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The Kursk Disaster: Facts Sunk Beneath Waves of Drama

By Maximilian C. Forte | Zero Anthropology | March 5, 2019

At the turn of the millennium a trilogy of disasters gained a high profile in the international media. First, in July of 2000 the fiery crash of Air France’s Concorde flight 4590 from Paris to New York ended not just many lives (109 persons), but also the plane’s career. Second, on August 12, 2000, there was the sinking of Russia’s Kursk submarine, with 118 sailors killed in the tragedy. Third, and probably much less memorable now, on August 27, 2000, a fire high up in Moscow’s Ostankino Tower saw its spire dangerously tilting as if ready to collapse live on camera as seen around the world; two people died in that incident. It was almost as if this would be a preview of the much more breathtaking collapses of the twin towers of the World Trade Center just a year later. Accompanying the millennium disasters were a series of blockbuster disaster movies, which included James Cameron’s 1997 movie: Titanic. Let’s not forget the pretend disaster that was supposed to have been the infamously ridiculous “Y2K Bug,” a hoax in every respect except the billions of dollars transferred to the pockets of IT consultants for unnecessary preparations.

The sinking of the Kursk is now memorialized in a European film released late in 2018, by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg. It features an all-European cast that includes Max von Sydow playing the role of “Admiral Vladimir Petrenko” (in reality this was Navy Commander-in-Chief and Fleet Admiral Vladimir Kuroyedov)—this is the part of the “bad guy”; Colin Firth, playing the role of Commodore David Russell—the “good guy” in the film; also noteworthy, Matthias Schoenaerts playing the role of a fictitious Mikhail Averin who appears to have been based on the real world character of Captain-lieutenant Dmitri Kolesnikov.

Not being a Hollywood film, this is not a straightforward propaganda film (as one might suspect of a Western media production dealing with a Russian subject, in the current context). However, it is still a big-budget feature that plays loose with certain facts, more by inflating and amplifying some aspects while minimizing others. It is aimed at US and European audiences primarily. Had it been intended as a direct condemnation of Vladimir Putin—who had then been president for only a few months when the Kursk disaster happened—the filmmakers could have simply stuck to the recorded facts. Instead, the film actually removes Putin from a key incident shown in the film—a Russian navy briefing to the grief-stricken families of the sailors—and replaces him with an imaginary admiral played by Max Von Sydow.

In reality, Putin vacationed at his seaside villa for several days as the disaster unfolded, before returning to Moscow and attending that disastrous gathering with sailors’ families. At that gathering Putin was directly and loudly challenged, a shouting match ensued followed by scuffles, and one family member was famously dragged out after being surreptitiously injected with a sedative by a nurse in civilian clothes. Reality was ugly enough that there would have been no need for propaganda. On the other hand, it’s not clear that Putin himself was adequately informed by the military, who claimed to have the situation under control.

The impressions that stood out for me as one viewer watching the film, were: (a) the inhumane, obstinate refusal of encrusted military brass to accept foreign assistance, preferring to instead indulge obsolete paranoia and outdated conspiracy theories about the West; and, (b) the sheer magnitude of incompetence and degradation that makes one wonder whether Russia even deserves to have a navy. The loss of the surviving sailors is shown as preventable, a needless tragedy—if only Russian naval brass had not consisted of Jurassic-era dicks, sinister Stalinist throwbacks, and snivelling cowards. Navies are for serious, developed nations of the civilized world—not for rust-bucket states on their last legs. It’s not an accident that I thought these things: they are monumental features of the film that simply cannot be avoided, and were deliberately produced by the filmmakers.

One way to achieve these effects is by playing with the facts, in this case by maximizing what is one possible yet extreme interpretation of what transpired beneath the surface of the sea: that the sailors survived for days before finally succumbing. By stretching events out over a period of days, the filmmakers only amplify the needless tragedy of the delays caused by steadfast Russian refusals of foreign assistance—which then gave way to accepting foreign assistance (so not even that narrative is stable). In actuality, experts can find little evidence that those who survived the initial blasts lasted much longer than three to six hours.

On the other hand, I have to confess that my inner populist reacted positively to the film focusing heavily on the sailors, their heroism, courage, altruism, and self-sacrifice for their comrades. These were the workers. They did their job, even though they were not getting paid and were all struggling to survive in a climate of delayed back wages. The focus on their wives and children was also appropriate, showing where and how they lived, their apartments, the laundry hanging from tiny balconies in grim-looking residential towers overlooking the sea, neighbours huddling together over tea, consoling each other. These are the people who really mattered, and it is my main praise for the film that it maintained this emphasis.

However, going past populist appeal, what magnifies the tragedy in this film is Russian rejection of foreign assistance. Had the Russians accepted foreign help, immediately, before even trying to do things themselves, then the men who waited—allegedly for days—might have been saved.

The reality is more likely one where even if Russia immediately accepted such aid, it would have taken too long to reach the survivors, who had all died just three to six hours after the initial blasts. The film enters the territory of propaganda if—as seen in the present—it is meant to suggest that Russia is to blame for Cold War II. Russia did not start this new Cold War, and that fact should be as plain as day. It was not Russia that ended cooperation with the West, that walked out on peace treaties, that booted itself from the G8, that terminated various forms of cooperation and exchange. It is Russia that is constantly pleading for more diplomacy, and less aggression. What the film shows is the opposite of that—something that is instead like the US after Hurricane Katrina, which rejected offers of humanitarian assistance from nearby Cuba.

The questionable nature of the film then is its thematic logic, which essentially breaks down into the following points:

  1. You are inadequate.
  2. You must therefore accept foreign help, because you’re no good to yourself.
  3. Foreign help saves lives.

It is a basic “humanitarian” ethic, and in this present context where the US is trying to ram tiny bits of junk aid down the throats of the same Venezuelans whose economy the US is smashing, it is a message that will still resonate with audiences untrained in thinking critically.

But what if we instead read the events as a logical chain of events and causes, shaped by history? Then we would get something that takes us back to some “uncomfortable” roots of the problem, roots that implicate Western powers. Thus,

  1. What happened to the Kursk? The technical aspects were the subject of considerable debate, and the facts are hardly settled—even down to disputing the argument that an overheating torpedo exploded prematurely.
  2. Why was the Kursk out at sea? Given NATO’s steady expansion in what was formerly the Warsaw Pact, its move toward incorporating the Baltic republics, and its bombing campaign against Serbia (a Russia ally), the Russians clearly felt a pressing need to mount a show of force.
  3. Why was the Russian Navy in such a parlous state? Budget cuts. That is, austerity, caused by an economic meltdown, brought on by the sort of “shock therapy” that was deliberately pursued by Boris Yeltsin (Washington’s man in Moscow), and pushed by the International Monetary Fund. The Russian state, pre-Putin, had cut back on all sorts of public expenditures, basically running the state-owned sector into the ground (and into the arms of oligarchs). GDP contracted by about 40%, unemployment soared, as did food and fuel prices, and life expectancy tumbled—this was the reality of Russia under neoliberalism, as pushed by the US and Western international institutions. Russia also suffered from a financial crisis in 1998, a direct outcome of its over exposure to international capitalism.
  4. Why was Russia melting down? This would take us to the complicated sequence of events following the demise and fragmentation of the Soviet Union (USSR).
  5. Why did the USSR collapse? Not that there is anything like a consensus about the ultimate determinants of the demise of the USSR, the most common explanations advanced include as a key factor the structural fatigue brought on by the Cold War arms race, and the USSR’s international over-extension as it tried to counter the US/NATO at every move.

The fact of the matter is that we can see a similar break down transpiring in the US, not just in terms of economic destruction and social division, but also in terms of cities exposed to toxic pollution from radioactive waste dumps connected to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Thus we will soon have a review here of Atomic Homefront, much delayed already. In Russia’s case, much of the destruction of the 1990s was countered by the reforms introduced by Vladimir Putin, to great effect, depending on the observer, which no doubt accounts for his continuing high popularity rating among Russians (well past the highest ever achieved by Obama).

Had the film followed a logical and historical chain of causes and consequences, then the message of the film might have changed substantially:

Don’t threaten countries that you first subjected to stress, because such stress can literally kill.

But then that would be an anti-interventionist ethic, and that ethic is not permissible in our society, which continues to train specialists in the field of “humanitarian intervention,” just as it trains others in the arts of deception, and tries to secure the consent of audiences.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Film Review, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Did Israel Just Lie About a Car Ramming to Kill Two Palestinian Teens?

By Robert Inlakesh | 21st Century Wire | March 5, 2019

On Sunday, two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead by Israeli soldiers following, what the Israeli military called, an attempted car ramming ‘terrorist’ attack in the West Bank village of Kufr N’ima.

The Israeli, as well as Western press that covered it, framed the incident as if it was a closed case terrorist attack. The two soldiers injured during the collision of a civilian car and Israeli military vehicle, were described as heroes and their recovery was welcomed. Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, even weighed in on the incident, calling for the immediate demolitions of the homes of the “terrorists”.

But what really happened and was this a complete cover up, simply justifying the murder of innocent Palestinians?

Firstly we have to establish as clearly as possible what actually transpired, out of the details available.

The incident occurred late on Sunday night, during/following illegal Israeli military raids on civilian villages. The weather was reportedly bad and caused for dangerous driving conditions, especially on the underdeveloped roads of West Bank villages.Three boys, Amir Darraj, Yousef Anqawi and Haitham Alqam were driving and approached a quick corner turn, before colliding with the soldiers.

According to eyewitnesses, the Israeli jeep had no lights on and was not identifiable, a very typical thing for the soldiers to do during late night raids.

The corner was a slippery surface in the rain according to witnesses. I can also personally testify, as someone who has been in cars that have almost lost control at this very spot, to the validity of this claim. However we will never see an investigation as the Israeli occupation soldiers destroyed cameras, refuses to release its own videos and quickly took away the vehicles involved.

The Israeli claim is that they acted quickly and killed the “terrorists”, however, eye witnesses claim that there was a 5 minute gap between the crash and the shooting, this would mean that arrests could have been resorted to instead of executions. Israeli troops also refused to allow medical assistance to the teens they shot, firing tear gas at those that attempted to approach them.

A point made by a local journalist and photographer from the nearby village of Bil’in, Hamde Abu Rahmah, was that the three boys – two of which he knew very well – were not from Kufr N’ima and most likely would have had no idea that the soldiers were there. Hamde Abu Rahmah also verified in a Facebook post yesterday, that the two boys have no direct connection to any political groups or resistance factions.

Another point made by Hamde Abu Rahmah, was that car rammings almost never involve more than one operative, let alone three. Hamas and Islamic Jihad would normally announce instantly their involvement in these acts, but didn’t.

An article published in the Israeli newspaper ‘Haaretz’, repeated the Israeli claim of the boys possessing molotov cocktails, despite the fact that Israel has provided no evidence of this. Any journalist who covers the West Bank is familiar with Israel displaying all evidence it claims to have immediately, so why not in this case?

Let’s take a deeper look at this argument of the molotov cocktails. Would this be the rational weapon of choice following a car ramming? If they did have them in the car, as the Israeli military claims, but didn’t attempt to use them, does this justify the usage of live ammunition against the teens? The Israelis don’t claim the molotov cocktails were used against them following the car collision and couldn’t possibly have discovered them until after the incident occurred, so why does the media include the molotov cocktails in their accounts of what happened?

Then we have the other issue of international law and who was in the wrong. According to the 4th Geneva convention and more specifically UNGA Resolution 37/43, Palestinians have the full legal right, under international law, to armed resistance. The only legal right those Israeli soldiers had during this Sunday nights incident, was to pack up and leave.

Even if this was somehow a car ramming attack on Occupation Soldiers, the attack is not classed as terrorism under international law. If you are arguing that Israeli soldiers, illegally raiding villages, on illegally occupied territory are in the right for shooting dead two teenagers and believe this to be a terrorist attack, you are quite literally on the side of the Israelis over International Law.

The result of all this, is that Amir Darraj and Yousef Anqawi were both shot dead, their bodies have been taken by Israel’s soldiers and now the Israeli policy of collective punishment, demolishing “terrorist” homes, will now be enforced.

So not only will the families of these two dead teenagers mourn, but will mourn on the ruins of their demolished homes and will be seen all over the world as the family members of terrorists.

Author Robert Inlakesh is a special contributor to 21WIRE and European correspondent for Press TV. He has reported from on the ground in occupied Palestine. See more of his work here

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

From Qana to Gaza, Israel issues denials and smears investigations of its crimes

By Professor Kamel Hawwash | MEMO | March 5, 2019

I wrote recently about an EU report on the growth of illegal Israeli settlements and argued that the EU was diligent in documenting Israel’s-breaches of international law but that it has singularly failed to bring it to account, even when it has demolished EU-funded projects.

A more recent report commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) investigated the actions of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) at the nominal border with Gaza since 30 March last year, which marked the beginning of the Great March of Return protests. For almost 50 weeks, Israeli snipers have gunned down, with deliberate, chilling precision, Palestinian men, women and children.

The “Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – A/HRC/40/74” acknowledges that the peaceful protests “were civilian in nature, with clearly stated political aims.” The protesters asked to be allowed to return to the homes from which they have been expelled from 1948 onwards, and for a lifting of the siege on Gaza. Instead of meeting their peaceful and legitimate demands from the outset, Israel has killed over 200 Palestinians, including journalists and medics, and maimed dozens of young men, who now have to face life as amputees, rather than sportsmen.

The irony here is that Israel complained about Malaysia’s decision to ban the Israeli Paralympics team from competing in the country, while the IDF was making its own sickening contribution to future Palestinian Paralympics teams.

The UNHRC’s report makes for gruesome reading. Israeli soldiers are accused of “intentionally firing on civilians, who were neither directly participating in hostilities, nor posing an imminent threat.” The report warns that, “These serious human rights and humanitarian law violations may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity.”

Israel’s reaction was predictable and follows a long line of denial and smearing of any report which accuses it of wrongdoing. According to a Foreign Ministry spokesman, “This report was born in sin, in a politically biased, one-sided resolution that determined the outcome before the investigation even started.” He went on to lay the blame on Hamas: “[Hamas] has declared war on Israel and calls to kill Jews. Hamas is orchestrating the attacks and using civilians in Gaza as human weapons to assault Israel and Israeli civilians. Hamas exploits the civilians in Gaza as human shields for terrorists.” As usual when such allegations are made, no evidence is produced to back them up, nor is the legitimate right to resist military occupation ever mentioned.

The spokesman went on to smear the UNHRC and the report’s three authors: “The HRC becomes an accomplice of a terrorist organisation, supporting Hamas’s aggression against Israel and the oppression of the people of Gaza.” The three individuals, he alleged, lack any understanding in security matters, without a relevant professional background.

Israel’s apologists came out in force to condemn the report, including US President Donald Trump’s Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt. “This COI report is another manifestation of the UNHRC’s clear bias against Israel,” he tweeted, “which remains the only country that the Council dedicates an entire standing agenda item to targeting.”

Such condemnation of investigations into Israel’s crimes and smearing of investigation teams and the bodies that form them is not new. The UNHRC set up an investigation into Israel’s 2014 military offensive against the Gaza Strip which lasted for 50 days, resulting in over 2,000 Palestinians being killed and causing extensive destruction.

The Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict – A/HRC/29/52 accused both Hamas and Israel of committing war crimes. “Israel does not commit war crimes,” claimed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he rejected the report. “Israel defends itself against a terrorist organisation that calls for its destruction and carries out many war crimes.” He accused the commission of being “notoriously biased” against Israel.

Following an escalation of violence in November 2012, a UN report criticised armed Palestinian groups and the IDF. The latter, it insisted, “did not consistently uphold the basic principles of conduct of hostilities, namely, the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions.” The report documented a number of cases, including one which took place on 18 November, in which an Israeli air strike targeted without prior warning a three-storey house belonging to the Al-Dalou family in Al-Nasser neighbourhood, in central Gaza City. The strike killed 12 people, including five children and four women. Again, Israel brushed aside criticism and no individual Israeli was held accountable.

Following the 2008/9 Israeli military offensive on Gaza, the UN published the Goldstone Report on the devastating events which took place between 27 December 2008 and 17 January 2009 and which resulted in over 1,300 Palestinians being killed. The report accused both Israel and Palestinian armed groups of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israel’s reaction was predictable. The Foreign Ministry said that, “Israel rejects the one-sided resolution adopted in Geneva by the UN human rights council and calls upon all responsible states to reject it as well… [The resolution] provides encouragement for terrorist organisations worldwide and undermines global peace.” It also accused the UNHRC of anti-Israel bias.

