin’s succession, there may well be more such cases, as inter-elite struggles intensify (which certainly doesn’t bode well for West-Russia relations).

    Indeed, I found it striking that Olga Kryshtanovskaya (h/t AP) recently made essentially the same argument: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-08-25/putin-s-succession-plan-could-be-trouble-for-russia

    I suppose if you really wanted to you can try to figure out how this relates to the various Kremlin clans, but I am very skeptical about the usefulness of the methods (different sources don’t even always agree on who is within which clan).

    • Agree: AP
  74. @notanon

    so i’m thinking if someone was intending to take it through customs they might open the container and put the contents in something more innocent looking like a perfume bottle – if they were very dumb – and those two dudes look very dumb.

    That does raise another question, however. If these two alleged assassins, these two allegedly dumb assassins, had somehow effed up and poisoned themselves while playing around with Novichok, they would have instantly blown the whole thing wide open and Russia’s involvement would have been on display before the entire world. I simply cannot understand why Russia would risk that sort of international embarrassment just to poison a retired, small-potatoes nobody like Skripal. It just doesn’t make sense.

    Here is the theory I’ve been leaning towards for the past several months and I dare say it’s looking more and more plausible:

    The Skripals were never poisoned at all. Sergei Skripal, being a former double agent and Russian national, is already well known to the British Deep State and considered an asset by them. British intelligence approaches Sergei and offers to pay him off handsomely and give him a new identity if he agrees to participate in a false flag operation against Russia. Skripal says “Sure, but I’m not leaving without my daughter,” which was why Yulia was extracted from Russia just before the event. The British authorities stage the fake poisoning, the Skripals are suitably disappeared, and the evidence from the residence is destroyed. The rest of the story, from the Amesbury poisonings up to the revelation of these two would-be assassins, represents an ongoing trail of incompetence, spin, and incompetent attempts to spin away the former incompetence, by the British intelligence services.

    The Skripals have never been seen since the incident. The British have never provided any corroborating physical evidence of the attack. If Russia was truly guilty, I doubt either one of these would be the case. I’m thinking that a botched false flag fits the know facts rather well.

    • Replies: @Mikel
    , @notanon
  75. Mikel says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    And how would you convince the staff of the Salisbury hospital (doctors, nurses, managers,…) to cooperate in your false-flag operation?

    • Replies: @Intelligent Dasein
  76. notanon says:
    @Intelligent Dasein

    If these two alleged assassins, these two allegedly dumb assassins, had somehow effed up and poisoned themselves while playing around with Novichok…

    i was thinking there were only two logical possibilities:

    1) they brought the novichok with them (i.e. assassins)

    or

    2) skirpal had the novichok (obtained from Porton Down) and they had come to get it (buy it?) from him

    but yes now you mention it

    The Skripals were never poisoned at all.

    is a 3rd logical possibility.

  77. @Anatoly Karlin

    But that still doesn’t explain why Russian mob hitmen would choose to use such an exotic method of execution, one that could only be tied back to a few possible sources including their bosses in the GRU, and one that had the potential to make one hell of a nasty mess if anything went wrong.

    Suppose that this GRU theory is correct. The assassins presumably wanted and expected to get away with their murder. But how could they? Even if everything had gone “right” with the murder, even of Skripal had died and the murderers fled the country, his body still would have been discovered, the cause of death still would have been revealed, and then the British government would face the horrifying prospect of knowing that somebody was running around the country poisoning people with a military grade neurotoxin but they wouldn’t know who it was or when he would strike again.

    The British government now has a catastrophic public health emergency on its hands. There is an unknown quantity of an uncontrolled, extremely lethal substance somewhere in the country that could be used to perpetrate terrorist acts of 9/11 proportions. This would produce a full-on investigation that would absorb the nation and would inevitably lead back the Russian mob and the GRU. The culprits would be fingered, the evidence would be made public, and extradition would be demanded and almost certainly conceded.

    Yet none of this corresponds to anything that has actually transpired in the Skripal affair. The investigation has been a slew of inconsistencies and no evidence has ever been produced that could be independently examined and verified. The British certainly have not acted as if they were under attack by a rogue foreign government agency. If they did not know who did the poisoning, why weren’t they more panicked? If they did know it was the mob/GRU, why blame the Kremlin?

