The British are well known for their dramatic flair when it comes to stories of Cold War espionage and murder mystery. Think Ian Fleming, John Le Carré and Agatha Christie.
But this week’s episode of a former Russian spy being poisoned on a public park bench in a quaint English town has suspiciously a tad too much drama about it.
It is being speculated that the Russian exile, who had been living in Britain since 2010, may have been poisoned with a deadly nerve agent. He is reportedly in hospital in a critical condition.
Within hours of 66-year-old Sergei Skripal being rushed to hospital in Salisbury, along with his adult daughter, British politicians and media were cranking up the story that the pair had fallen victim to a murder plot implicating the Kremlin.
British Prime Minister Theresa May held a top national security summit in Downing Street, and her Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was telling the parliament on Tuesday that further sanctions would be imposed on Russia “if” Moscow was found to be involved in the apparent poisoning incident.
Johnson’s use of the word “if” seemed to be irrelevant because he had already laid on the innuendo thick and fast to impugn Russia. “We don’t know exactly what has taken place in Salisbury, but if it’s as bad as it looks, it is another crime in the litany of crimes that we can lay at Russia’s door,” intoned Johnson with affected gravity and notable haste to implicate Moscow.
Moscow has dismissed the rampant speculation as “wild” allegations aimed at whipping up “anti-Russian sentiment” among the British public.
British media outlets then quickly moved on to report security sources as saying that Britain’s counter-terrorism forces “are hunting a network of highly-trained assassins suspected of launching a nerve agent attack”. The would-be assassins were also described as “state sponsored” and conjectured to have access to a “specialist laboratory”.
It is being speculated that Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were exposed to the deadly nerve toxin known as VX during an afternoon stroll through their adopted hometown of Salisbury on Sunday.
Skripal had been living in Britain for the past eight years where he had been exiled as part of a spy swap. The former GRU military intelligence colonel was found guilty of treason by Russia in 2006 after being exposed as a double agent for Britain’s foreign intelligence service MI6. After serving four years in prison in Russia, the disgraced spy was handed over to Britain in a Cold War-style exchange.
What is being recklessly speculated in the British media is that the Kremlin ordered Skripal’s assassination out of revenge for his past betrayal.
To drive home the innuendo, comparisons are being made to the death of another Russian secret service agent Alexander Litvinenko. He died in a London hospital in 2006 from suspected poisoning with radioactive polonium. Again, the British media and politicians engaged in tenuous allegations of Kremlin involvement in Litvinenko’s death.
As with this week’s Skripal case, Moscow said it had nothing to do with Litvinenko’s demise. A dubious semi-official British inquiry concluded in January 2016 that there was “strong circumstantial evidence of Russian state responsibility” over Litvinenko’s death. The British inquiry presented no evidence.
However, alternatively, there is plausible evidence that Litvinenko may have been poisoned accidentally as a result of his own shady dealings with organized crime and international smuggling of polonium.
In any case, the real similarity between the case of Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko is the cynical way that the British authorities are exploiting it for anti-Russian propaganda.
It seems highly significant that Russia’s presidential elections are due to take place later this month. What better way to smear the expected electoral victory of incumbent president Vladimir Putin than to accuse the Kremlin of carrying out an assassination plot on British soil against a former Russian spy?
Think about it. The timing of such an alleged plot would be ludicrous from a Russian point of view. Why would a has-been Russian agent who has been living quietly and undisturbed for nearly a decade in England be targeted on the eve of Russia’s presidential elections by Kremlin avengers? That doesn’t make any sense.
The trusted detective question of “who gains?” points far more plausibly to sinister British state involvement. The rapid concerted political and media reaction to the incident of Skripal’s apparent poisoning is strongly suggestive of orchestration for propaganda value.
For several weeks now, the British authorities and their lock-step media have been fulminating about Russian cyber attacks and other means of sabotage endangering British civilians. British Defense Minister Gavin Williamson has made unhinged claims that “thousands and thousands” of Britons could die from Russian agents who are allegedly planning to attack British infrastructure, such as energy and communication facilities.
This is extreme irresponsibility by British officials and media which has been elevated to hysterical fever pitch.
But the relentless Russophobia serves to condition the British public to be receptive towards more anti-Russian hostility. As we can see this week with the reckless innuendo against Moscow regarding the apparent poisoning of Sergei Skripal.
Given their inveterate anti-Russian agenda, the British authorities have much more vested interest in seeing Skripal poisoned than the Kremlin ever would.
And while we are in “who done it?” mode, another important possible lead is this: if Venomous Agent X (VX) was used to harm the former Russian spy, the perpetrators would have had a convenient source by which to carry out their deed.
Britain’s top secret chemical weapons laboratory at Porton Down is only six miles away from the location in Salisbury where Skripal and his daughter were apparently attacked last Sunday afternoon. Porton Down is the laboratory where VX was originally synthesized in the 1950s. It remains one of the most deadly chemical weapons ever made. And it is as British as afternoon tea.
That’s motive and means. But, hey, who needs logic when Russophobia is the name of the game?