Israel’s siege and attack on the Jenin refugee camp in April 2002, which lasted for 10 days and killed dozens if not hundreds of Palestinians (the figures are disputed) again brought accusations of war crimes against Israel. The Israeli government refused to allow a UN team to carry out a field investigation, resulting in the UN producing a report based on available evidence. “In sum, the Israeli occupying forces have, without a doubt, committed serious violations of international humanitarian law,” the report concluded. “Also, without a doubt, war crimes, including grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, have been committed by Israel, the occupying Power, in several Palestinian cities, including in the Jenin refugee camp.” However, the report disputed the Palestinian claim of a massacre, a decision which was welcomed by the Israeli government. Furthermore, the report was judged as “seriously flawed” by human rights organisations and Britain’s Independent newspaper, which were able to corroborate many of the allegations against the occupation state. No Israeli has ever been held accountable for any violations.

It is possible to go back further in time to another Israeli atrocity to demonstrate the lack of accountability for crimes committed by the IDF. On 18 April 1996, Israeli forces shelled a UN compound in Qana, in Southern Lebanon, where 800 Lebanese civilians had taken refuge; 106 people were killed in the attack. Israel claimed that this was due to technical issues rather than deliberate targeting of a UN facility. However, the subsequent UN investigation concluded, “While the possibility cannot be ruled out completely, it is unlikely that the shelling of the United Nations compound was the result of gross technical and/or procedural errors.” The UN also found that “Contrary to repeated denials, two Israeli helicopters and a remotely piloted vehicle were present in the Qana area at the time of the shelling.” Amnesty International called for an independent investigation arguing, “It is not enough that the Israeli army investigates themselves. Israel has a history of either not investigating civilian deaths, or conducting similarly flawed inquiries.”

Now here we are, 23 years on and the UN’s most recent report again calls on Israel to investigate its own crimes, even though everyone knows that Israel never finds its own people guilty; always dismisses reports carried out by independent investigators as biased and one-sided; denies entry to the investigation teams; and refuses to cooperate. It claims to apply the highest standards of self-regulation but no one has ever been held fully accountable for any crimes, despite the thousands of deaths, the tens of thousands of injuries and the tens of thousands of homes that have been destroyed by Israelis since Qana, never mind the other massacres which have occurred since 1948.

It is time for Israel to be held to account for its actions, for the sake of those who have suffered at its hands. If international law is to have any credibility at all, we need to ensure that all UN member states pay due respect to human rights and the quest for justice through due legal process.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

The merger of the US consulate and embassy in Jerusalem completes the humiliation of the Palestinians

By Motasem A Dalloul | MEMO | March 5, 2019

The US State Department announced on Tuesday that it is going to merge the American consulate general in East Jerusalem with the American embassy in West Jerusalem. A statement published on the embassy website in Israel said that, “We will continue to conduct all of the diplomatic and consular functions previously performed by the US Consulate in Jerusalem.”

This move was celebrated by the Israeli occupation authorities, although it has angered the Palestinians The Palestinian Authority suspended its relationship with the US administration when US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of of Israel in December 2017 and relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city in May last year.

Saeb Erekat, the general secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, described the merger as “the final nail in the coffin” of the US administration as a sponsor of the peace process, which has in any case been moribund since 2014. According to a senior member of the PLO’s Central Committee, Hanan Ashrawi, “The Trump administration is intent on leaving no room for doubt about its hostility towards the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights, as well as its abject disregard for international law and its obligations under the law.”

Ashrawi insisted that the merger of the US consulate in Jerusalem with the US embassy to Israel, which is now located illegally in Jerusalem, is not an administrative decision. “It is a political assault on Palestinian rights and identity and a negation of the consulate’s historic status and function, dating back nearly 200 years.” She reiterated that this move “precludes any possible positive role for the current US administration in seeking peace and stability.”

State Department spokesman Robert Palladino, however, claimed that the decision was driven by Washington’s global efforts to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of its diplomatic engagements and operations. “It does not signal a change of US policy on Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Gaza Strip.”

Speaking to MEMO, Professor of Political Sciences at Al-Najah University in the occupied West Bank Abdul Sattar Qasim described the merger as a “humiliation” for the Palestinians. “The US premise is that the Palestinian Authority did not accept the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem so that it decided to oblige the PA and the Palestinians to go to the embassy [for consular services] on their own two feet.”

“After this move, nothing remains hidden about the American intentions regarding the Palestinian cause,” added Dr Hanna Issa, an expert in diplomatic affairs. “The US has been undermining the Palestinians from penetrating any international body through its support for Israel, vetoes and stick. Now, it has cancelled any possible future recognition of a Palestinian state because it has cut its last diplomatic channel with the Palestinians by closing its consulate in East Jerusalem.”

The consulate-general in Jerusalem was established in 1844, Dr Issa pointed out. ”In moving it, the US has declared openly that there is no difference between East and West Jerusalem and both are parts of the same ‘Israeli’ city. In addition, the merger means that there is no need to have two separate representatives for the same country – Israel.”

Although Palladino stressed that Washington “remains fully committed to efforts to achieve a lasting and comprehensive peace that offers a brighter future to Israel and the Palestinians,” Prof. Qasim insists that this is not true. “The merger is not an innocent move. It is a fulfilment of Israeli promises [that Palestine is the Jewish State of Israel] and implementation of Israeli laws.” he said, “It is the prelude to US recognition of the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is a vociferous supporter of Israeli colonial-settlements, Qasim has no doubt that he will carry out this mission. The US consulate used to prepare reports about settlements for the US State Department; this will now be the mission of the embassy which is overseen by Friedman, so we can guess that they will be very favourable.

America’s moves on the ground give the lie to Palladino’s claim that the Trump administration is still committed to peace in the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians. It looks more like a brighter future for Israel and yet more gloom for the Palestinians. Not only has Washington doubled its support for Israel, but it has also cut more than $500 million from donations to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and other aid programmes.

The Americans, explained Qasim, have been working hard to undermine the PA’s status as an autonomous entity which serves Palestinian interests. “The PA will lose its prestigious status after this move,” he said. “The Palestinian people will now see that the PA does not deserve any diplomatic representation from a long-standing ally which was regarded for decades as the country which would fulfil Palestinian dreams.”

In response, he suggested that the Palestinians should begin a popular protest campaign against the US and Israeli measures. Optimistically, Prof. Qasim added that this should not be stopped by the PA, although he does not expect the Ramallah-based authority to allow such a campaign to get off the ground.

Hanna Issa accused the Americans of “racial discrimination” against the Palestinians by closing the consulate. “What else does it mean given that the US has official representation offices for every nation, but the mission which was established 200 years ago in Palestine has been ended?” Nevertheless, he does not expect the PA or any Arab state to raise any complaints, because they have basically given the Israelis and Americans the green light to do what they want. The PA might be a loser in all of this, but it still does what it is told by the occupation authorities and their allies. “We have no hope in the PA or the Arab regimes,” Dr Issa concluded. “If the PA is serious about stopping the unilateral measures on the ground, it should unite the Palestinians, rearrange the Palestinian home and agree on a resistance programme.”

The merger of the US consulate and embassy in Jerusalem really does complete the abject humiliation of the people of Palestine. What will the Palestinian Authority do about it? Nothing whatsoever is my guess. And that is what is truly humiliating.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Integrity Initiative: The Sinister Chain of Events Leading Up to Salisbury

By Kit Klarenberg – Sputnik – March 4, 2019

In several reports to date, I’ve documented how the Integrity Initiative – the shadowy UK government-funded military intelligence front – and its assorted operatives and media assets systematically shaped news reporting on, and Whitehall’s response to, the apparent poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on 4 March 2018.

Now, on the anniversary of that fateful and ever-mystifying day, I’ll attempt to track some of the activities of the Initiative’s parent, the Institute for Statecraft, and other key figures and organizations directly and indirectly connected to the body in the years immediately prior.

Troublingly, the information collected here inevitably represents but a negligible fragment of a much wider clandestine picture. The full extent of the British state’s sinister and long-running secret machinations leading up to the Salisbury incident certainly isn’t ascertainable at this time, and may well never be.

‘Peculiar Struggle’

In July 2014, Institute for Statecraft ‘senior research fellow’ Victor Madeira wrote an article for the organization’s website, Russian Subversion — Haven’t we been here before?. In it, he suggested that far from a “new type of warfare”, the West’s tussle with Russia in the wake of the Maidan coup was “actually only the latest chapter in a 100-year-old playbook the Bolsheviks called active measures”, albeit “modernised to exploit the speed and reach of 21st-century mass/social media”.

After attempting to link various tactics employed by the Soviet Union to the modern day, Madeira somewhat chillingly concludes the piece with a quote from Ronald Lindsay, UK ambassador to Germany, who in February 1927 urged Whitehall to realise they were engaged in a “new kind of war” with the then-burgeoning Soviet Union.

“Anti-subversive measures could not be gradual; they had to be part of a package of ‘economic boycott, breach of diplomatic relations’ as well as ‘propaganda and counter-propaganda, pressure on neutrals.’ He argued a diplomatic breach with Moscow would at least turn ‘the present peculiar struggle into an armed conflict of the old-fashioned sort’ that Great Britain and the West could win,” Madeira records.

A document authored by the academic — who 2010 — 2014 tutored and lectured at Cambridge under former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove — in January 2015 (Russian Federation Sanctions ) makes clear he, and presumably his Institute employers, support Lindsay’s strategy and objectives.

The file sets out a number of “potential levers” for achieving a number of “main aims”, including “peace with Ukraine”, the “return” of Crimea, “behaviour change” and/or “regime change” — for, much to Madeira’s evident chagrin, the wave of sanctions imposed upon Russian individuals and businesses the previous March weren’t having a sufficiently deleterious impact on the Kremlin, or the Russian people.

Victor Madeira’s Ruminations on the Russian People

“[Russia] is not a ‘normal’ country in most senses of the word. Crucially, Russians see life and the world very differently from us… Russians are not nearly as driven by economic and financial considerations… For most Russians, daily life has long been a struggle (not least for survival). Not having Western goods and services will not necessarily be much of an issue in the medium to long-term,” he wrote.

Moreover — and perhaps worst of all in Madeira’s mind — President Vladimir Putin — someone who “survived abysmal post-WW2 conditions” and “[believes] nothing the West can do is worse than what [he’s] already endured in life” — remains popular among the Russian public due to “the chaos” of the 1990s, and for having “restored stability, prosperity and pride”.

“Fear of renewed uncertainty and chaos… keeps Russians in check”, he writes — as a result, “driving a wedge between Russians and [their] government is key.”

The bullet-pointed “levers” that make up the bulk of the document span areas including ‘diplomacy’, ‘finance’, ‘security’, ‘technology’, ‘industry’, ‘military’, and even ‘culture’, and include; suspending or expelling Russia from “G8, WTO… and similar organisations”; “[expanding] existing sanctions regimes to anyone helping [Russia] break them”; “[arresting] every known RF agent — not least ‘agents of influence'”; “banning RF delegates” from a variety of international fora, “[advocating the] view RF [is] untrustworthy of hosting [international sporting events]; “[banning] Russian companies from launching IPOs in [the] West”‘; asset freezes and “visa bans” for the “top 100 RF government officials and [their] immediate families”; “[sanctioning] RF media”; and much, much more.

‘Potential Levers’ for Regime Change in Russia Outlined by Victor Madeira

Certain “levers” — such as suspending visits by the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets to Western countries — are baffling, while others — for instance “repatriating” the children of Russian government studying abroad, or “[increasing] scrutiny” of Russian religious organizations in Western countries — appear wanton and excessive, if not outright barbarous.

However, one of Madeira’s suggestions, about which he was apparently so enthusiastic he mentions it thrice, “simultaneously [expelling] every RF intelligence officer and air/defence/naval attache from as many countries as possible (global ‘Operation Foot’)” — is especially striking.

Operation Foot saw 105 Soviet officials deported from the UK in September 1971 at the behest of then-Prime Minister Edward Heath, the largest expulsion of foreign state personnel by any government in history. Eerily, several mainstream media outlets would reference the historic mass defenestration when Whitehall successfully corralled 26 countries into expelling over 150 Russian diplomatic in response to the Salisbury incident, 27 March 2018.

‘Something Dreadful’

On 12 October 2016, Institute for Statecraft chief Chris Donnelly met with retired senior UK military official General Richard Barrons, Joint Forces Command chief 2013 — 2016. Their discussion was incendiary.

“We have led comfortable lives since the end of the Cold War. Wars have been away matches on our terms, with resources we have chosen to apply. Our institutions are now failing to deliver or being bypassed. Our world system is being challenged, by Russia, China… the power of initiative and decision is ebbing away from the West. [The] US can no longer protect us,” the document’s introduction states.

As 50 percent of the UK’s energy, and 40 percent of the UK’s food, is “from abroad”, the country “has vital interests in having the ability to engage globally, but that engagement will no longer be on our terms alone”. However, while in recent wars “the opposition had no peer capabilities and could pose no military threat” to the UK, the conflicts “have not required the full mobilisation of the military or any motivation of civilian society” and “given us the impression we can afford war at two percent GDP”, despite the UK needing “£7 billion just to our current force up to effectiveness”.

Moreover, “mixed success” in these conflicts is also said to have “left a bad aftertaste” with “no appetite for intervention” among the British public and politicians, and UK armed forces “cannot themselves speak out and say ‘we are broken’… as that would breach the rules of democratic control”.

Record of Richard Barrons’ Meeting with Chris Donnelly

Barrons goes on to despair that the subordination of the military to civil servants and ministers in the Ministry of Defence means “the military do not do policy” — a state of affairs he believes must be radically changed, with the armed forces removed from government control and transformed into “an independent body outside politics”.

“Government is living in denial… We need discussion and debate as to how Russia can be managed and deterred. We need to deal with Russia by doing things that are serious… If no catastrophe happens to wake people up and demand a response, then we need to find a way to get the core of government to realise the problem and take [the military] out of the political space. We will need to impose changes over the heads of vested interests… [we] must either generate the debate or wait for something dreadful to happen to shock us into action. We must generate an independent debate outside government… there is not a moment to be lost,” Barrons concludes.

Serious Matters

Barrons’ fears of a loss of US military protection were no doubt widespread within the British establishment — for some time, US Presidential candidate Donald Trump had been questioning the necessity of NATO, advocating a protectionist and insular ‘America first’ agenda in respect of world affairs.

Likewise, Trump’s repeated suggestion of improved relations between Washington and Moscow should he become President were unquestionably unwelcome in many quarters — not least, of course, the offices of the Institute for Statecraft. It’s perhaps unsurprising then the organisation played a pivotal role in kickstarting ‘RussiaGate’.

The month after Donnelly’s meeting with Barrons, and mere weeks after Trump’s shock election victory, Andrew Wood — UK ambassador to Russia 1995 — 2000, and a member of the Institute’s ‘expert team’ — was a delegate at the eighth annual Halifax International Security Forum in Canada. Senator John McCain was also in attendance, and the pair would speak privately on the event’s sidelines about allegations of Trump’s collusion with the Russian state, in particular, the claims of former MI6 operative Christopher Steele, and his ‘Trump-Russia’ dossier.

Andrew Wood’s Institute for Statecraft Staff Profile

How and why McCain and Wood met, and precisely what they discussed, isn’t remotely clear — Wood has offered several wildly divergent accounts of the event since, variously suggesting the meeting was entirely chance and initiated by McCain due to the issue “being very much in the news”, that he approached McCain due to his personal concerns after being shown the dossier by Steele, and that he was actively “instructed” by Steele to relay the dossier’s contents to the Senator, without having actually seen a copy in full.

In any event, as a result of their conversation, the Senator dispatched his aide David Kramer, former assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration, to meet with Steele in London and discuss the dossier’s contents, and arrange for a copy to be sent to Washington. On 9 December, McCain met then-FBI Director James Comey and provided him with the dossier, which Comey then circulated across all US intelligence agencies. It would reach the desk of outgoing President Barack Obama and several senior members of Congress in the first week of January 2017.

This development would be reported 10 January by CNN — the article stated the dossier suggested Russian operatives possessed “compromising personal and financial information” about Trump, but the outlet refrained from publishing specific details of the dossier as they hadn’t been “independently corroborated”.