  78. AP says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    Both were convergent on the idea that this was linked to Skripal cooperating with Spanish police on Russian mafia activities in Spain, with which elements of the GRU were involved. Spain is noted as a hotbed of Russian OC activity, and the former noted that this is something that Putin himself was involved with during the 1990s (according to the putnism blog). The latter thinks that it likely that it was rogue elements of the GRU that were involved, and that it is indeed the current consensus in well connected circles.

    Ah, so it seems the article I had mentioned earlier from the Ukrainian source may have been accurate after all…

  79. AP says:
    @Mikel

    On a related note, most people in the West simply have no idea about the atrocities that Ukrainians have committed and are still committing against their fellow civilian countrymen in Donbas because the Western MSM are just not interested.

    Given that you believe there was a deliberate massacre in Odessa, your use of the word “atrocity” ought to be viewed with big grain of salt.

    The world shrugs off what Israelis do for similar reasons, and on a much larger scale, why the surprise?

    • Replies: @Mikel
  80. Sean says:

    https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BullyingADragon

    In the real world Britain would hardly dare frame Putin even once, it happening for a second time makes even a rogue MI6 operation very, very unlikely.

    https://www.express.co.uk/comment/expresscomment/1014222/Putin-is-a-thug-and-only-values-the-loot-says-Bill-Browde

    In the summer of this year Parliament passed into law the Magnitsky Amendment, – named after my lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was murdered by the Russian authorities – which allows the British Government to freeze the assets and cancel the visas of Russian gangsters and human rights violators. Furthermore, Parliament voted for Unexplained Wealth Orders which allow the government to confiscate the properties and freeze the bank accounts of Russians who cannot explain the source of their money.

    Perhaps Putin and Browder’s agendas converge?

    If I recall rightly a Soviet defector said trainees were shown a film of a traitor being burned to death to re-enforce the message that the only way out the GRU was ‘up the chimney’. I think it unlikely nerve agent contact poisons so obviously going to be used for an important high profile assassination would be handed over without authorization (for all the officer in charge of the repository knew the nerve agent could be intended for use on a high official or even Putin). No, the top man ordered this, and he knew the reaction it would provoke. So it’s the famous Russian subtlety with an unfathomable aim in mind, or something rather Raskolnikovian.

  81. @Mikel

    And how would you convince the staff of the Salisbury hospital (doctors, nurses, managers,…) to cooperate in your false-flag operation?

    I don’t know. And it’s not like I, as a private individual, have the time or the resources to properly investigate the matter. But I’ll ask you sincerely, have any of these doctors, nurses, or managers ever spoken on the record about their experiences? I would think, as some of the very few people to have allegedly seen the Skripals post-poisoning, their testimony would be of some interest.

  82. utu says:

    Is GRU a scapegoat of choice of Putin? In late 2010 through 2011 GRU was defanged, important generals had strange accidents and its military arm was taken over by FSB and Shoygu. So I doubt that the spin that GRU is rouge and not under control will be effective.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  83. Mikel says:
    @AP

    your use of the word “atrocity” ought to be viewed with big grain of salt

    Not at all. I know that you have a very poor opinion of the inhabitants of Donbas, you’ve expressed it many times. But deliberately shelling civilian areas full of women, children and elderly people is an atrocity by any normal person’s standards. Most likely a war crime too. And that’s what the UNO and the OSCE report that the Ukrainian Government has been doing since the start of the war.

    In fact, I’m confident that if you think carefully about it, you’ll come around to viewing things that way too. It would be disturbing to learn that someone practicing the medical profession thinks differently about such a basic issue.

    you believe there was a deliberate massacre in Odessa

    I don’t know what muddles your otherwise good judgement when people mention the Odessa events. The idea that the killings of dozens of people in Odessa did not constitute a massacre because perhaps the burning of the building where the majority of them died was only partly intentional is just weird.

    In any case, you’re free to think whatever makes you feel right. I’m not going to do our host the disservice of turning this thread into the typical Ukrainian crapfest. As Reiner Tor argued above, understanding what happened in the Skripal affair is a very important matter. Are there rogue GRU elements with access to chemical weapons?? Rest assured that Mr Hack, yourself and your regular opponents will enjoy many opportunities to revisit your favorite topic soon. Let’s just not do it now.

  84. Anon[205] • Disclaimer says:

    “the CCTV snapshot of the two men showed the exact same time mark to the second. As he himself acknowledges, there could be innocent explanations for this. Perhaps the two men passed through different gates in exact synchronicity – unlikely, but not impossible.”