CNN breaking cover — the dossier had been an “open secret” among US journalists for some time by that point — would provide BuzzFeed News with the ‘public interest’ defense it required to justify publishing the dossier, which it did 11 January, despite acknowledging its contents were “unverified, and potentially unverifiable”, and contained “clear” factual errors.

In the days afterward, the publication was severely criticised by many other media outlets — Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan called the dossier “scurrilous allegations dressed up as an intelligence report meant to damage Donald Trump” — and the ethics of publishing unsubstantiated information offered by entirely anonymous sources was hotly debated.

However, these misgivings were quickly silenced, thanks in no small part to a number of esteemed ‘experts’ who vouched for Steele’s credibility in the media — the earliest, most enthusiastic and prominent being none other than Wood himself. He would describe Steele as “very professional and thorough in what he does”, and “a very competent, professional operator” who wouldn’t “make things up”, among other effusive plaudits.

It would take months for Wood to reveal he wasn’t merely ‘familiar’ with Steele, but the pair were in fact long-time friends — and moreover he was an “associate” of Steele’s firm (what form this relationship takes, and whether Wood receives any remuneration from Orbis Intelligence, remains uncertain). Conversely, his association with the Institute for Statecraft has never been acknowledged by the mainstream media, and would never have been known if it wasn’t for the leak of the organization’s internal files in November 2018.

The leak also revealed that in March 2017, the Integrity Initiative submitted a bid for Ministry of Defense funding — among its key performance indicators achieving a “tougher stance in government policy towards Russia”, the publication of “more information in the media on the threat of Russian active measures”, the growth of its cluster network “across Europe” and “greater awareness in all areas of society of the threat posed by Russian active measures to UK’s democratic institutions”.

Integrity Initiative Bids for MoD Funding, March 2017

Russ to Judgement

BuzzFeed would again be used as a conduit for virulently anti-Russian propaganda in June, when it published a series of articles — From Russia With Blood – documenting 14 ‘suspicious deaths’ in Britain it claimed were potential or likely assassinations carried out by Russian “security services or mafia groups”, which UK authorities somehow failed to properly investigate.

The investigation caused something of a sensation, landing BuzzFeed in the running for a variety of prestigious journalism awards, including the Pulitzer and Orwell prizes — Investigations Editor Heidi Blake, who led the series, said her team’s work had cemented the outlet as a “major force in global news”.

However, examination of the seven articles offers much reason for scepticism. First and foremost, suggestions of possible Russian involvement in the deaths hinge almost entirely on the accusations of anonymous intelligence sources, without supporting documentation of any kind. In fact, the pieces often contain information directly contradicting the notion a featured individual was even murdered, let alone by Russians.

For instance, the third installment, The Man Who Knew Too Much, delved into the case of Dr. Matthew Puncher, a UK radiation scientist who’d been conducting work at a Russian nuclear facility, and was found stabbed to death in his kitchen in February 2016.

BuzzFeed notes Puncher’s wife Kathryn told investigators her husband tried to hang himself with a computer cable the the week prior, and Detective Constable Rachel Carter, who inspected the scene, told the inquest “there was no sign of a struggle, none of the furniture had been knocked over, and all the blood belonged to Puncher”, and she was “satisfied” he’d committed suicide as “all the information told us he was very depressed and no-one in his family seemed particularly surprised he had taken his own life”.

However, BuzzFeed had other ideas, stating “four American intelligence officials… believe he was assassinated”. Alternatively, a former senior Scotland Yard counter-terror officer unconnected to the case was quoted as suggesting — also anonymously — the Russian state could have given Puncher drugs to “create depression” and precipitate his suicide.

The fourth installment — The Secrets Of The Spy In The Bag — deals with Gareth Williams, the GCHQ codebreaker seconded to MI6 who died in a Pimlico flat owned by the spying agency in August 2010 and is similarly dubious in the extreme.

Williams’ demise is unambiguously mysterious — his decomposing naked body was found in a padlocked sports bag in the bath, although no fingerprints or traces of his DNA were found on the rim of the bathtub, bag, bag’s zip, or padlock, and an inquest ruled his death to be “unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated”.

Ironically, much of the article’s content raises serious questions about the role of Williams’ employer’s in his death. For instance, BuzzFeed notes he’d been dead for around 10 days by the time his body was found, but astoundingly neither GCHQ nor MI6 had alerted authorities to his absence from work. It would take his sister informing GCHQ Williams was missing at 11:30 am GMT on 23 August for the agency to contact police — albeit five hours later.

The outlet also records how in the ensuing investigation police were prevented from interviewing Williams’ colleagues at MI6, or reviewing relevant documents, and instead forced to rely upon officers from national counter-terrorism force SO15, which took no formal statements from witnesses, and passed on only anonymised briefing notes to their Metropolitan force counterparts.

Conversely, BuzzFeed fails to mention coroner Dr. Fiona Wilcox ruling involvement of SIS staff in Williams’ death was a legitimate line of inquiry for police — instead again relying on the unsubstantiated claims of the anonymous quartet of US intelligence officials that Williams had been tracing international money-laundering routes used by organised crime groups to blame his probable murder on the Kremlin, and/or Russian gangsters.

The eponymous investigation — focusing on the suicide of Scot Young, an associate of oligarch Boris Berezovsky — is perhaps the series’ most puzzling, for more reasons than one. Young — a corrupt tycoon with clear criminal connections — lost all his money on a failed property endeavor, spent time in prison for contempt of court, and suffered a lengthy and costly divorce battle.

Such a litany of crippling personal calamities — and doctors’ appraisal of him as “paranoid, with a manic flavour” with a “complex delusional belief system” — would surely make Young at least a potential candidate for suicide watch, and indeed police concluded he’d taken his own life by throwing himself from his apartment window.

Three of his associates, Paul Castle, Robbie Curtis, and Johnny Elichaoff likewise “experienced dramatic financial [collapses]” in which they lost all their potentially ill-gotten gains, and subsequently took their own lives — Castle and Curtis both jumped in front of oncoming trains, while Elichaoff leaped off the roof of a London shopping centre.

Yet again though, the word of anonymous US intelligence officials is sufficient to perk BuzzFeed’s suspicions about all their deaths, the unnamed operatives saying Russia could have “engineered” their suicides “through manipulation and intimidation tactics”.

The article’s discussion of Berezovsky’s death is likewise suspect and contradictory, quoting Richard Walton, Scotland Yard’s former counter-terror commander, as saying his department investigated the exiled Russian’s death “very thoroughly” and “hadn’t been able to find any evidence of murder”. Fascinatingly though, in seeking to construct a case for Berezovsky being unlawfully killed, BuzzFeed notes business partner, Georgian oligarch Badri Patarkatsishvili, died from an apparent heart attack in 2008. American spy agencies are said to have intelligence suggesting he was murdered, and while predictably none is presented in the article, Patarkatsishvili was provably subject to at least one assassination plot prior to his death — and it certainly wasn’t Russian in origin.In 2007, covert recordings revealed three Georgian national security service officials had plotted to kill ‘Georgia’s Richest Man’ at the behest of then-President Mikheil Saakashvili. In one recording they debate the best means of execution, an official suggesting they use a poisonous substance which will “kill a person two hours after touching it”. “You smear [it] on the door handle,” they say — the precise method by which Sergei and Yulia were contaminated with novichok, according to UK authorities.

Whatever the meaning of that parallel, BuzzFeed’s series is highly significant, for it was fundamental to cementing the notion of frequent Kremlin-directed murders on British soil in the public consciousness in the year prior to Salisbury. Almost inevitably too, it was widely invoked in the immediate wake of the apparent poisoning as evidence, if not proof, of Russian state involvement.

A Tweet by BuzzFeed Investigations Editor Heidi Blake on Skripal, Documented by Integrity Initiative

Among those seeking to connect From Russia With Blood with the attack on the Skripals was none other than BuzzFeed’s Heidi Blake herself. Her Twitter postings on the subject would be documented by the Integrity Initiative in regular roundups of social media activity relating to the incident — and reference to the series was made in an Initiative briefing document (likely circulated to journalists), Russian Lies and the Skripal Case, which called the “evidence” presented by her team’s investigation “compelling”.

So it was on 13 March 2018, nine days after the Salisbury incident, then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced British police and MI5 would reinvestigate the numerous ‘suspicious deaths’ detailed by BuzzFeed — a development the outlet reported rather triumphally. However, a mere four months later, Home Secretary Sajid Javid revealed police had determined there was “no basis on which to re-open any of the investigations”. Fittingly, in December an inquest concluded Alexander Perepilichnyy, one of the ‘BuzzFeed 14′, had died of entirely natural causes.

Whatever the truth of the matter, a month prior the Initiative invited Blake to head an hour-long ‘Investigative Masterclass’ at an event the organization convened at London’s Frontline Club — Tackling Tools of Malign Influence.

‘A Good Shepherd’

Also in June 2017, BBC Diplomatic Editor Mark Urban somewhat miraculously began conducting a series of interviews with Sergei Skripal in the latter’s Salisbury home.

“I was intending to write a book about East-West espionage… My intention was to focus the story on a handful of people, using their stories, and the moment these narratives intersected at Vienna airport, during the swap of 2010, as the key to its structure. Skripal was to be one of the central half-dozen or so stories… I was doing this in my own time — there was no contract. The only sense in which this was a ‘book’ in June 2017 was in my own imagination,” Urban claims.

Over the course of their discussions, Skripal would disclose much about his time in the intelligence services, spell as a double-agent for MI6, incarceration in Russia after discovery, and life in Britain post-exile — although his enduring patriotism Urban found particularly notable.

“[Skripal] is… an unashamed Russian nationalist, enthusiastically adopting the Kremlin line in many matters, even while sitting in his MI6-purchased house,” Urban records, “he was adamant, for example, Putin had not surreptitiously introduced Russian troops into east Ukraine, as much of the Western press reported. If regular units had gone in, he insisted, they would have been sitting in Kiev very soon.”

“The problem with the Ukrainians is they are incapable of leadership. They need Russia for that. The Ukrainians are simply sheep who need a good shepherd,” Skripal explained.

Such sentiments may explain why Skripal seemingly remained in regular contact with the Russian embassy after his arrival in the UK. Speaking to the Independent 7 March 2018, former Kremlin official Valery Morozov, an associate of Skripal likewise exiled to the UK, claimed Skripal had meetings with Russian military intelligence officers “every month”.

Strikingly, he also rejected the notion the apparent nerve agent attack had anything to do with the Kremlin.

“Putin can’t be behind this. I know how the Kremlin works, I worked there. Who is Skripal? He is nothing for Putin. Putin doesn’t think about him. There is nobody in Kremlin talking about former intelligence officer [sic] who is nobody. There is no reason for this. It is more dangerous for them for such things to happen,” Morozov cautioned.

Urban would bizarrely fail to reveal having bagged the unprecedentedly fortuitous scoop until three months after the Salisbury incident — an extremely curious delay, perhaps partially explained by his lucrative book deal with publisher Pan Macmillan being announced mere days later.

The resultant work, The Skripal Files, was published in October — rather than a history of “East-West espionage”, the project had evolved into an extensive telling of the government’s official narrative on the Salisbury incident, buttressed by discussions of alleged Kremlin assassinations in the UK, and Skripal’s life and career.

However, while widely marketed as the “definitive account” of the affair, the name Pablo Miller doesn’t appear once in the text — an amazing oversight given Miller was Skripal’s MI6 recruiter and handler, and neighbour in Salisbury, rendered all the more perplexing by Miller and Urban once having served in the same tank regiment.

Miller’s connections to the Salisbury incident are unclear, and by design — immediately afterwards he deleted his LinkedIn account, which revealed him to be a Senior Analyst at Christopher Steele’s Orbis Intelligence, and on 7 March Whitehall issued a D-notice blocking mention of him in the mainstream media. Miller also has unclear connections to Integrity Initiative, his name appearing on a list of invitees to an event hosted by the organization, alongside representatives of the BBC, Porton Down, the FCO, the MOD and the US Embassy.

Adding to the intrigue, Initiative operative Dan Kaszeta — a “counterfeit” chemical weapons ‘expert’ who was the very first source to suggest Sergei and Yulia may have been struck by novichok, a mere four days after the Salisbury incident — noted he’d met Urban “several times over the past few years” in a glowing review of The Skripal Files (since removed from the web) he wrote for the organization in December 2018.

In what may just be an intensely spooky coincidence, as 2017 drew to a close British-American TV project Strike Back: Retribution – a spy-drama based on a novel of the same name by ex-SAS soldier Chris Ryan — began airing on Sky One in the UK. The series followed the activities of Section 20, a fictional branch of British Defence Intelligence, which conducts secretive high-risk missions throughout the globe.

‘Strike Back: Retribution’ Episode Summaries

In episode four, broadcast 21 November, it’s revealed character Ilya Zaryn — who Section 20 rescued from the clutches of a terrorist group — is, in fact, Karim Markov, a Russian scientist who murdered a number of his colleagues with novichok, and is assisting the terrorists in their nefarious schemes.In the next episode, Section 20 locate Zaryn/Markov in a laboratory in Turov, Belarus, where he’s found producing more novichok — but while they manage to destroy the facility and the nerve agent, the dastardly Russian escapes.

In the next, Section 20 track Markov to a lab in Pripyat, Ukraine — but in attempting to contain the nerve agent, Section 20 operative Natalie Reynolds is contaminated. The unit forces Markov to create an antidote, but is killed before he can concoct one — Reynolds’ fellow agent Thomas McAllister manages to improvise and save her, however.

The series would air early the next year in the US on Cinemax — the second episode featuring novichok was transmitted 2 March, two days prior to the Salisbury incident, the third 9 March, five days after.

Expecting the Unexpected

Mainstream hostility towards the Kremlin had been intense ever since 2014, but ‘RussiaGate’ pushed this antipathy into overdrive. Critical, aggressive and paranoid media reports and statements by politicians had become an essentially daily staple by the start of 2018.

UK Chief of General Staff Gen. Nick Carter (File)

Nonetheless, on 22 January General Nicholas Carter, UK Chief of General Staff, offered perhaps the most hawkish speech on Russia since the demise of the Soviet Union. Speaking at a Royal United Services Institute event, Carter described the country as the “most complex and capable state-based threat to our country since the end of the Cold War”, and warned hostilities could start “sooner than we expect”, particularly as he — ironically — claimed the Kremlin had “[convinced] ordinary Russians the West is a threat… We have been made to appear as the enemy”.

“If Russia sees itself in decline, and more able now to go to war than in the future, does this encourage them to think of war? Perhaps compare the situation today to 1912 when the Russian Imperial Cabinet assessed that it would be better to fight now, because by 1925 Russia would be too weak in comparison to a modernised Germany; and Japan, of course, drew similar conclusions in 1941. Russia worries, I think, that the West will achieve a technological offset in the next decade,” he cautioned.

Carter said the conflict — which he naturally envisaged being initiated by Russia — would “start with something we don’t expect”.

Not long after the speech, Operation Toxic Dagger was launched — a vast three week effort in which 40 Commando Royal Marines, Public Health England, the Atomic Weapons Establishment and Porton Down’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory collaborated to prepare Britain’s armed forces for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear operations by creating “realistic exercise scenarios based on the latest threat information”.

The endeavour included “company-level attacks and scenarios concerning CBRN vignettes, concluding with a full-scale exercise involving government and industry scientists and more than 300 military personnel”, with a “chemical decontamination area set up not merely to treat ‘polluted’ commandos, but also wounded prisoners”.

It was convened on Salisbury Plain — several of the Royal Marines taking part would be seconded to Operation Morlop, a multi-agency ‘clean-up’ effort launched in Salisbury in the wake of the poisoning of the Skripals, less than a fortnight after Operation Toxic Dagger was completed.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Russophobia | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Russian Embassy to Great Britain and Northern Ireland – 03.03.2019



 A year ago, on 4 March 2018, Sergei and Yulia Skripal were reportedly poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury, Wiltshire. The UK government has accused the Russian state of being responsible for the poisoning. Russia has denied any involvement. The incident has caused major international repercussions, bringing Russia-UK and Russia-West relations to a new low. Yet details of what happened remain unclear.