    Perhaps what you see is merely a still taken from a video. The time is the same because the authorities purposely took stills from the same moment at two different cameras in order to establish that both gentlemen were present in the area at the same time; ironically, this could have been done to prevent conspiracy theories rather than fuel them. It is also possible that they are in the same terminal and one camera is simply ahead of the other. I would suspect that they took the same flight in order to coordinate a later quick get away, despite the risk that traveling together would increase the probability of giving away the operatives to MI6.

    “The longest possible gap between the novichok being placed on the doorknob and the Skripals touching it would have been one hour and 15 minutes.”

    That is quite reasonable, actually. The Russians would have wanted to pull this off and depart as quickly as possible in order to avoid being caught. This haste would also explain the incompetence of their application of the chemical in question. I do not see any kind of conspiracy here. Likely, some element of FSB carried out the operation independent of Putin’s approval and he merely goes along with it or pretends ignorance in order to maintain authority over his subordinates.

    In the case of a quick get away, FSB would have scouted out the location and travel habits of their victims in advance. So, MI6 should also review prior CCTV footage at the airport going back perhaps 3 months.

    I would suspect that the gentlemen depicted in the images were fairly low level operatives who 1. could be denied as being part of FSB should they have been caught 2. go unknown to others within FSB 3. be the type of people who might actually do something like this on their own (gangsters or criminals) 4. are unknown to MI6. This might explain the incompetence of the job. Perhaps MI6 should check the Russian prison system for guys who might want to cut a deal to do something illegal in order to get reduced sentences?

  85. @utu

    If GRU is rogue, heads should be rolling. Putin could assign separate investigating teams from FSB and GRU for this issue, or if he already has an inkling that it was the GRU, then of course only FSB should investigate. And heads should roll.

    In fact, Putin should already have ordered the investigation back in March. The heads should have rolled back then. The fact they haven’t shows that Putin approves of what they did. Okay, maybe he’s going to wait a year for the storm to go, and then purge them out.

    • Replies: @utu
    , @utu
  86. notanon says:

    assassination plot involving smearing nerve agent on a doorknob…

    vs

    someone spilling it on their hands by accident and then opening the door

    (btw if people were really desperate to blame the Russians i could buy Skripal being a Russian agent tasked with getting stuff from Porton Down but the assassination story is nonsense imo.)

  87. Jon0815 says:

    US ambassador to the USSR Jack Matlock (basically the anti-McFaul) writes that the assassins were probably not acting on Putin’s orders, and that “this could have been an operation that is, in effect, a challenge to Putin’s authority.”

    I see some similarity to the 2015 assassination of Nemtsov a short distance from the Kremlin. In both cases. the victim superficially appears like someone Putin would want to kill, but in actuality his murder would be counter-productive, and the operation is carried out in a way designed to embarrass Putin and make him look guilty.

  88. utu says:
    @reiner Tor

    Putin should…

    It may not be as easy as we think. Things are different in Russia. Various services used to fight each other even during Stalin and later Brezhnev and corruption for great profits was involved during communism. And now it is much worse. There is no ideology or party discipline that could impose some limits. Look at the list of generals who died strange deaths:

    https://informnapalm.org/en/jan13-russia-generals/
    The Russian Generals’ Funeral March (Statistics and Infographics 2.0)

    There was a purge of GRU. Saker wrote about it in 2009. I became aware of it in 2010 and 2011. Vice chief of GRU drowned during vacation in Syria in 2010. And there were more deaths. And then there was reorganization and reassignment of GRU forces. I wish somebody wrote an article about it.

  89. utu says:
    @reiner Tor

    British tabloids already uncovered a women who met one of the suspects in Prague and that grandfather of one of the suspect served in SMERSH during Stalin and all family are spies and so on

    https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7190854/russian-novichok-suspects-granddad-top-commander-stalin-ww2/

    while all Maria Zakharova could come up with was to point to the fact that the time stamp on CCTV pictures was the same. A woman who should have all state apparatus available to diffuse the issue relies on information from some bloggers.

    That is Russia for you. Just like Soviets. Totally inept and indolent when it comes to media and openness. They just do not care and do not understand and all of the are paralyzed with fear that they may overstep their authority by stepping on toes of somebody else.