The Russian Embassy pays tribute to all those who have helped and supported the two Russian nationals affected, first and foremost to first responders and medical staff. We also commend the efforts of journalists, bloggers and members of the public who have been working tirelessly to ensure that truth over what happened is established and disseminated, despite the extremely difficult media environment imposed by the British authorities.

Finally, we reiterate our sincere condolences over the tragic death of Dawn Sturgess who has become an innocent victim of political games. We join her loved ones in aspiring for the full circumstances of what happened to her and others involved to be established.




I. Background: the Skripal family

For the reader’s convenience, it is useful to begin with some background information on the individuals involved.

Sergei Viktorovich Skripal, 67 years, was born in Kiev and grew up in the Kaliningrad Region. He completed his education at the Zhdanov Military Engineering School in Kaliningrad and the Moscow Military Engineering Academy.

Sergei Skripal was a career officer at the Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU), the intelligence branch of the Soviet Defence Ministry. For some time, he was the director of the GRU Department of Personnel.

In 1995 Sergei Skripal was recruited by the Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom (MI6). In 2004 he was arrested, and in 2006 convicted for espionage by the Moscow Regional Military Court under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code (high treason in the form of espionage).  Sergei Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in a high-security detention facility and was stripped of his military rank (colonel) and decorations.

On 9July 2010 Sergei Skripal was pardoned by the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev and was freed along with three other individuals imprisoned for espionage in the framework of a swap for ten Russian citizens arrested in the United States.

After being pardoned, Mr Skripal moved to the United Kingdom and has resided in Salisbury, Wiltshire, while retaining his Russian citizenship. According to UK authorities, he has also obtained British citizenship.

Yulia Sergeyevna Skripal, 34 years, is a daughter of Sergei Skripal. Until March 2018, she lived in Moscow. In 2008 Yulia Skripal graduated from the Moscow State Humanities University.

In 2010 she moved to the United Kingdom with her father, but returned to Moscow five years later. She came to Salisbury to visit her father occasionally.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal’s living relatives include:

Elena Yakovlevna Skripal, 90 years, Sergei’s mother and Yulia’s grandmother, and

Victoria Valerievna Skripal, 46 years, daughter of Sergei’s deceased brother Valery and thus Sergei’s niece, Yulia’s cousin and Elena’s granddaughter.

Elena and Victoria reside together in Yaroslavl, a regional capital 250 km north-east of Moscow.

Media reports have mentioned more distant relatives living in “Siberia”. There is no detailed information about them or their interest in the case under consideration.



II. The 4 March incident and initial reaction


On 5 March at 11:09 the Salisbury District Hospital announced on Twitter: “[We are] currently dealing with a major incident involving a small number of casualties, with a multi-agency response”.

At 13:02 Wiltshire Police declared “a major incident after it is suspected that two people have been exposed to an unknown substance in Salisbury”. According to the Police, they had received a call at approx. 16:15 on 4 Marchregarding concern for the welfare of a man and a woman” in The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury. They added: “Both are currently in a critical condition. At this stage it is not yet clear if a crime has been committed […] We do not believe there is any risk to the wider public”.

Towards the evening, the Police said that the two victims were “a man aged in his 60s and a woman aged in her 30s”. ”The pair, who we believe are known to each other, did not have any visible injuries”. Several streets in central Salisbury, the Zizzi restaurant and the Bishop’s Mill pub were cordoned off.

The same evening, BBC reported that the male victim was Sergei Skripal. It was later reported that the female victim was his daughter Yulia.

On 6 March the investigation was transferred to the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network, yet no terrorist incident was declared. The Police also announced that “a small number of emergency services personnel, including some police officers and staff, were assessed immediately after the incident”.

The same day, the Russian Embassy in London sent a note verbale to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, inviting an official comment from the government on the incident with Mr and Ms Skripal, any information on their condition and the circumstances that led them to being hospitalised. The Embassy also invited British authorities to ensure maximum transparency of the investigation as a necessary condition of public trust in its outcomes. The Embassy informed the FCO of the request it had received from Victoria Skripal to provide information on the condition of her relatives.

Later that day, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, while responding to an urgent question in the House of Commons, said: “Hon. Members will note the echoes of the death of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Although it would be wrong to prejudge the investigation, I can reassure the House that, should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility, Her Majesty’s Government will respond appropriately and robustly […] I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on UK soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished”. In a note verbale, the FCO advised the Russian Embassy that Mr Johnson’s statement sets out the government position sought in the Russian note.

The same day, Russian President’s Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia has no information on what had happened or possible causes of the “tragic situation”. He added that Russia had received no requests but was always open to cooperation.

On 7 March Metropolitan Police said: “Police are now in a position to confirm that their symptoms are a result of exposure to a nerve agent. Scientific tests by Government experts have identified the specific nerve agent used which will help identify the source but at this stage in a fast-paced investigation we will not comment further”. Judging by the Police requests to the public, the initial investigation focused on the Zizzi restaurant and the Bishop’s Mill pub as the potential places of poisoning.

On 8 March UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd gave a statement on the investigation into the Salisbury incident. She said that the victims “are understood to be Sergei and Yulia Skripal”. “Both remain unconscious, and in a critical but stable condition”. She also announced that a police officer (later identified at Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey) “has also fallen seriously ill […] his condition remains serious but stable, and he is conscious, talking and engaging”. She added that “samples from the victims have been tested by experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down. […] Forensic analysis has revealed the presence of a nerve agent, and the incident is therefore being treated as attempted murder. […] I will not comment further on the nature of the nerve agent”. She also spoke against “the speculation around who was responsible” as the police should be allowed to carry on their investigation.

On 9 March Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “If anyone is interested in Russia’s assistance in any investigation […] we will be prepared to consider such possibility, if we have the respective data. But to achieve that, you have to make contact in a professional manner through existing channels, rather than run to TV with baseless accusations”.

On 11 March the Foreign Office informed the Russian Embassy that “Yulia Skripal remains in a critical, but stable condition in intensive care after being exposed to a nerve agent. As Sergei Skripal is a British citizen we are unable to provide information on his condition to the Embassy”.

On 12 March the Russian Ambassador, Alexander Yakovenko, was summoned by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. The Foreign Secretary said that the nerve agent used against Mr and Ms Skripal had been identified as “A-234” and that, according to the UK assessment, it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack. He invited Russia to respond, before the end of the next day, whether this was a direct act by the Russian State or acknowledge that the Russian government had lost control of this nerve agent. He also demanded Russia to provide full and complete disclosure of its chemical weapons programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Later that day Prime Minister Theresa May made a statement in Parliament. She said: “It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. It is part of a group of nerve agents known as Novichok. Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so, Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations, the Government have concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal. There are, therefore, only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on 4 March: either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country; or the Russian Government lost control of their potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others. […] This action has happened against a backdrop of a well-established pattern of Russian state aggression”. She added: “Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom, and I will come back to this House to set out the full range of measures that we will take in response”.

On 13 March the Russian Embassy responded by a note verbale which said that “the Russian Federation was not involved in any way in the incident that took place in Salisbury on 4 March”. The Embassy added: “Given that the Foreign Secretary put forth quite serious accusations against Russia, the Embassy demands that samples of the chemical substance to which the British investigation is referring be provided to Russian experts for analysis within the framework of a joint investigation. Without that, all allegations by the British side are pointless. The Russian side also demands full information on the conduct of the investigation, given that one of the victims is a Russian national. […] In general, an impression is growing that the British Side is unwilling to cooperate with the Russian Side in investigating the crime. In case the British Side does not fulfil the above demands, the Russian Side will assume that the Salisbury incident is a blatant provocation by the British authorities aimed at discrediting Russia”.

The same day, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that rather than issuing a 24-hours ultimatum, the UK could have engaged Russia under the procedure of Artile IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) which foresees a reply to be given within 10 days: “I assure you, if the Convention procedures are fulfilled, the Russian Federation will comply with its obligations and will reply to the request so made in the time prescribed”. He added that under those procedures, the requested party has the right to access to the substance in question in order to be able to analyze it. He stressed that Russia had immediately requested that possibility but that the UK had rejected the request.

On 14 March Ambassador Yakovenko was again summoned to the FCO. Director General for Consular and Security affairs Philip Barton handed over a note verbale and a list of 23 staff members of the Russian Embassy declared “persona non grata” by the British side, who were to leave the country by 21 March, and informed of the decision to reduce the Embassy’s military section to a single military attaché. He also pointed out that additional measures would be set out by the Prime Minister the same day.

In her statement to Parliament the Prime Minister said: The Russian Government have provided no credible explanation that could suggest that they lost control of their nerve agent, no explanation as to how this agent came to be used in the United Kingdom, and no explanation as to why Russia has an undeclared chemical weapons programme in contravention of international law. Instead it has treated the use of a military-grade nerve agent in Europe with sarcasm, contempt and defiance.

There is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. This represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.

The following measures in response were announced by Mrs May:

– to expel 23 Russian diplomats “identified as undeclared intelligence officers”;

– to suspend all planned high-level contacts between the UK and Russia;

– to propose new legislative powers to harden defences against hostile state activity;

– to consider whether there is a need for new counter-espionage powers;

– to table an amendment to the Sanctions Bill to strengthen powers to impose sanctions in response to the violation of human rights;

– to make full use of existing powers to enhance efforts to monitor and track the intentions of those travelling to the UK;

– to freeze Russian State assets in case they may be used to threaten the life or property of UK nationals or residents;

– to deploy a range of tools from across the full breadth of the National Security apparatus in order to counter the threats of hostile state activity.

The same day, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation issued a statement saying: “The March 14 statement made by British Prime Minister Theresa May in Parliament on measures to “punish” Russia, under the false pretext of its alleged involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, constitutes an unprecedented, flagrant provocation that undermines the foundations of normal dialogue between our countries. We believe it is absolutely unacceptable and unworthy of the British Government to seek to further seriously aggravate relations in pursuit of its unseemly political ends, having announced a whole series of hostile measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the country. Instead of completing its own investigation and using established international formats and instruments, including within the framework of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – in which we were prepared to cooperate – the British Government opted for confrontation with Russia. Obviously, by investigating this incident in a unilateral, non-transparent way, the British Government is again seeking to launch a groundless anti-Russian campaign. Needless to say, our response measures will not be long in coming.”

Again on 14 March, Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed that “Moscow has informed London through diplomatic channels that Russia was not involved in the Salisbury poisoning”. He added: “Moscow does not accept baseless accusations unsupported by any evidence, nor do we accept the language of ultimatums. We remain open for cooperation in investigating this crime, but unfortunately we do not see any mutual readiness of the British”.

Still on 14 March, at a UN Security Council briefing on the Salisbury incident, UK Chargé d’Affairs Jonathan Allen qualified the event as “an unlawful use of force – a violation of article two of the United Nations charter”. Russia replied by saying that the issue by no means falls within the mandate of the Security Council and that all discussions are pointless until the OPCW gives its assessment of the Salisbury incident.

On 16 March Foreign Minister Lavrov said: “Russia not only can do, but is doing more [on the Salisbury incident] than anyone, including the UK. […] We are awaiting an official request from the UK to launch CWC procedures. […] The fact that they are categorically refusing to send a formal request […] means that they realize that they have no formal ground to go along the legal path”. He said that if the UK doesn’t want to work in the CWC framework, it can also trigger application of the European Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters. But the gist of the British rhetoric is that they are not obliged to prove anything to anyone. Meanwhile, Russia, even hypothetically, would have no motive to commit such attacks on the eve of the presidential election and the FIFA World Cup. Yet the British government could have a motive to stage a provocation against Russia due to the difficult situation with Brexit and the desire to keep leading positions internationally. He added that, according to Western-published scientific papers, work on the substance that the UK calls “Novichok” is going on in the USA, the UK, the Czech Republic and Sweden.

On 17 March UK Ambassador UK to Russia Laurie Bristow was summoned to the Foreign Ministry, where he was handed a note stating that in response to the provocative actions of the British side and groundless accusations against the Russian Federation with regard to the incident in Salisbury the Russian side had taken the following decisions in response:

– 23 diplomatic staff of the UK Embassy in Moscow are declared “persona non grata” and are to leave Russia within a week.

– Taking into account the disparity in the number of the two countries’ consular missions, the Russian Federation recalls its agreement on the opening and operation of the Consulate General of the United Kingdom in St Petersburg.

– Due to the unregulated status of the British Council office in the Russian Federation, its activities are terminated.

– The British side is warned that in case of further unfriendly actions against Russia, the Russian side reserves the right to take further retaliatory measures.


III. Reaction of UK’s partners


On 15 March the leaders of France, Germany, the United States and the United Kingdom issued a joint statement sharing the British assessment that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack and that there is no plausible alternative explanation.

In the period between 12 and 28 March Theresa May made telephone calls with the US President Donald Trump (twice), German Chancellor Angela Merkel (twice), French President Emmanuel Macron (twice), Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau of Canada, Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg, Malcolm Turnbull of Australia, Paolo Gentiloni of Italy, Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, and Shinzo Abe of Japan to discuss the Salisbury incident.

On 19 March the EU Foreign Affairs Council made a statement condemning the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal and expressing its unqualified solidarity with the UK and its support, including for the UK’s efforts to bring those responsible for this crime to justice.

On 22 March the European Council published its conclusions on the Salisbury incident agreeing with the United Kingdom government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation.

As a result, in total over 150 staff members of Russian diplomatic missions in 28 countries and the Mission to NATO have been expelled. Those countries are: Albania (2 diplomats expelled), Australia (2), Belgium (1), Canada (4), Croatia (1), Czech Republic (3), Denmark (2), Estonia (1), Finalnd (1), France (4), Germany (4), Georgia (1), Hungary (1), Ireland (1), Italy (2), Latvia (1), Lithuania (3), Macedonia (1), Moldova (3), Montenegro (1), Netherlands (2), Norway (1), Poland (4), Romania (1), Spain (2), Sweden (1), Ukraine (13), United States (60), as well as NATO (10). Six EU countries did not expel diplomats but recalled their ambassadors to Russia for consultations.

Russia reciprocated by a symmetrical expulsion of diplomats of the countries concerned and insisted that the total number of employees of UK missions in Russia be brought to the same size as that of Russian missions in the UK.

Comments made by high officials of the countries concerned include the following:

Czech Republic President, Miloš Zeman, said in an interview on 29 March: “So far the UK has not presented any evidence. There are suspicions, but as you know, suspicions are not evidence. I understand the essence of the solidarity act, but I would like to see proof as well. […] Listen, what does ‘highly likely’ mean? I would like to have on my desk if not direct, at least indirect evidence”. Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Jakub Dürr has been quoted as saying: “When it comes to the UK position, we completely trust our British partner. You don’t doubt your friend, especially when the argument is supported by a phrase like ‘highly likely’”.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister, Boyko Borissov, said at a press conference on 30 March: “Bulgaria has shown full solidarity with the United Kingdom by voting at the European Council […] We are waiting for more evidence, if any exists, and for the moment we don’t believe we have to expel Russian diplomats”.

Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Bartosz Cichocki, was quoted by the Sunday Express on 8 April as saying: “In our case, the depth of the UK’s information wasn’t critical because we had been observing patterns of Russian behaviour and what happened in Salisbury fitted into that pattern”.


IV. Timeline of further events


On 19 March Russian President Vladimir Putin said: “I guess, any reasonable person has realised that this is complete absurd and nonsense. For anybody in Russia to allow themselves such actions on the eve of the presidential election and the football World Cup? This is unthinkable”. He added:We are ready to cooperate. We said it at the very beginning. We are ready to participate in the necessary investigations, but this requires an interest from the other side, and that’s what we don’t see at this stage”.

On 19 – 23 March an OPCW technical team worked in Salisbury after having been invited by the UK in order to “independently verify” the UK’s assessment on the nature of the chemical agent.

On 22 March Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was discharged from hospital.

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

On 29 March Dr Christine Blanshard, Medical Director for Salisbury District Hospital, said: “I’m pleased to be able to report an improvement in the condition of Yulia Skripal. She has responded well to treatment but continues to receive expert clinical care 24 hours a day”. The Hospital said Ms Skripal is no longer in a critical condition. Media reported that she had regained consciousness and was able to eat and talk.

On 31 March Russia formally proposed a joint investigation into the Salisbury incident.

On 3 April a formal request for legal assistance was sent to the Home Office from the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation pursuant to a criminal investigation opened in Russia with regard to the attempted murder.