    • Replies: @Mitleser
    , @El Dato
  90. @reiner Tor

    In other cases my priors for the feasibility and plausible deniability of false flags remain higher than yours, apparently. In this particular case, for example, I see no reason to involve Porton Down under the hypothesis that “the Brits did it”. Other smaller, possibly illegal laboratories, either in the UK or in other countries, seem to me more likely sources under this hypothesis.

    That said, I’m increasing my prior for the GRU’s involvement, per AK’s comment below. Which is very depressing. One hoped that Russia had by now escaped the black hole of the 90s. If all sides were acting rationally, there would be coordination to solve behind the scenes relatively trivial problems like the present one, allowing both sides to save some face. Like you, my concern is to avoid escalation and having my children get nuked.

    • Replies: @LondonBob
  91. This Soviet style lying would make late Vitaly Churkin a little bit red in the face. Fortunately you have a bunch of credulous fools in the comment sections.

    This (almost certainly genetic) capabilty for shameless bold-faced lying (sometimes combined with high IQ) is one of the principal reasons Russia is a low-trust shithole.

  92. LondonBob says:
    @The Big Red Scary

    Well we already know Porton Down were pressured by the government in to lying that they could discern the substance was manufactured Russia.

    https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/03/of-a-type-developed-by-liars/

  93. LondonBob says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    Why would that be now of relevance? He could have and would have done this eight years ago, indeed this was mentioned back in the noughties as being investigated.

    https://www.eurotrib.com/story/2012/12/18/171030/73

    to discuss their planned trip together to Spain, where they were both to provide intelligence to the Spanish prosecutor investigating Russian mafia links to the Kremlin and to Vladimir Putin.

    I know Seymour Hersh has suggested it might be related to mafia stuff, and he does have very good contacts in US intelligence. That said he still insists LHO shot JFK alone.

    https://www.rt.com/uk/431168-salisbury-skripal-seymour-hersh/

    When asked for his own take on who really was behind the Salisbury attack, Hersh said: “I’ve been told the real story had little to do with Russia per se, except that he was ratting out some of the Russian mobs.”

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/seymour-hersh-interview-novichok-russian-hacking-9-11-nerve-agent-attack-a8459596.html

    Hersh is also on the record as stating that the official version of the Skripal poisoning does not stand up to scrutiny. He tells me: “The story of novichok poisoning has not held up very well. He [Skripal] was most likely talking to British intelligence services about Russian organised crime.” The unfortunate turn of events with the contamination of other victims is suggestive, according to Hersh, of organised crime elements rather than state-sponsored actions – though this files in the face of the UK government’s position.

    I am still skeptical on this. The method and timing are too suspect, and the coverage and investigation points to a false flag still.

  94. veto says:
    @Anatoly Karlin

    Anonymous, well-connected sources and “strong probabilities” (of utter garbage narrative being true), rather familiar memes, aren’t they? This has outed you in my eyes.

  95. I’m with Matlock and Hersh on this one. The guys apparently had their hub of operations in Geneva, visiting it 9 times in the months leading up to the murder, so their coordinator almost certainly lives there. Pick one out of the 400 or so oligarchs with mob ties and some old silovik buddies who reside there and who were displeased with Skripal’s work with Spanish authorities and his likely work with UK/US ditto (and their sanctions lists and so on) I’d say.

    As for “GRU”, yes, probably. But not an officially sanctioned mission if you will.

    • Replies: @LondonBob
  96. LondonBob says:
    @Anonymous lurker

    The fundamental problems remains though is if these two guys attempted to assassinate the Skripals how did they? The doorknob makes no sense and they left over two hours before the Skripals fell ill.

  97. E says:
    @reiner Tor

    What if the two Russian guys were there specifically to meet with Skripal and his daughter, but not kill them?

    Why did both Skripals turn off their cell phones – who were they trying to hide from? Only the MI6 and its five eyes allies would have access to cell phone & GPS records on the British isles, as far as I know. So maybe Skripal and his daughter wanted to hide from British intelligence because Skripal was planning another double-cross, was planning to hand something over to the Russian side, perhaps even something to do with his associate Christopher Steele and the “golden shower” Trump dossier. Except that they’re being shadowed by the MI6 the whole time, who scuttle the attempted handover operation and proceed to “disappear” the Skripals in a way that points the finger at the Russian government. It would also explain why the Skripals (at least the daughter) seem to be unwilling hostages, such as Yulia Skripal’s clandescine phone call to her Russian relative (after which the UK had to admit that she was in fine health, after claiming she was in coma), and her official released statement being obviously written in English first and then translated awkwardly into Russian.