On 5 April in a telephone conversation with Victoria Skripal aired on Russian TV, Yulia Skripal said: “Everything is fine, everything is solvable, everybody is recovering, everybody is alive, [Sergei Skripal] is fine, he is currently sleeping”. The same day, Metropolitan Police published a statement on behalf of Ms Skripal in which she said: “I woke up over a week ago now and am glad to say my strength is growing daily”.

On 5 April Russia convened a UN Security Council meeting to resume discussion of the Salisbury incident. Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya pointed out numerous questions left unanswered by the UK Government.

On 6 April the Hospital announced that Sergei Skripal had been “responding well to treatment, improving rapidly and is no longer in a critical condition”.

On 10 April Dr Christine Blanshard, Medical Director for Salisbury District Hospital announced Yulia Skripal’s discharge from hospital.

On 11 April a statement was published by Metropolitan Police on behalf of Ms Skripal, saying: “I have left my father in [the hospital’s] care, and he is still seriously ill. I too am still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against me”. She added, “I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves. I thank my cousin Victoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being”. The Russian Embassy questioned the authenticity of the statement.

On 12 April OPCW published conclusions of its analysis within the framework of “technical assistance” to the UK.

On 13 April the UK published a letter of the same date by the National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The letter purports to provide NATO allies with “further information regarding [UK’s] assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian state was responsible for the Salisbury attack”. The letter contains the following new allegations:

– Nerve agents known as “Novichoks” were developed in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Russia’s CWC declaration did not report any work on these agents. “Russia further developed some Novichoks after ratifying the CWC. In the mid-2000s, President Putin was closely involved in the Russian chemical weapons programme”.

– “During the 2000s, Russia commenced a programme to test means of delivering chemical warfare agents […] including by application to door handles”. Small quantities of Novichoks were produced and stockpiled under the programme.

– In 2013 e-mail accounts of Yulia Skripal were “targeted by GRU cyber specialists”.

The Russian Embassy reacted by saying that the letter “is a further demonstration of the lack of any evidence of Russia’s involvement”. It referred to UK secret services’ “huge track record of misleading the government and the public, with disastrous consequences”, and asked the following questions to the allegations in Mr Sedwill’s letter:

– If the UK had information of Russia’s unlawful chemical weapons programme, why didn’t it raise the matter in 2017 when the OPCW certified the full destruction of Russia’s CW?

– If the UK had information of Russian experiments with applying CW to door handles, why did the police not focus on Mr Skripal’s door handle from the very beginning of the investigation?

– How could the UK possibly learn of GRU’s alleged interest towards Ms Skripal’s emails?

Upon UK’s initiative, a UN Security Council meeting to discuss the Salisbury incident took place on 18 April. Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya stated: “we will not accept the results of any national or international investigations unless we have access to the whole body of information […] unless we are able to exercise our right to consular access to Russian citizens and, most importantly, without direct participation of Russian experts in all the actions […]”.

On 17 April the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the UK announced a launch of decontamination of the nine allegedly contaminated sites in Salisbury “to bring them back into safe use for the people of the city and its visitors”. According to the statement, the decontamination will include “removal and incineration of potentially contaminated objects”. The Russian Embassy reacted by saying that the so-called decontamination is an element of the strategy aiming to destroy the important and valuable evidence.

On 1 May National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill told the Commons Defence Committee that the British Police and intelligence agencies had failed so far to identify the individual or individuals who carried out the nerve agent attack in Salisbury.

On 8 May the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: The police have now released all the sites for decontamination, except for the Skripal house. Clean-up work is well under way and the priority is making the sites safe so they can be returned to use and Salisbury can get back to normal. The ongoing investigation is one of the largest and most complex ever undertaken by counter-terrorism policing. Over 250 officers from across the counter-terrorism policing network have been deployed, alongside over 160 officers from Wiltshire Police and a range of experts and partners. Officers continue to trawl through over 5,000 hours of CCTV and examine over 1,350 exhibits that have been seized. Around 500 witnesses have been identified and hundreds of statements have been taken.”

The Russian Embassy reacted by saying: “Despite huge efforts the police have been unable to support the official political version of the incident with facts and proof. The immense work of the police turns out to be meaningless when they are expected not to establish the truth, but to follow the artificial script written by the Conservative government days after the attack. The serious accusations put forward by the UK government still have no basis as there is no evidence of Russia’s involvement in the case, while the myth of the exclusively Russian origin of the chemical poison used has been totally dismantled. No suspects have been identified either.”

On 10 May Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko met with Director General, Consular and Security at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Philip Barton. The Ambassador stated that the whole range of circumstances around the Salisbury incident involving Sergei and Yulia Skripal compel Russia to qualify the situation as a forced detention or even abduction of the two Russian nationals. The Ambassador demanded that the United Kingdom comply with its obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the bilateral Consular Convention. Communication between a citizen and a consular officer is not only a right of the citizen, but also a right of the consular officer, i.e. the sending state. This is clearly stipulated by Article 36 of the bilateral Consular Convention.

On 18  May Sergei Skripal was discharged from hospital. Director of Nursing at Salisbury District Hospital Lorna Wilkinson said: “This is an important stage in his recovery, which will now take place  away from the hospital.” A Met Police spokesman said: “This is a complex investigation and detectives continue to gather and piece together all the evidence to establish the full facts and circumstances behind this dreadful attack. In the interests of Sergei and Yulia’s safety, we will not be discussing any protective or security arrangements that are in place.”

President Putin said: “We wish him the best of health, we are really very happy. I have several considerations in this respect. First. I think if a combat-grade nerve agent had been used, as claimed by our British colleagues, the man would have died on the spot. A nerve agent is so powerful that a person dies instantly or within several seconds or minutes. Fortunately, he is alive, he got well, was released from hospital and I hope he will live a healthy and safe life. As to the investigation, on our part we offered every assistance in the investigation to our British partners on a number of occasions, and asked for access to this investigation. There has been no response so far. Our proposals remain in place.

On 23 May Yulia Skripal gave a video address, published by Reuters. She requested to respect her privacy and expressed a willingness to eventually return to Russia. She expressed gratitude to the Russian Embassy in the UK, which had offered her assistance, but explained that “she doesn’t wish to avail herself of their services”.

On the same day the Embassy reacted  by saying that “We are glad to have seen Yulia Skripal alive and well. However, the video shown only strengthens our concerns as to the conditions in which Yulia Skripal is being held. Obviously, Yulia was reading a pre-written text…. the text was a translation from English and had been initially written by a native English-speaker… With all respect for Yulia’s privacy and security, this video does not discharge the UK authorities from their obligations under Consular Conventions”.

On 25 May President Putin, speaking on the margins of the 22nd St Petersburg International Economic Forum, said: “As for this unpleasant event [Salisbury incident], we have spoken on this subject more than once. We said that the most objective explanation to what happened could be only provided as a result of a thorough, unbiased and joint – the latter is very important – investigation. We proposed working on it together from the very beginning, but as you know, the British side rejected our offer and investigated the incident alone. It is also a fact, as this was announced at the very beginning, that the victims were poisoned – if it was a poisoning – with a chemical warfare agent. I have spoken about this before, but I will say again that although I am not an expert on chemical warfare agents, I can imagine that the use of such agents should result in the almost instantaneous death of the victims.

Thank God, nothing like this happened in the case of the Skripals, and that Skripal himself and his daughter are alive, have been discharged from hospital and, as we have seen on television, his daughter looks quite well. Thank God, they are alive and healthy.

Therefore, I believe it would be wrong to say that it was a chemical warfare agent. If so, everything the British side has said can be called into question.

How can we settle this? We should either conduct a comprehensive and objective joint investigation, or stop talking about it because it will only worsen our relations”.a

On 28 June The British Medical Association (BMA) made a statement critisising the British government for the failure to establish adequate communication following the Salisbury incident. BMA deplored, in particular, “the delay of 12 days before advice on managing potential contact with an unknown toxic substance was produced to GPs; the failure to establish a dedicated poisons helpline and to register of all those who were possible contacts with the toxic substance”.

On 29 June Foreign Minister Lavrov in his interview with Channel 4 said: “…It is an act of crime. We from the very beginning suggested that we investigate this together, because it is our citizen. At least the daughter is our citizen. The father, I think, has dual citizenship, he is a Russian citizen and a British subject. From the very beginning we suggested a joint investigation. We asked so many questions, including the questions related to the Chemical Weapons Convention’s procedures. In response, we were told that the British side does not want to listen, because we have to tell them only one thing. “Did Putin order this or did Putin lose control over the people who did?”. That’s all that the British wanted to discuss. The inconsistencies in the situation with the Skripals are very troubling. We have never managed to get consular access to our citizen in violation of all international conventions on diplomatic and consular relations. We have never got any credible explanation why the cousin of Yulia Skripal has not been given visa, as she wants to visit the UK and see her cousin. And many other things related to the act itself…You know that the investigation continues. The Scotland Yard said that it would take a few more months. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently mentioned that the place is being disinfected, four months after the incident. The policeman has become miraculously fine. The Skripals have become miraculously fine. People now talk about levelling the house where they lived, levelling the house of the policeman. It all looks like a consistent physical destruction of evidence, like the benches of the park that were removed immediately. And, of course, the video images where policemen or special forces in special attire go to take a look at this bench, while people without any protection are moving around. It looks very weird…”.

On 30 June Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, were found unconscious at a house in Amesbury. The Met Police said counter terrorism officers were working with Wiltshire Police “given the recent events in Salisbury”.

On 3 July The Sun informed that “Scotland Yard believes that two-man hit team led Salisbury nerve agent attack on behalf of the Kremlin”.

On 4 July police declared a “major incident” after revealing that Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess had been exposed to an “unknown substance”. The same evening Assistant Commissioner of the Met Police Neil Basu said Novichok was to blame following analysis at the defence research facility at Porton Down. He could not confirm whether the nerve agent came from the same batch used in Salisbury but added that the possibility was “clearly a line of inquiry”.

On 5 July Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Security Minister Ben Wallace claimed that Russia refuses to cooperate over the Salisbury poisoning and that after the Amesbury incident the Russian state must “come and tell us what happened in Salisbury to keep people safe”.

The Embassy reacted by saying: “All allegations of Russia’s involvement in the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury are merely speculative and are not based on objective data of the investigation. As for the cooperation and information sharing, Russia has from the very outset proposed a joint investigation of the attempted murder of two Russian nationals. The proposal remains on the table…The UK authorities avoid any contact with the Russian side on this, or any other issues of concern. Moreover, London continues to blatantly violate its international obligations by refusing consular access to the Russian citizens, who remain isolated and are highly likely under duress by secrets service…”.

On 8 July Dawn Sturgess died in hospital.

On 10 July Charlie Rowley regained consciousness.

On 19 July the Press Association reported that the investigators believe to have identified the persons who poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal by cross-checking CCTV recordings with lists of people who entered and left the United Kingdom around that time.

The Security Minister Ben Wallace has given assessment to this report by writing in Twitter that it “belongs in the ill informed and wild speculation folder”.

On 20 July Charlie Rowley was discharged from hospital.

On 4 September the Met Police released pictures of a perfume bottle allegedly containing the chemical agent through which Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley were poisoned.

On 5 September the Met Police declared it had identified two Russian citizens, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, as those responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Several stills from CCTV footage were published, showing Mr Petrov and Mr Boshirov in London and Salisbury. They included a picture dated 4 March at 11.58 a.m., allegedly shot in the vicinity of Mr Skripal’s house moments before the attack.

The same day Sue Hemming, Crown Prosecution Service Director of Legal Services, said: “Prosecutors from CPS Counter Terrorism Division have considered the evidence and have concluded there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are Russian nationals, with the following offences:

–  Conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal

–  Attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey

–  Use and possession of Novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act

–  Causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey

We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals. Russia has made this clear following requests for extradition in other cases. Should this position change then an extradition request would be made.

We have, however, obtained a European Arrest Warrant which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations.”

On 13 September Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov were interviewed by RT Chief Editor Margarita Simonyan. They confirmed visiting London and Salisbury between 2 and 4 March as tourists, and described the circumstances of their two trips to Salisbury on 3 and 4 March.

On 25 September, the Russian Embassy received a reply from the Home Office informing the Russian side of a refusal to fulfil the requests for legal assistance.

On 26 September, the investigative website Bellingcat announced that it has identified Ruslan Boshirov as “GRU Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga”. On 8 October, they said they have identified Alexander Petrov as
Dr. Alexander Mishkin, Hero of Russia”.

On 22 November, the Police published three CCTV video clips, totaling 54 seconds, showing Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, at the same locations where they were earlier shown on still pictures.

On 21 January 2019, EU Council introduced sanctions against “GRU officer Anatoliy Chepiga (a.k.a. Ruslan Boshirov)”, “GRU Officer Alexander Mishkin (a.k.a. Alexander Petrov)”, as well as against Head of the GRU, Igor Kostyukov, and his First Deputy, Vladimir Alexeyev, the latter two being described as “responsible for the possession, transport and use in Salisbury during the weekend of 4 March 2018 of the toxic nerve agent “Novichok” by officers from the GRU.”


V. Summary of the official position of the British Government


The United Kingdom holds Russia responsible for the incident in Salisbury and considers it an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK. According to British officials, Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia.

The main arguments used by the UK to support its case were summarized by the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in his article in the Sunday Times on 8 April, as follows:

Our experts at Porton Down have identified the substance used against the Skripals as a “military grade” Novichok, a class of nerve agents developed by Russia.

In addition, the British government has information that within the last decade Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination and as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks.

Moreover, Russia has an obvious motive for targeting Sergei Skripal. In the year that Skripal moved to Britain, President Putin made a televised threat that “traitors” would “kick the bucket” and “choke”.

The fate of Alexander Litvinenko, murdered in London in 2006, demonstrates the Kremlin’s willingness to kill someone in this country. The Russian Duma has actually passed a law that allows the assassination of “extremists” overseas.

Put the facts together and there is one conclusion: only the Russian state has the means, the motive and the record to carry out this crime”.

The UK interprets the Report of the OPCW Technical Secretariat as a confirmation of the results reached by the national investigation.

According to Prime Minister Theresa May, two Russian nationals Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – names the police believe to be aliases – are treated as prime suspects for the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and the subsequent poisoning of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley. On 5 September 2018 she stated in the House of Commons:

“Hard evidence has enabled the independent Crown Prosecution Service to conclude they have a sufficient basis on which to bring charges against these two men for the attack in Salisbury.

The same two men are now also the prime suspects in the case of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley too.

There is no other line of inquiry beyond this.

And the police have today formally linked the attack on the Skripals and the events in Amesbury – such that it now forms one investigation.

There are good reasons for doing so.

Our own analysis, together with yesterday’s report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, has confirmed that the exact same chemical nerve agent was used in both cases.

There is no evidence to suggest that Dawn and Charlie may have been deliberately targeted, but rather were victims of the reckless disposal of this agent.”




VI. Inconsistencies in the British narrative


1. The Russian alleged “capability, motive and track record”

a) The British government claims having “information that within the last decade Russia has investigated ways of delivering nerve agents likely for assassination and as part of this programme has produced and stockpiled small quantities of Novichoks”.

Yet all production of chemical weapons in Russia stopped in 1992. The existing stockpiles, the largest in the world, were being destroyed for the following 25 years under strict control of the OPCW, of which the UK is an important member. In September 2017, the OPCW certified the full destruction of Russia’s chemical weapons. It is not clear why the UK did not raise this issue in 2017, if it had information of Russia producing military-grade chemical agents in contravention of its obligations. It is also not clear what kind of information Britain possesses and how it has come to the conclusion regarding the purpose of the alleged production.

In this context, it is worth to recall that in his interviews, Porton Down Chief Executive Gary Aitkenhead did not deny producting “Novichok” at his facility.

b) The UK has pointed at an “obvious motive” for Russia targeting Sergei Skripal. They have quoted President Putin who allegedly made a “threat” that “traitors” would “kick the bucket” and “choke”.

In fact, in the cited 2010 TV interview President (then Prime Minister) Putin actually directly denied the policy to assassinate traitors. Consider the transcript:

Question: […] According to memoirs, leaders of various countries signed orders to assassinate enemies of the state abroad. […] Have you, as head of state, taken such decisions?