    Just another theory to add to the pile…

    Not that I’ve been following all this very closely. Gives me a headache.

    • Replies: @Sean
    , @Mitleser
  98. Sean says:
    @E

    Not that I’ve been following all this very closely. Gives me a headache

    Hardly difficult to understand that the GRU , which is part of the Russian army, made an example of a defector from their own ranks. The whole point was to let everyone in the Russian state and armed forces know what would befall them if they took Western money to spy on their own county.

    • Replies: @utu
    , @E
  99. utu says:
    @Sean

    Hardly difficult to understand that the GRU , which is part of the Russian army, made an example of a defector from their own ranks.

    What defector? Skripal was six years in prison in Russia and then he was exchanged and sent to UK. GRU had six years to make an example of him when they caught him in 2004 and before he was swapped in 2010.

    • Replies: @Sean
  100. Sean says:
    @utu

    Skripal made the same mistake as you by thinking he was now safe. He overthought it. The GRU kept Skirpal alive in prison in order to get to get loyal GRU agents back in exchange for him and then the GRU sent people to try and kill Skripal so as to make it it very obvious who did it and why. Britain’s MI6 wanted to show it got its people out, the GRU did not want that to be the lesson.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  101. @Sean

    But then why didn’t they kill him? The lesson is that even if your address is available online from the telephone directory, the GRU won’t be able to get you due to incompetence. Whoever did it, he was clearly more concerned about poisoning Russia-Western relations than about killing either of the Skripals. Or he was just supremely incompetent.

    In the future, any spies exchanged from Russia will receive protection from MI6, so the lesson is worthless except as a cautionary tale: don’t publish your address in the phone directory. Lesson learned for those spies.

    • Replies: @Sean
  102. Mitleser says:
    @utu

    while all Maria Zakharova could come up with was to point to the fact that the time stamp on CCTV pictures was the same. A woman who should have all state apparatus available to diffuse the issue relies on information from some bloggers.

    Peskov is another example and keeps his job despite his incompetence.

    Watch and read as Dmitry Peskov explains to his boss why he should not be dismissed, and in the process reveals to the British government how the spokesman makes the president look culpable in the Skripal affair — an affair Peskov calls an “accident” six times over. That’s a dramatic news-breaking term; Peskov fails to explain it.

    http://johnhelmer.net/kremlin-purge-or-purgative-dmitry-peskov-advertises-the-skripal-accident/

    • Agree: utu
  103. Mitleser says:
    @E

    What if the two Russian guys were there specifically to meet with Skripal and his daughter, but not kill them?

    Why did both Skripals turn off their cell phones – who were they trying to hide from? Only the MI6 and its five eyes allies would have access to cell phone & GPS records on the British isles, as far as I know. So maybe Skripal and his daughter wanted to hide from British intelligence because Skripal was planning another double-cross, was planning to hand something over to the Russian side, perhaps even something to do with his associate Christopher Steele and the “golden shower” Trump dossier. Except that they’re being shadowed by the MI6 the whole time, who scuttle the attempted handover operation and proceed to “disappear” the Skripals in a way that points the finger at the Russian government. It would also explain why the Skripals (at least the daughter) seem to be unwilling hostages, such as Yulia Skripal’s clandescine phone call to her Russian relative (after which the UK had to admit that she was in fine health, after claiming she was in coma), and her official released statement being obviously written in English first and then translated awkwardly into Russian.

    Just another theory to add to the pile…

    It makes the most sense.

    Noone has yet suggested that the suspects may have been known to Sergei Skripal and that he may have met with them inside the home or in the vicinity outside. The Prime Minister’s presentation to the Commons, and all official and media accounts published to date, ignore the possibility that Sergei Skripal was himself engaged in the operation involving the two Russians. It is known already that Skripal was planning a meeting with others soon after his restaurant dinner, and that he was anxious and angry that the slowness of the restaurant service might have made him late for the rendezvous.

    http://johnhelmer.net/the-new-allegations-in-the-skripal-case-and-the-standard-of-proof/

    Mr Skripal was “shunned” after being convicted of treason and his old classmates felt he had betrayed his country, said Mr Timoshkov – a school friend of Mr Skripal’s.

    He told the BBC he had reconnected with Mr Skripal through his daughter Yulia after the conviction and in 2012 spoke to his old friend on the telephone for half an hour.