Answer: […] Russian special services do not use such methods. As regards traitors, they will kick the bucket themselves, I assure you. Take the recent case of treason […] How will he live with it? How will he look into his children’s eyes? Whatever thirty pieces of silver they may have received, they will choke on them, I assure you. To keep hiding for the rest of their lives, not to be able to see their loved ones – you know, whoever chooses such fate will regret about it”.

Further, Britain seems to imply that Mr Skripal was such a threat to Russia so as to be considered an obvious target. This is hard to reconcile with the fact that after having served a part of his sentence, Mr Skripal was pardoned and allowed to leave Russia for the UK where he has been living in peace for 8 years.

c) The UK refers to a “track record of state-sponsored assassinations”, citing notably the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. This allegedly “demonstrates the Kremlin’s willingness to kill someone in this country”.

In reality, what the murder of Alexander Litvinenko demonstrates is Whitehall’s willingness to classify key information and put forward serious accusations unsupported by facts. The same script is being played this time.

d) British officials claim that the Russian Duma has passed a law that allows the assassination of “extremists” overseas. This is an outright lie. There is no such law in Russia.

The closest Russia has is the 2006 law against terrorism that allows the President, with the agreement of the upper chamber of Parliament (a decision to be taken publicly), to send “formations of armed forces” to combat terrorists and their bases abroad. This is essentially the same procedure as the one prescribed by the Constitution for using troops beyond Russia’s national territory. As one clearly sees, this has nothing to do with targeted killing. Invoking this law as a “confirmation” of Russia’s policy reveals total lack of expertise, but also raises the question whether Mr Skripal has been engaged in any activities that the UK thinks Russia could conceivably consider as terrorist or extremist.

2. Origin of the nerve agent and its characteristics

– While Soviet scientists did work on new types of chemical poisons, the word “Novichok” was introduced in the West in mid-1990s to designate a series of new chemical agents developed there on the basis of information made available by Russian expat researchers. The British insistence to use the Russian word “Novichok” is an attempt to artificially link the substance to Russia.

Meanwhile, in a 2007 US-published handbook and a 2008 book by the defector chemist Vil Mirzayanov, detailed information on several dozen “Novichok”-type substances was published. Thereafter, this type of agents was described in numerous publications of US, Czech, Italian, Iranian, Indian researchers who, judging by their works, did actually synthesize them. Given the broad scientific literature, it is safe to say that any modern chemical laboratory is capable of synthesizing “Novichok”.

– Contrary to official statements, Mark Urban claims in his book “The Skripal Files: The Life and Near Death of a Russian Spy” that in the 1990s the UK obtained samples of certain types of chemical agents allegedly developed in the Soviet Union, including the one connected with the Salisbury incident, and the Porton Down secret laboratory got the chance to study it. This means that British chemical weapons experts could easily synthesize the agent in virtually any amounts.

– In an earlier interview with Deutsche Welle published on 20 March 2018 Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claimed that Porton Down had assured him of the Russian origin of the nerve agent. But on 3 April Chief Executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down Gary Aitkenhead stated that his laboratory had identified the substance as a “military-grade nerve agent but has not been able to identify its origin”. On 4 April 2018 the Foreign Office deleted a tweet of 22 March 2018 about “the Russian origin” of this substance.

– According to Vil Mirzayanov and Vladimir Uglev, the nerve agent allegedly used in Salisbury is very unstable and quickly degrades in contact with water. Its potency is reduced dramatically if washed down quickly enough. This is consistent with the advice given by Public Health England to residents of Salisbury to wash their clothes in a washing machine using regular detergent and wipe personal items with cleansing or baby wipes, and dispose of the wipes in an ordinary domestic waste bin in order to avoid contamination. However, other British officials (Met Police, DEFRA, Wiltshire local authorities) have claimed that the agent could remain stable and potent for a very long time and therefore aggressive caustic chemicals should be used for decontamination.

– Inconsistent approach to decontamination has included no known efforts to decontaminate the Salisbury District hospital, when compared to the complete sealing off of a number of public locations visited by the Skripals (Sergei Skripal’s house, “Zizzi” restaurant, The Bishop’s Mill pub, The Maltings shopping centre) and thorough cleansing of their personal belongings including Sergei Skripal’s car.

– It has never been explained how it was possible for the Skripals to lose consciousness simultaneously several hours after coming into contact with the nerve agent, despite them being persons of different age, gender and body constitution.

– It has never been explained why not a single person providing first aid and further medical assistance to the Skripals ever developed any signs or symptoms of nerve agent poisoning, even if the nature of the poisoning was not known for at least two days and thus no special precautions could be taken.


3. Day of the incident

The credibility of the British narrative is put into doubt by the numerous inconsistencies in the official information regarding how the events of
4 March unfolded. The police offers the following picture:

09:15 Sergei Skripal’s car is seen in the area of London Road, Churchill Way North and Wilton Road.


13:30 Sergei’s car is seen driven down Devizes Road, towards the town centre.


13:40 Sergei and Yulia arrive in Sainsbury’s upper level car park in the Maltings. At some time after this, the go to the Bishop’s Mill Pub.


14:20 They dine at Zizzi restaurant.


15:35 They leave Zizzi.


16:15 Emergency services arrive to find Sergei and Yulia extremely ill on a bench.

As one can immediately see, the movements of the Skripals are known only to a limited extent. It is hard to explain the reluctance by the police to publish a clearer picture that would help alleviate the multiple doubts. Among the many omissions of information which is clearly available to the investigation, one may mention the following:

While some movements are published with extreme accuracy (“arrived in Sainsbury’s upper level car park”), others are not. Notably, Mr Skripal’s car movements in the morning are only described as being “in the area of London Road, Churchill Way North and Wilton Road”. This description potentially encompasses a significant area, stretching for over 4 miles from Salisbury’s western to its northeastern outskirts, the latter point being at 5-miles’ drive from Porton Down. Further, it is unclear in which direction the car was moving and how much time this journey took.

– The obscure nature of the Skripals’ morning trip is accentuated by the alleged fact of their mobile phones being switched off for 4 hours. There has been no attempt either on the part of the investigation or the Skripals themselves to explain the unusual decision to switch off the phones, which precluded their itinerary from being established on the basis of GPS tracking or other phone-related technical data. There has also been no attempt to explain the absence of more precise CCTV data on this trip.

It is thus not clear when the Skripals left home in the morning, what they did thereafter, and when/whether they returned home before heading to the city centre after 1 p.m.

– The prime suspects, Petrov and Boshirov, were filmed at 11:58 at a
7-minutes’ walking distance from Mr Skripal’s house
, and thereafter at 13:05 in the town centre, at a 25-minutes’ walking distance from Mr Skripal’s house. It is hard to explain why no further details of their itinerary have been made public.

– It has never been announced whether there was a CCTV camera on Mr Skripal’s house. Given his background and status, for there not to be a camera looks inconceivable. Recordings from that camera would constitute the best and most convincing piece of evidence. Why does the UK not publish those?

– There is equally no information (either official or in the media) on any witnesses who may have seen the Skripals or the main suspects at any particular point around the time when the poisoning could theoretically take place. This is particularly striking with regard to the two suspects, as two strangers in a calm residential area would have certainly been seen and noted by locals.

There has never been an attempt by the investigation to confirm or deny the account of the prime suspects on their movements in Salisbury. Notably, they have asserted that, during their 120-minutes stay, they sat in the park, drank coffee at a café and, most importantly, visited the cathedral. All of this would have taken place precisely over the period of time when, according to the police, they would be delivering the nerve agent to Mr Skripal’s door. It is hard to see why checking their assertion and informing the public accordingly should constitute a problem.

– It was revealed in January 2019 that the first person to help the Skripals after they lost consciousness was Colonel Alison McCourt, Chief Nursing Office of the Army, and her daugher Abigail. There has been no attempt to explain why this extraordinary coincidence had been kept secret for the previous ten months.

– Another coincidence to which no satisfactory explanation has been given is the presence, at Salisbury Hospital at the time of the Skripals’ being admitted, of staff trained to deal with nerve agent poisonings.


4. Other unexplained factual elements

– The UK has repeatedly denied an entry visa to Victoria Skripal. The motives have never been convincingly explained. Moreover, while Sergei and Yulia remained unconscious, a number of legal decisions were taken by British authorities on their behalf, fully ignoring the fact that the Skripals had relatives in Russia who should have been consulted as the next of kin.

– There have been conflicting reports on the fate of Sergei Skripal’s pet animals. No satisfactory explanation has ever been given to the fact that they were killed, reportedly at Porton Down, and that they had not been tested for nerve agent poisoning.

– The UK authorities have never announced how the prime suspects had received their visas and what information on the purposes of their visit was indicated on their visa application forms. This information would have been useful for ascertaining the credibility of the police’s and the prime suspects’ accounts of their trip.



5. Amesbury: Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley

– The investigation has never announced where and under what circumstances Mr Rowley had found the perfume bottle allegedly containing the nerve agent. If one is to believe that the bottle was found in a charity bin, how has it been possible that nobody had found it over the several months, before Mr Rowley did?

– As the bottle found by Mr Rowley was sealed, there has been no clarity as to whether the investigation believes this to be the very bottle used against the Skripals, or a different one. If the latter is true, where is the first bottle and how has it been possible to declare Salisbury fully decontaminated if the first bottle has never been found?

– It is not entirely clear why Dawn Sturgess was cremated rather than buried. Did the authorities influence her family to force such a decision, so that no further examinations on her body could be ever performed?




The British authorities have ignored the requirements of Paragraph 2, Article IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which states that “States Parties should, whenever possible, first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with this Convention, or which gives rise to concerns about a related matter which may be considered ambiguous”.

Instead, the British side, with reference to Paragraph 38 e, Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, requested the OPCW Technical Secretariat to “independently verify” their own conclusions concerning the incident in Salisbury. However, that Paragraph concerns solely the provision of technical assistance to States Parties in the implementation of their regular obligations under the Convention, first and foremost in terms of declaring and disposing of chemical weapons and control over other toxic chemicals. Cases of past application of that provision confirm that “technical assistance” is understood as assistance to states lacking skilled personnel, equipment or technologies to achieve the CWC goals and objectives. Therefore, Paragraph 38 e, Article VIII does not vest the OPCW Technical Secretariat with a mandate to conclude independent investigations, formulate its own conclusions, or “independently verify” the results of an investigation concluded by any state.

An OPCW team worked in Salisbury from 19 to 23 March. They collected blood samples from the Skripals and Det Sgt Bailey and environmental samples.

On 12 April 2018 the OPCW published conclusions on its investigation of the Salisbury incident. Although the OPCW did not publish the full version of the report, the UK claimed that the Organisation had confirmed the Skripals’ exposure to a “Novichok”-class agent.

Russian experts have identified numerous inconsistencies in the OPCW report. These include:

– The report contains no specific information on the level of acetylcholinesterase in the victims’ blood from the moment of their hospitalisation. This alone makes it impossible to convincingly conclude that they were exposed to a nerve agent on 4 March.

– The report does not contain enough information on the clinical picture or medical treatment, especially as regards the prescribed doses of antidotes, such as oximes.

– The report does not explain the victims’ transition from a lengthy unconscious condition to active consciousness within a short period of time, which does not correspond to the usual effect done by anticholinesterase chemical agents.

– One of the report’s conclusions was that the toxic chemical in samples taken was “of high purity”. This could not have been possible if samples were indeed taken more than two weeks after the poisoning.

This brief outline gives an idea of the problems identified by Russian experts. Their full conclusions cannot be made public at this stage due to the confidential nature of the OPCW report itself.

VIII. Media situation


The UK has, on numerous occasions, accused Russia of “obfuscation and lies” in the context of the Salisbury incident. Yet it is the UK’s own media policy with regard to this case that has been an example of secretiveness and lack of clarity. Tabloid “leaks” from “informed sources within security services” have become the primary way for informing the public of isolated elements of the case, without it being possible to verify them. Numerous requests by the Russian authorities to UK counterparts to confirm or deny one factual element or another, were repeatedly met with a refusal “to discuss media coverage of an ongoing investigation”.

An early example of the results of such approach are the numerous conflicting reports over the properties of the poison and how the Skripals came into contact with it. Several versions have been explored by the media before the door handle version became the official one. These include:

1. The Skripals might have been poisoned with a synthetic opioid substance fentanyl. Salisbury Journal, 5 March 2018

2. The poison might have been mixed with drinks or food either in “Zizzi” restaurant or in “The Mill” pub. The Sun, 6 March 2018

3. The poison could have been sprayed by the attackers on the street.       The Sun, 6 March 2018

4. The Skripals were poisoned by a hybrid version of thallium. The Sun,      6 March 2018

5. The Skripals were poisoned by sarin slipped by Kremlin-linked assassins into Sergei Skripal’s present in Moscow. The Sun, 9 March 2018

6. The Skripals could have been poisoned by a bouquet of fresh flowers which they laid on the grave of Sergei Skripal’s late wife. Daily Mail,                   10 March 2018

7. The poison was smeared on Sergei Skripal’s car door handle.            Daily Mail, 13 March 2018

8. The nerve agent used in Salisbury would have a very limited lifetime in the UK. This is presumably why the street in Salisbury was being hosed down as a precaution. Daily Mail, 13 March 2018

9. The nerve agent was concealed in an item of clothing, a gift or cosmetics in Yulia Skripal’s baggage. Daily Telegraph, 15 March 2018

10. The nerve agent was delivered by a drone. Daily Star, 18 March 2018

11. The nerve agent was introduced to Sergei Skripal’s car ventilation system. Daily Mail, 19 March 2018

12. The nerve agent was brought to Britain in a bag with buckwheat, bay leaves and spices, by Yulia Skripal’s acquaintance, who was coming to London by another flight. The Sun, 1 April 2018

13. The nerve agent used to poison the Skripals was specially designed to take about four hours to kill them so the assassins could flee Britain. Daily Mail, 7 April 2018

14. The assassin failed to understand the gel nerve agent needed dry conditions to be fully potent as it dissolves in water. The Sun, 14 April 2018

Another example is the media information regarding actual or potential suspects. The respective reports include:

1. British security agencies have red-flagged an individual who arrived at Heathrow on the Aeroflot flight 2570 at 14.32 on March 3 and returned to Moscow several hours later, raising questions as to the purpose of such short visit. Daily Mail, 3 April 2018

2. The Russian national suspected of planning the attack on the Skripals is living undercover in Britain and leads a six-strong hit squad known as “The Cleaners”. They use false identities from an EU state. Sunday Mirror, 7 April 2018

3. Yulia Skripal’s fiancé Stepan Vikeev and his mother had a role in the Skripal poisoning. Mail on Sunday, 21 April 2018

4. Counter terror police have identified a Russian assassin believed to be connected to the Salisbury poisoning. He is a 54 year-old former FSB spy codenamed “Gordon” and is thought to use the cover name Mihails Savickis as well as two other aliases. Police fear he already left Britain and they may never have a chance to question him. Sunday People, 22 April 2018

5. Britain’s intelligence services have compiled a list of key suspects involved in the attack in Salisbury. Daily Mail, 22 April 2018

6. «Johnny Mercer: Quickly on Salisbury, Sir Mark, do you know who the individuals are who poisoned the Skripals? Sir Mark Sedwill: Not yet.» Sir Mark Sedwill’s oral evidence in the Commons Defence Committee, 1 May 2018

7. A third Russian agent implicated in the Salisbury nerve agent attack was Sergei Fedotov. He aborted his planned exit from the UK and may still be in the country. Daily Telegraph, 6 February 2019.

It is also worth noting that, according to the Sunday Times of 8 April 2018, the national security apparatus has “seized control” over the “media response” to the incident. There have been numerous reports of
“D notices” having been issued, prohibiting the media from reporting on aspects of the case.



IX. The Skripals’ current situation


The UK has repeatedly refused to disclose any information on Sergei and Yulia Skripals’ current whereabouts, status and health condition. The reason cited is the need to ensure their security.

The UK insists that the Skripals are free and that, notably, they enjoy freedom of movement and communication. Yet there are no known examples of Sergei’s interaction with the outside world ever since
4 March 2018, and such examples of Yulia’s contacts are limited to the following:

The phone call to Victoria Skripal on 5 April, sounding as if Yulia had seized a moment to briefly speak to her cousin when not being watched or listened to. In that call, Yulia said that both she and her father were doing well, had no irreparable harm to their health, and also said to her cousin that “nobody will give you a visa, that’s the situation here”.

The statement made by police on Yulia’s behalf on the same day, seeking to confirm that Yulia had woken up a week before.