    According to Mr Timoshkov, Mr Skripal did not see himself as a “traitor” because the “oath he had sworn was to his socialist Motherland, the Soviet Union, not Russia”.

    He regretted being “a double agent” because his life had become “all messed up”, his friend claimed.

    He also asked to be allowed to return to Russia because he wanted to see his mother, brother and other relatives.

    https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-43523923

  104. Sean says:
    @reiner Tor

    They were not worried about killing his daughter, and if you are serious about vengeance you go after the families. The CIA say their Russian sources have gone quiet. You better believe this blatant and merciless retribution has frightened wavering Russians out of taking Western money to betray their country. Skripal was in contact with the Russian Embassy and his daughter was over so the hit men (actually more like SEAL team B than spys ) didn’t need the phone book. Stupid man.

    Anyway, Putin probably is quite happy about the embarrassment and possible mulcting coming to Russians who own so much of London and have their money in offshore British accounts. You do realise he gave a medal for “services to the motherland” to Andrei Lugovoi after he poisoned Alexander Litvinenko in London? The Guardian had it right Putin is staging a series of provocations.

    As for incompetent, well real life is not like the Fourth Protocol, with a couple of GRU agents constructing an atomic bomb in England for a false flag. They delivered a message about what happens if you spy for the West, and that has been taken note of by whoever it may concern.

    • Replies: @reiner Tor
  105. jjc says:

    The British case against Russia began, last spring, with an absolutely false assertion: that the substance (Novichok) was an exclusively Russian product. Not true, a number of states had synthesized it, including Britain at Porton Down. So that’s a bad start to assuming any credibility to the UK government’s charges.

    The men revealed in the CCTV stills are certainly “persons of interest”, and any proper investigation would want to interview these men. That is a far cry from being “suspects” or, as asserted by the UK government, “the assassins.” According to what has been released, there is no evidence the men actually approached the Skripal house and no evidence they were in possession of any nerve agents. A CCTV still situates the men in the “vicinity”of the Skripal house, as the Met police properly stated (they were within 700 yards of the house), but PM May, in her remarks, said the men were in the “immediate vicinity” which is not true. Again, credibility problems for the UK government.

    The only evidence by which these men could be labelled “suspects” is the alleged microscopic presence of “novichok” in the hotel room. This evidence has serious chain-of custody issues since it was only discovered a full two months after the events in question. It is probably not admissible evidence, given the length of time, presence of other persons in that space, and lack of any other means of physically associating these men with that substance.

    Furthermore, claims that the Skripals reacted almost simultaneously to a substance they had contacted hours before are severely challenged by the accepted understanding of the substance’s lethal properties. That is, the door lever theory is absurd. If the Skripals were poisoned, it seems far more accurate to surmise it occurred at or near the park bench. According to the information released this week by the British police, these “suspects” were provably well away from that area at that time, and so have a completely acceptable alibi.

  106. @Sean

    Killing an old man who has no bodyguards and is living alone is not a challenging task. Yet they failed at it.

  107. @Anatoly Karlin

    I am curious how “GRU did it” hypothesis explains the following facts:

    1. The poisoning was allegedly done right before the World Cup that Putin has bet so much on. Skripal was released from Russian jail in 2010, along with three other spies, as a part of the spy swap. If GRU wanted him killed, why wait seven years for the least opportune moment?

    2. If GRU is so devious as to arrange Skripal poisoning in the UK, why didn’t he or his daughter die after the application of “deadly” nerve agent?

    3. The versions put forward by the UK government changed so many times in the first weeks (eatery, car ventilation system, door knob, to mention just a few). When you identify the guilty, your version does not change. When you aren’t even sure how the crime was committed, your versions are worth diddly-squat.

    4. One of the photos replicated by various MSM feature two clowns in spacesuits and a perfectly happy unaffected British bobby without protective gear right next to them. So, who is lying, the reality or the UK government?

    5. British government did not present any proof of its claims. Not only to Russia, who is presumed to be the enemy, but even to supposed allies.

    6. The Brits keep both Skripals incommunicado, so that we can’t even be sure they are still alive. This can be done to dangerous witnesses who can testify against you, not to people you presumably saved.

    7. The same time stamp on the surveillance camera frames released recently as “proof” of Russia involvement. Some hypothesized that the clock got stuck. Maybe, but did it get stuck that minute? O that hour? Or that day? Or that month? Or maybe this year? If the timing cannot be established, this is not proof of anything.