The statement made by police on Yulia’s behalf on 11 April, curiously claiming that “no one speaks for me” and asking Victoria not to visit.

The video statement of 23 May, read from a prepared text which had been obviously pre-written in English by a native English speaker and thereafter translated into Russian.

Not only Victoria Skripal, but Elena Skripal, Sergei’s 90-year-old mother, have repeatedly complained over the lack of contact with either Sergei or Yulia. Elena Skripal notably said this in the BBC Panorama documentary aired on 22 November. On 19 February 2019, Russian media reported that Elena Skripal had applied to the police to have her son officially declared missing.

The UK’s assertions of the Skripals’ freedom of communication are thus not supported by facts.


X. Consular access


According to subparagraphs a, b, c, Paragraph 1, Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, “consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them”.

Article 36 of the 1965 USSR-UK Consular Convention states that “a consular officer shall be entitled within the consular district to communicate with, interview and advise a national of the sending State and may render him every assistance including, where necessary, arranging for aid and advice in legal matters”.

In spite of this, Russian Embassy’s diplomats have not been granted consular access to Sergei and Yulia Skripal. It’s important to note that according to Article 30 of the 1965 Convention, “the term ‘national’ shall mean any person whom the sending State recognises as its national”. In this regard, the British citizenship of Sergei Skripal could not be considered as a ground to deny consular access.

A reference to an alleged refusal by the Russian citizens to avail themselves of diplomatic protection or consular assistance is unsustainable. A contact between a national and a consul is not only a right of the national, but also a right of the consul, i.e. the sending State. The underlying rationale is to exclude the possibility of a situation where a state abusing the rights of a foreigner would simply refer to that foreigner’s unwillingness to see a consul, so as to allow for further abuse of rights without any consular control.

Furthermore, the circumstances in which Yulia Skripal made her statement refusing consular visits cause doubt as to its voluntary nature.

As the Russian Embassy has explained more than once, it is not seeking to offer the Skripals its help and support if they don’t need or ask for it. Yet, given all the circumstances, it is important to hear their position on this matter from them personally and directly.


XI. Requests for legal assistance


On 29 March and 17 April 2018 the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation requested legal assistance from the Crown Prosecution Service under the 1959 European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters within the framework of the investigation opened in Russia following the attempted murder. On 25 September 2018, the Embassy received a reply from the Home Office informing the Russian side of a refusal to fulfil those requests.

In refusing cooperation, the UK is referring to Article 2(b) of the 1959 Convention. According to that article, assistance may be refused if execution of the request is likely to prejudice the sovereignty, security, ordre public or other essential interests. The Home Office letter specified that the decision was taken at the highest political level.

Earlier, the British authorities had announced that they did not intend to pursue extradition of the “suspects” (“Boshirov and Petrov”) and made it clear that they were not interested in submitting their own requests for legal assistance, which could be provided by Russia by means of interrogation of certain persons, provision of access to documents, etc.

Such position of the British authorities does not allow to bring the investigation to its logical end in either the Russian or the British jurisdiction.

Thus, the British side has confirmed that from the very beginning the aims of its campaign around the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal lay exclusively in the field of politics and propaganda. It has nothing to do with an aspiration to establish the truth and bring those responsible to justice. The fact that the decision to refuse legal assistance has been made at the highest level is another evidence of political control being exercised over the investigation.

The refusal to fulfill the request of the Office of the Prosecutor General amounts to another violation by the UK of its obligations under international law.

XII. Summary of the official position of the Russian Government


1. Russia has nothing to do with the incident that took place in Salisbury on 4 March.

2. The UK authorities have made quite serious accusations against Russia without presenting any meaningful evidence. Subsequent events have shown that no evidence of Russian involvement exists. The only concrete fact that the UK is putting forward is the identification of the substance used as “Novichok”, “a nerve agent developed by Russia”.

3. The UK has never made clear what it means by saying “developed by Russia”. Neither Russia nor the Soviet Union have ever developed an agent named “Novichok”. Both the Porton Down laboratory and the OPCW have only identified the type of the substance, but not the country of origin.

4. Apart from that, the British initial “assessment” of Russia’s responsibility is based on unverifiable statements and artifical constructs. The forcefulness with which the government is pressing these constructs only further illustrates the lack of facts.

5. The UK has not complied with its obligations under consular conventions. Yulia Skripal is undisputedly a Russian citizen. Sergei Skripal, while being a UK citizen, has never forfeited Russian nationality. They have the right to contact with consular authorities, and consular authorities have the right to contact with her. Given all the circumstances, allegations of their unwillingness to receive consular assistance cannot be taken for granted and need to be verified.

6. The legal basis of British actions in the OPCW is doubtful. Instead of using the normal OPCW procedures whereby the UK could have engaged Russia directly or through the OPCW Executive Council (under Article IX CWC), the UK has chosen to cooperate bilaterally with the OPCW Technical Secretariat under an arrangement the details of which are unknown. In the OPCW, there is no such procedure as verification of a national analysis.

7. Analysis of all circumstances shows that UK authorities have embarked upon a policy of isolation of Mr and Ms Skripal from the public, concealment of important evidence and blocking an impartial and independent investigation. The situation around the Skripals looks increasingly like a forcible detention, and the whole incident raises more and more questions as to potential involvement of British secret services. If British authorities are interested in assuring the public that this is not the case, they must urgently provide tangible evidence.

8. The only evidence presented by the British authorities against Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are CCTV recordings. These only confirm the fact of their visit to Salisbury and do not point at any wrongdoings. There are no witness testimonies or further CCTV recordings that would confirm that they indeed were in the vicinity of Sergei Skripal’s house, or refute their own account of their trips to Salisbury.

9. The UK could have made an official request for legal assistance. That assistance may have included Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov being interrogated in Russia, documents being provided, etc. However, the UK government has chosen not to pursue these options.

10. The UK’s refusal to pursue the available legal avenues precludes the case from running its natural course leading to prosecution of any individuals within either the British or the Russian jurisdiction. This further testifies to a deliberate choice to keep the case within the political and media domain.

11. The UK’s policy on the Salisbury incident has included multiple and serious violations of international law, including consular conventions, OPCW procedures, arrangements on mutual legal assistance, human rights obligations, standards of media freedom, as well as the universally recognized norms of diplomatic intercourse.



Diplomatic correspondence:

Russia’s requests and questions to the UK


Note Verbale of 6 March 2018:

1. To issue an official comment on the incident. Done.

2. To provide information concerning the health condition of Mr and Ms Skripal and on the circumstances that led them to being hospitalized. Partially fulfilled.

3. To take note of the request my Mr Skripal’s niece, Victoria Skripal, to be informed of their health condition. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 13 March 2018:

4. To provide samples of the chemical substance allegedly used. Denied.

5. To provide full information on the investigation. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 14 March 2018:

6. To enable consular access to Mr and Ms Skripal. Denied.

Note Verbale of 16 March 2018:

7. To provide a full medical report on the health condition of Ms Skripal. Ignored.

8. To provide up-to-date visual materials confirming that Ms Skripal is safe and well treated. Fulfilled by publishing Yulia Skripal’s video address of 23 May 2018.

Note Verbale of 31 March 2018:

9. To conduct a joint investigation of the Salisbury incident and to hold urgent consultations on this matter. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 2 April 2018:

10. To provide all necessary assistance to Victoria Skripal, including by issuing her a visa and allowing her access to her relatives. Denied.

Note Verbale of 3 April 2018:

11. To provide legal assistance to the Russian investigative authorities who have opened a case regarding attempted murder. Denied

Note Verbale of 5 April 2018:

12. To forward contact details of consular officials to Yulia Skripal. Allegedly fulfilled.

Letter of 6 April 2018:

13. To have a meeting between the Ambassador and the Foreign Secretary. Meeting declined.

Note Verbale of 9 April 2018:

14. To confirm or deny whether Mr and Ms Skripal are about to be resettled to a third country under new identities. Ignored.

15. To confirm or deny whether Mr Skripal’s house will be demolished. Ignored.

16. To confirm or deny whether the alleged RAF-intercepted message from Syria formed part of information on the basis of which the decision was taken to expel Russian diplomats. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 10 April 2018:

17. To provide urgent proof that all actions in relation to Yulia Skripal are being taken in strict observance of her free will. Ignored.

18. To clarify conflicting reports as to whether OPCW experts directly took biomedical samples from Mr and Ms Skripal. Partially answered by the FCO. OPCW confirms taking samples.

Note Verbale of 11 April 2018:

19. To explain how exactly the UK has complied with its obligations under consular conventions. Reply unsatisfactory.

20. To confirm or deny whether Yulia Skripal has been moved to a “secure location”, and to provide verifiable information on Mr and Ms Skripal’s whereabouts, their health and wishes. Reply unsatisfactory: “FCO does not comment on media coverage of
on-going investigations”.

Note Verbale of 12 April 2018:

21. To clarify in a transparent and convincing way Mr and Ms Skripal’s whereabouts and condition, with no possibility to verify the statement of the Metropolitan Police made on 11 April allegedly on behalf of Yulia Skripal. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 19 April 2018:

22. To provide an urgent medical examination of Yulia Skripal by Russian specialists. Partially answered by the FCO, conditioning such examination on Yulia Skripal’s agreement.

Note Verbale of 20 April 2018:

23. To refrain from actions which directly undermine spirit and letter of the Chemical Weapons Convention and lead to deterioration of our bilateral relations. The UK has confirmed taking note of the request.

Note Verbale of 23 April 2018:

24. To grant legal assistance in criminal case on attempted murder of Yulia Skripal to the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation. Denied.

Note Verbale of 24 April 2018:

25. To refrain from exerting pressure against the Russian channel RT in accordance with UK’s international obligations within the framework of the UN, OSCE and the Council of Europe to protect and promote freedom of the media and freedom of expression. The UK has confirmed taking note of the request.

Note Verbale of 24 May 2018:

26. To satisfy immediately all Embassy’s legitimate requests, especially regarding consular access to Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 31 May 2018:

27. To provide assistance in arranging a meeting between Embassy representatives and the medical staff involved in the treatment of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 21 June 2018:

28. To confirm or deny media reports claiming that Sergei Skripal’s and Nick Bailey’s houses and their possessions are expected to be bought by the Government, and to inform what will happen to them if this is the case. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 19 April 2018:

29. To remind the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office about the Prosecutor General’s Office’s pending requests for legal assistance. Legal assistance denied.

Note Verbale of 3 July 2018:

30. Reiterated request to clarify the details of the treatment received by Sergei and Yulia Skripal, to inform about their whereabouts, conditions in which they are held and the treatment they are receiving. Ignored.

31. To give answers to all questions and requests raised by the Embassy and to meet obligations under international law. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 4 July 2018:

32. To confirm or deny reports that the police identified a “two-man hit team that led the Salisbury nerve agent attack”. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 9 July 2018:

33. Reiterated proposal for a joint investigation into the Salisbury incident. Ignored.

34. Reiterated request to provide information on the ongoing investigation, treatment of the incident, present samples of the substance to which the British side is referring to. Ignored.

35. To ensure maximum transparency on the Amesbury incident. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 9 July 2018:

36. To provide assistance in arranging a meeting between Ambassador Alexander Yakovenko with the Home Secretary or the Minister of State for Security on the Salisbury incident. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 13 August 2018:

37. To facilitate requests from the Russian media for interviews with officials involved in the Salisbury investigation. Ignored.

Note Verbale of 30 August 2018:

38. Reiterated request for cooperation under Paragraph 2, Article IX of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Ignored.

Note Verbale of 22 November 2018:

39. Reiterated request to clarify the situation concerning Sergei and Yulia Skripal as the denial of access to any relevant information is a clear violation of international law. No official reply.

Note Verbale of 18 February 2019:

40. Reiterated the same request. Ignored.

41. To present official results of the investigation into the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents to the Russian side and the international community. Ignored.


Note Verbale of 22 March 2018:

1. What is Mr and Ms Skripal’s exact diagnosis and condition? Partially answered by Salisbury District Hospital.

2. What treatment are they receiving? Partially answered by Salisbury District Hospital.

3. Is that treatment the same as that provided to Sgt Nick Bailey? No information.

4. Why has the condition of Mr Bailey and Ms Skripal improved, while Mr Skripal remains in a critical condition? No information.

5. Did Mr Bailey, Mr Skripal and Ms Skripal receive antidotes? No official reply. According to Porton Down Chief Executive, no antidote exists against the substance used. Partially answered by Dr Christine Blanshard.

6. Which antidotes exactly were administered? See 5 above.

7. What information and medical effects led to the decision to administer antidotes? How had the medical staff identify which antidotes to use? See 5 above.

8. Why are there no photos/videos confirming that the Skripals are alive and at hospital? No information.

9. Did the Skripals agree on Salisbury CCTV footage to be shown on TV? No information.

10. If not, who gave the agreement on their behalf? No information.

11. Is that person also entitled to authorize the publication of photos/videos? No information.

12. Is that person also entitled to authorize consular access? No information.

13. What protection against chemical exposure is used by the medical staff? No information.

14. If consular access is impeded by the risk of exposure, can the same protection be used by a consular officer? No information.

Note Verbale of 26 March 2018:

15. Could the hastiness in administering antidotes aggravate the condition of Mr Bailey, Mr and Ms Skripal? See 5 above.

16. Where, how and by whom were blood samples collected from Mr and Ms Skripal? Reply received, with reference toOPCW report saying their experts took samples.

17. How was it documented? No information from the UK.

18. Who can certify that the data is credible? No information from the UK.

19. Was the chain of custody up to all the OPCW requirements when evidence was collected? No information from the UK. OPCW says chain of custody has been respected.

20. Which methods (spectral analysis and others) were used by the British side to identify, within such a remarkably short period of time, the type of the substance used? No information.

21. Had the British side possess a standard sample against which to test the substance? No information.

22. Where had that sample come from? No information.

23. How can the delayed action of the nerve agent be explained, given that it is a fast-acting substance by nature? No information.

24. The victims were allegedly poisoned in a pizzeria (in a car, at the airport, at home, according to other accounts). So what really happened? Police said the victims came into contact with the poison through the front door.

25. How do the hasty actions of the British authorities correlate with Scotland Yard’s official statements that “the investigation is highly likely to take weeks or even months” to arrive at conclusions? No information.

Note Verbale of 28 March 2018:

26. Why have the authorities ignored the fact that Mr Skripal’s niece has been enquiring of her uncle’s and cousin’s health? No information.

Note Verbale of 29 March 2018:

27. Is it true that Yulia Skripal has regained consciousness and can communicate, eat and drink? Reply received.

Note Verbale of 31 March 2018:

28. Why has Russia been denied consular access to the two Russian nationals, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, that have become crime victims in the British territory? Reply unsatisfactory.

29. What specific antidotes were administered to Mr and Ms Skripal, and in which form? How were those antidotes available for the medical staff on the site of the incident? See 5 above.

30. On what grounds has France been involved in technical cooperation with regard to the investigation of an incident in which Russian nationals had suffered? No information from the UK.

31. Has the United Kingdom informed the OPCW of France’s involvement in the investigation? No information from the UK.

32. How is France relevant to the incident with two Russian nationals in the UK? No information from the UK.

33. What British procedural rules allow a foreign state to be involved in a domestic investigation? No information from the UK.

34. What evidence has been passed to France for studying and/or for a French investigation? No information from the UK.

35. Were French experts present when biological material was taken from Mr and Ms Skripal? No information from the UK.

36. Have French experts studied biologial material taken from Mr and Ms Skripal, and at which laboratories? No information from the UK.

37. Does the UK possess the results of the French investigation? No information from the UK.

38. Have the results of the French investigation been passed to the OPCW Technical Secretariat? No information from the UK.

39. On the basis of which characteristics (“markers”) has it been ascertained that the substance used in Salisbury “originated from Russia”? No official reply. Porton Down Chief Executive confirmed that the experts did not make that conclusion.

40. Does the UK possess reference samples of the military-grade poisonous substance that British representatives identify as “Novichok”? No information.

41. Has the substance identified by British representatives as “Novichok” or analogous substances been researched, developed or produced in the UK? No information.

Note Verbale of 5 April 2018:

42. Were the animals of Mr Skripal (two cats and two guinea pigs) subject to chemical poisoning? What treatment are they receiving? According to public statements, the animals are dead. No information on chemical poisoning.

Note Verbale of 6April 2018:

43. Were the animals’ remains tested for a toxic substance, which would constitute useful evidence? No information.

44. Why have the animals been disposed of when they could have constituted an important piece of evidence? No information.

45. What immigration rules has Ms Victoria Skripal violated? No information.

46. What options are available to her should she wish to go ahead with her visit? Reply received: Victoria Skripal may submit a new visa application.

Note Verbale of 10April 2018:

47. What symptoms did Mr and Ms Skripal experience on admission to hospital and what treatment they have received? No reply from the FCO. Partially answered by Salisbury District Hospital.

Note Verbale of 16 April 2018:

48. Does the recently created Twitter account @SkripalYulia belong to Ms Yulia Skripal? If it does, is it the Metropolitan police or Ms Skripal herself who manages it? No information.

49. Have UK secret services monitored private correspondence of Ms Yulia Skripal, as suggested in Sir Mark Sedwill’s letter to NATO? No information.

Note Verbale of 20 April 2018:

50. Have Mr Vladimir Uglev, Mr Hamish de Bretton-Gordon or any other private individuals been provided with any data related to the investigation? Reply unsatisfactory: the FCO will not be commenting on media coverage of an ongoing investigation.

Note Verbale of 30 May 2018:

51. What exact treatment did Sergei and Yulia Skripal receive at the hospital? No reply from the FCO. Partially answered by Salisbury District Hospital.

52. What antidotes were administered, if any? No reply from the FCO. Partially answered by Salisbury District Hospital.

53. What “combinations of drugs” were used? No reply from the FCO. Partially answered by Salisbury District Hospital.

54. What assistance was provided by “international experts”, including those from the Porton Down chemical weapons laboratory? No reply.

55. What “new approaches to well-known treatments” were tried? How exactly did they contribute to the speed of the patients’ recovery that the medical staff could not entirely explain? No reply.

56. Why has there not been any clear explanation by the British side as to why decontamination of the hospital did not take place, although the sites visited by Sergei and Yulia Skripal on 4 March are undergoing a thorough chemical clean-up? No reply.

57. Why did the medical staff assume the role of legal representatives of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and insisted that international inspectors obtain a court order before they would be allowed to take blood samples from them, while the British side was well aware that they had relatives in Russia? No reply.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Washington’s War on Syria

By Elias SAMO | Strategic Culture Foundation | 05.03.2019

I was recently asked to participate and give a presentation at a closed, and invitation-only, conference in Washington, DC, on February 6th, 2019. The topic was: “Strategic Implications of Recent US Decisions on Syria”. I attended the conference and gave a presentation. The following is a summary of some of the things I said.

Upon my introduction, I informed the audience that I hold dual nationality, Syrian by birth and American by choice. In over five decades of academic work, I was always plagued by a nightmare of a war between the US and Syria, my two countries; unfortunately, this eventually become a reality. However, I should qualify; the ongoing war in Syria is not between the US and Syria, for there is no conflict between the Syrians and the Americans. It is a war waged by Washington against Syria in the service of Israel and some regional powers; Washington is waging a proxy war on Syria.

I briefly introduced Syria and its historic and religious importance. Syria is the cradle of civilization and home of the three monotheistic religions, where they started or flourished. I also reminded the audience that Syria is an archeological treasure; of the five oldest and continually inhabited cities, three are in Syria: Aleppo, the oldest, Damascus, the third and Latakia, the fifth. Following this introduction, I moved to the subject of the conference, dividing it into two sub topics:

  1. Trump Decisions to serve American interests in Syria; and
  2. Strategic Implications for Syria.

1. Trump’s Decisions

The first important decision taken by Trump was the establishment of the Zionist band in his administration made of five senior officials responsible for the formulation of American foreign policy. At no time in American history has there been such a concentration of Zionist power in the top echelon of a presidential administration. At the top of the Zionist band is Trump, the Commander-in-Chief; followed by Jared Kushner, his son in law and senior advisor; then comes John Bolton, national security advisor, Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel and lastly, the recently departed US Ambassador to the UN, ‘Nikki’ Haley. The formation of this Zionist band has had an adverse effect on Syria with further negative implications for Arabs and Muslims.

As for decisions to serve specific American interests in Syria, the White House, and a variety of American officials, have emphasized four American interests in the ongoing crisis in Syria: fight terrorism, protect the Kurds, roll back and contain Iran and Israel’s security.

Regarding the American ‘War on Terrorism’; people worldwide are skeptical of the American contention of waging a war on terrorism. When the uprising began in Syria in March 2011, America, and its regional allies, activated their many sleeper cells and opened their borders for swarms of tens of thousands of terrorists from all over the world to descend upon Syria. Once in, they were organized, equipped and financed to start their mission of rampage for ‘Regime Change’ and to render Syria a failed state. The plan failed and the terrorists became superfluous and a burden. They had to be eliminated and thus the American War on Terrorism in Syria which will conclude soon, says Trump.

As for the Kurds, they are Syrian citizens, who may have been discriminated against at one time or another. With the Syrian uprising, some of the Kurds were seduced by Washington. Unfortunately for them, and for Syria, they took the American bait. Washington will eventually drop them; it has already started the process with Israeli acquiescence. Israel originally supported the Kurdish plan to establish an autonomous state in the Arab region which would legitimize the existence of a Jewish state in the region. However, in view of the ongoing normalization process between Israel and some Arab states, a Kurdish state has become superfluous. Ultimately, Kurds will return to the Syrian fold where they belong. The modern history of the Kurds is victimization, partly due to their own doing; they are divided, prone to making bad decisions and ‘bit more than they can chew’. I recall a meeting I had with a politically active Kurdish group at the start of the Syrian uprising. After a brief introduction, the leader of the group unfolded a map of Kurdistan and put it on the table. I looked at the map and I was shocked at its contents. The western part of Kurdistan on the map, the Syrian Hasakah province, a northeastern province of Syria, in which the Kurds are a minority, was renamed ‘West Kurdistan’. I remember remarking that West Kurdistan is Syria’s Hasakah province, Syrian territory. The leader’s answer was “it is no more Syrian”. The Kurds, some of whom are relatively newcomers to Syria escaping Turkish mistreatment during the early decades of the last century, are a component of the Syrian society. For the Kurds to have special consideration in a united and unitary Syria may be possible, but secession or autonomy are fantasies.

The last two presumed American interests in Syria, rolling back and containing Iran and securing Israel, are interconnected. As for rolling back and containing Iran, it is to prevent Iran from establishing a land corridor connecting Iran with Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In 2004 King Abdullah of Jordan warned the Arabs of the development of such a corridor and dubbed it a ‘Shiite Crescent’, a rather unfortunate provocative sectarian concept. It should be noted that most of this land corridor is known since ancient times as the Fertile Crescent. An appropriate name for the Shiite Crescent could have been the Levant Crescent or better yet, the Levant Cooperation Council, similar to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a pact of four states, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon facing common domestic, regional and international threats.

While the misnamed Shiite Crescent has been well covered and debated among Western intellectual, political, and military circles, another developing crescent, the Zionist Crescent, has escaped conversation and debate. The essence of the Zionist Crescent is the neutralization of Egypt to the West of Israel, Syria to the North and Iraq to the East, the three major historic Arab centers of power, which form a crescent around Israel and constitute the thrust of security threats to Israel. Egypt, the first segment of the Zionist Crescent, was neutralized in the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Iraq, the second segment, was neutralized during the American invasion in 2003. Israel hoped Syria, the last segment of the Crescent, will be neutralized during the uprising in Syria; it was not to be.

Washington claims that rolling back and containing Iran and Israeli security constitute essential American interests; they are not – they are, essentially, Israeli interests. Washington is merely an instrument to serve Israeli interests and even potentially wage a war against Iran in the service of Israel, a la the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iran is not a threat to America but could conceivably be a threat to Israel. However, Israel and behind it Washington, constitute a clear and present danger to Iran.

2. Strategic Implications for Syria

The original plan Washington and its allies sought was regime change and if successful, Syria a mosaic of religious, sectarian, and ethnic components, would become a failed state divided into Sunni, Alawite, Druse and Kurdish substates fighting continuous wars. Thus, the completion of the third and last segment of the Zionist Crescent. The plan failed, thanks to the persistence of the Syrian leadership, the Syrian people, and the help of genuine allies, Russia and Iran. Syria lives and the third segment of the Zionist Crescent is void, for the time being.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Ansarullah: UK’s Hunt distorting terms of Hudaydah ceasefire deal

Press TV – March 5, 2019

Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has censured recent comments by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the control of Hudaydah, saying the top UK diplomat is distorting the terms of a UN-mediated ceasefire deal reached between the Yemeni warring sides in Sweden over the strategic Red Sea port city.

During a visit to Yemen on Sunday, Hunt — whose country has been a major supporter of the deadly Saudi-led war on Yemen — claimed that Hudaydah “was supposed to be cleared of militia and left under neutral control by the beginning of January.”

Mohammed Abdul-Salam, a spokesman for the Houthi movement, rejected the comments in a statement released on Monday, stressing that the Hudaydah truce had never mentioned handing over the port city to a “neutral” party.

The ceasefire, he added, had stipulated that after the withdrawal of the warring sides, Hudaydah would be patrolled by an unspecified “local force” with UN observers.

“We are prepared to carry out the redeployment in the first step, but the other party refused because they do not want to expose the aggression mercenaries and to lose the pretexts and justifications for continuing the aggression on the West Coast,” Abdul-Salam said.

Representatives from the Houthi movement and the Riyadh-sponsored government of the ex-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, agreed to cease fighting in Hudaydah during peace talks in Sweden last December.

Under the agreement, the rival parties also agreed to the withdrawal of their troops and the deployment of UN monitors to the port city, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

However, the Houthis – who control Hudaydah — have repeatedly complained about ceasefire breaches by the Saudi-backed side.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Houthi spokesman said that the countries, which are involved in the bloody military campaign against Yemen, especially Britain are the ones violating the Hudaydah truce.

He also said the UN special envoy for Yemen – a British national — was relying on the UK in dealing with the Yemen issue.

“Martin Griffith appears not to be an envoy of the United Nations, but an English envoy representing Britain, especially after the British Foreign Office has made its objectives and position clear, which is in line with the obstruction of the agreement,” the Houthi official added.

“Britain has clearly revealed that it manages the process of blocking the agreement through its envoy to Yemen under the cover of the United Nations,” he pointed out.

Hudaydah, the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and vital aid, has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the four-year Saudi war.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched the offensive against Hudaydah in June 2018, but they have faced strong resistance put up by Yemeni armed forces – led by the Houthis — and the city’s residents.

The Saudi-led coalition claims that the Houthis are using the port for weapons delivery, an allegation rejected by the fighters.

The UK has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms exports, including missiles and fighter jets, to Riyadh since the Saudi regime and its allies launched a broader military campaign against Yemen in early 2015.

Britain has also been providing combat intelligence and target data to Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Skripals Obviously Isolated, Held Against Their Will – Russian Embassy in UK

Sputnik – March 5, 2019

Britain insists that the Skripals enjoy freedom of movement and communication, but a detailed report compiled by the Russian Embassy in London appears to prove otherwise.

Precisely a year after Sergei and Yulia Skripals’ poisoning in the British town of Salisbury, the Russian Embassy to Great Britain and Northern Ireland issued a detailed report, summing up a whole range of data on Sergei and Yulia Skripals’ poisoning, but most importantly, raising questions that are still to be answered.

Sergei Out of Touch With Outer World

In the report, “Salisbury: Unanswered Questions”, Russian officials have scrupulously outlined the sequence of events starting from 4 March 2018 up to the present moment, reminding readers of the fact that although the British side claimed earlier this year that Sergei Skripal had successfully recovered from the nerve agent attack, he is hitherto not known to have interacted with the outside world.

The Embassy remarked at this point, that Yulia had had some contacts, but that they are largely limited to only four incidents, which are further discussed at length below.

Yulia’s Interactions: Next to Nothing

The first interaction is Yulia’s phone call to her cousin Viktoria Skripal, a month after the incident, which incidentally “sounded as if Yulia had seized a moment to briefly speak to her cousin when not being watched or listened to”, the report stated at length. Having informed Viktoria about her and her father’s health, she concluded by saying there is no way Viktoria could be given a visa, as “that’s the situation here”, the report cited Yulia as saying.

Two other messages from Yulia arrived through British police mediation, with them confirming in the first statement that she had woken up a week earlier. The statement was notably issued the same day Yulia called her cousin. The second statement, also made by the police on Yulia’s behalf, “curiously” claimed that “no one speaks for me” and asked Viktoria not to visit them in the UK.

The latest statement to date, with Yulia captured on video looking the picture of health, arrived on 23 May, where, as stated in the report,  Skripal’s daughter appeared to “read from a prepared text which had been obviously pre-written in English by a native English speaker” before being translated into Russian.

The documents further have it that first-hand complaints about the lack of contact with both Sergei and Yulia have been repeatedly made not only by Viktoria Skripal, but also Elena Skripal, Sergei’s 90-year-old mother, which effectively busts the UK’s assertions of the freedom of communication that the attacked pair reportedly enjoys.

In late February, days after The Sunday Times reported that Sergei Skripal’s health had deteriorated, with the former intel agent receiving medical support at home amid fears that he might never recover, the colonel’s mother appealed to the police to formally declare her son missing.

OPCW’s Report ‘Formal, Empty’

On March 4, Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench near a shopping mall in Salisbury. The UK authorities have blamed Russia for attempting to assassinate the Skripals with what is believed by London to be the A234 nerve agent. Russia has denied having any role in the poisoning, pointing to the lack of evidence provided by London to substantiate its accusations.

Russia requested a joint investigation, but was rejected, while the OPCW hasn’t shed light on who is behind the attack either, with Russian officials referring to their report as “formal and empty”.

Following the Salisbury incident, Russian-British ties reached a new low, with Russian diplomats being expelled from a number of EU states in the wake of the affair.

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Skripal Might Want to Return to Russia, but Was Likely Prevented by UK – Journo

Sputnik – March 4, 2019

UK newspaper The Guardian today reported that British intelligence services investigated “frantic goings-on” at the Russian Embassy in the days prior to the Salisbury incident. Once again, however, this vague statement provides no clear evidence to directly implicate the Russian state in the poisoning.

Sputnik spoke to British journalist Mary Dejevsky and asked her what she made of this Guardian report, one year on after the case began.

Sputnik: What do you make of this Guardian report, one year on after the case began?

Mary Dejevsky: It was interesting that this report came out today, I think by the Press Association and The Guardian, citing intelligence reports about unusual activity at the Russian Embassy, because like all such reports based on intelligence, they’re hopelessly incomplete, because you would expect reports based on intelligence that somewhere in these reports the information would say “OK, unusual movement, unusual activity, who was actually there, what time, how many people etc.”…

But the way it is passed to the media, it is in these very indefinite terms, sort of tantalizing, tweaking the imagination, without giving chapter and verse. This is so characteristic of intelligence information that is leaked or provided deliberately to the media.

Sputnik: Why has there been so little attempt by the mainstream media to analyse or investigate the UK government’s allegations?

Mary Dejevsky: I have to say that personally, I’ve been very surprised at the lack of critique in the mainstream media. I think there’s been a little on Channel 4, a little on SKY News, but most of the press hasn’t really tackled it. I think that the British government, at least the authorities, have been incredibly successful in the way they have simply refused to answer questions.

Basically, they have handled the information on their own terms. They’ve decided to put out little titbits of information now and again like the CCTV, the camera footage of the supposed Russian agents in Salisbury or going through the airport. This has been done entirely on official terms and if you ask any questions about it, you get stonewalled.

Sputnik: Media said that the official UK version, although, to many, could seem plausible because of its simplicity, was however problematic and perhaps the UK had a different role in the case from the one it is putting across…

Mary Dejevsky: I would suggest that Sergei Skripal wanted to go back to Russia — at its most basic — let’s say he wanted to go back to Russia because he was homesick in the UK, because he lost his wife, because his elderly mother was ill in Russia; you can think of a lot of reasons why he would want to go home.

You then have to ask, why was he simply not allowed to go back to Russia? Maybe Sergei wanted to go back to Russia, but the British didn’t want to let him go back to Russia and wanted to stop him going, at least to stop him going then. Then you have to ask why? Was it because of the information he was privy to in the UK about the working state of UK intelligence or was it some information that he had?

March 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | 1 Comment