    From the get-go, three hypotheses were relatively likely: British secret services, GRU, or Ukrainian secret services. I would eliminate the Ukrainian angle, as the nonentities brought to power in 2014 are not smart enough and bold enough to show initiative. One can say that it could be that, like with MH17, the puppets perpetrated a crime in their customary inept fashion, so the puppet masters are in an uncomfortable position to cover up for their ham-handed lackeys. However, this is unlikely in Skripal case, unless Ukrainian “leaders” are even more deluded than they sound (which would be a remarkable achievement deserving a prize of some sort).

    If we discount Ukies, there are two suspects: GRU and the Brits. The evidence does not fit GRU theory (see above), which leaves the Brits as the most likely perpetrators (if there was a poisoning; for all we know, this could have been a simple abduction; that’s a criminal offense, anyway). The motive is obvious: May is dangerously unpopular in the UK and even in her own party. Cornered clueless politicians usually resort to tales of external threat, having nothing better to say for themselves. That would explain the timing, rapid-fire change of stories, inaccessibility of Skripals (always assuming that they are still alive, which we have no evidence for), and this most recent clumsy fake.

    • Replies: @El Dato
  108. Anonymous[333] • Disclaimer says:

    What if the accident happens in a situation where Sergei gets the Foliant from the Torpedo Duo in order to do something with it? Spillage occurs … then the restaurant scene. But how did the bottle end up where it did?

    We need either Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple to look into this.

  109. El Dato says:
    @utu

    Please. The Sun (low grade rabblerousing paper several steps below the Daily Fail) can identify Torpedo Man’s granddad when apparently no one knows who he is?

    How does that work then?

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  110. El Dato says:
    @AnonFromTN

    One of the photos replicated by various MSM feature two clowns in spacesuits and a perfectly happy unaffected British bobby without protective gear right next to them. So, who is lying, the reality or the UK government?

    This was a point raised on RT too but it is not a problem: it’s not Sarin wafting through the morning air otherwise people would be dropping left and right so people standing back are safe. Only those going in for examination need gear and it will be relevant only from the porch onwards.

    • Replies: @AnonFromTN
  111. @El Dato

    If that’s the strength of the “deadly” new Russian weapon, why is the West so hysterical? Is it a genuine mental disorder of the so-called leaders, or just cheap theatrics?

    • Replies: @El Dato
  112. El Dato says:
    @AnonFromTN

    Well it’s not same magical nanotech weapon. It’s just a toxic chemical that is not particularly volatile and apparently degrades under sunlight … it has to be dispersed to kill … you could vaporise the bottle content in the local mall for example or dump it into the local water supply (not even sure that would work) so circumspection is definitely demanded and nervousness not out of place.

    But this brings the question – why a Novichok? VX can be synthesized by Aum Shinrikio, so why not use that? Not traceable, not Russian. It’s possible that the Novichok was just meant to be exchanged, not applied, but then again, that agent is not particularly valuable.

  113. E says:
    @Sean

    If that’s the case, what’s up with Yulia’s clandestine phone call to her relative in Russia and her prepared statement (in which she explicitly refuses Russian consulate services) being written in English first?

    It sure seems like the British side doesn’t trust her enough to give her freedom, while at the same time Yulia is careful to not say or do anything that will make them suspect she’s not on board (only “little” things that are easily forgiven, such as “oh, I know I wasn’t supposed to, but I just really wanted to call my relative and let her know that me and my dad are alive” and “oh, I tried my best, but I just wasn’t sure how to naturally translate that English turn of phrase into Russian (I’m so sorry that your own Russian experts who probably haven’t used the language “on the street” in decades, if ever, didn’t catch how awkward it sounded)!”)

    • Replies: @Sean
  114. notanon says:

    option 1)
    two super duper assassins smuggle a highly lethal nerve agent into the UK hidden in their underpants then travel to Salisbury to rub it on a doorknob – thus completely failing to kill a dude

    option 2)
    two spooks working for ? travel to Salisbury to buy/retrieve some nerve agent off an ex-spy (who by sheer coincidence happened to choose to live next door to a CW lab) and it gets spilled by accident during or prior to the exchange.

  115. Sean says:
    @E

    Putin gave a medal for “services to the fatherland” to Andrei Lugovoi. One need not be a linguist to interpret that.

  116. @El Dato

    The Sun has friends in low places.

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