In the immortal words of USN Rear Admiral Joshua Painter: “Russians don’t take a dump, son, without making a plan”
One intent of this review is to demonstrate a lack of the degree of planning expected to occur if the Skripal incident were in fact a state sponsored assassination attempt.
Part 2 seeks to address some comments made in response to Part 1 (Thanks to the Saker’s readers for all the comments. They have assisted in honing the analysis).
Second, Part 2 describes the likely mode of application of the toxic material.
Third, Part 2 provides evidence to suggest the toxic material likely used.
Mode of Toxin Application Scenario #2 Review
This scenario involved toxic agent in powder from being placed in Yulia Skripal’s luggage while she was still in Russia. Yulia then unwittingly introduced the toxin into her father’s residence.
Readers Sidehill Dodger, Macon Richardson, Cassandra, and Anonymous all raised issues with Yulia’s luggage as the mode of toxic material delivery. I believe both the luggage scenario and the poisoned residence scenario are unlikely for the following reasons.
The first question is where do you place the toxic agent? If you place it in Yulia’s intimate undergarments, or her nightgown, then it is likely she may change into fresh garments after her arrival, go to sleep on March 3rd and wake up dead on March 4th. Sergei, the presumed target, is unaffected.
If the toxin is concealed in Yulia’s supply of cosmetics the same outcome obtains unless it is known that Skripal borrows his daughter’s face powders.
Any customs inspection of tainted clothing runs the risk of exposing the customs agent to the toxic material. The customs agent becomes ill before Yulia arrives in Salisbury and the entire assassination plot collapses.
One might conceal the toxic agent is a metallic drinks bottle equipped with a diabolical electronic timer such that it goes pfffft in the Skripal residence at 0315 in the early morning hours of March 4th. But, as Cassandra notes, you then have the problem of getting the device through an airport X-Ray examination. How do you respond when the customs agent asks “Is that a bomb in your luggage or are you just glad to see me?”
Mode of Toxin Application Scenario #3
An unknown person enters the Skripal residence while they absent and places a toxic chemical powder with the intent to poison Skripal.
I think the residence is a poor point of attack for the following reasons:
– There are neighbours to contend with
– Need to break into residence with no evidence of forced entry
– Release of toxin into residence atmosphere requires protective equipment
– Significant interior volume requires increased amount of agent
– Skripal may return at any moment
The last concern can be addressed by posting an external watcher to provide warning if the Skripals return. The Skripal residence is located at the end of a dead end street and the only access route is observable from at least six adjoining houses. An external watcher armed with a black hat, dark beard, sunglasses, binoculars, and a radio transceiver, will likely stand out like a sore pimple in suburban Salisbury.
You can avoid this problem by using a team of watchers and rotating them through the area. One will be a will be a package delivery person, another a strolling couple, followed by an ice cream vendor with a pushcart, then a dog walker, after that a pair of ornithologists.
I expect a neighbour of Skripal to look out his window and remark “Mavis! Come look at this parade of odd jobs they are using to monitor Skripal’s house!”
Providing a degree of perimeter security requires the use of a team. The need for a team increases the size and complexity of the operation. Team coordination requires communications. All of these things incur costs and all of them increase the likelihood of being observed by counter intelligence, or leaving trace evidence that may later be provided to the authorities: “Officer, I knew the Russkies were up to no good when the same ice cream vendor came by three times on the same day.”
Here is an interesting exercise. 1) You want to poison yourself by placing toxic powder in your residence in a location where you are assured to make contact with it; 2) You want to avoid any obvious visible evidence of intent i.e. just dumping a mound of powder in the centre of the living room doesn’t count; 3) Ask yourself if an outsider unfamiliar with your habits would have selected this same location.
I may lack imagination but, other than mixing the toxic powder in with the Hungarian paprika and hoping Skripal decides on last supper of goulash, I find it difficult to see the residence as a viable mode of toxic agent delivery.
Mode of Toxin Application Scenario #4
An unknown person approaches Skripal’s car in the London Road Cemetery parking area and inserts the toxic agent into the car.
SCENARIO #4 Conjecture 1
The toxic material is in powder form and lacks odour or colour. If you sit in your house on a sunny day you will likely observe dust motes floating in the air. You breathe these dust motes but you do not perceive them. It is suspected that the toxic material is in similar form. When the Skripals return to the dusty parking lot they find some dust has entered their car.
SCENARIO #4 Conjecture 2
The cemetery is an excellent point of attack.
– It is remote
– Few members of the public present
– CCTV coverage unlikely
– No suspicion attached to being in visitor car park area
– Can park alongside Skripals car or very close to it
– Relatively quick and easy access to Skripal’s car
– Small car air volume so less toxic agent required
– Person placing the toxic agent is exterior to the poisoned air volume
No protective equip required
– Placement on seat cushion will displace toxic agent into air volume
– Movement will disperse toxic agent in air volume
– Car has mechanical means to recirculate air volume
– Clothes will also be impregnated with toxic agent
In short, all of the problems which attach to using the residence as the mode of toxic agent delivery are obviated by making the attack in the area of the cemetery parking lot. Security is provided by the remote setting and no large team of watchers is required. But how to get the material into the car?
SCENARIO #4 Conjecture 3
Access to the Skripal car may be obtained via a number of means:
– Skripals leave a car door unlocked
– Car door opened using thin blade inserted between window glass and door bodywork
– Car window left cracked open permitting insertion of small diameter nozzle
– Car door opened using master key
– Jimmy the door in the frame to twist it open enough to insert small diameter nozzle
– Bypass the rubber window seal and insert nozzle
– Drill hole in unobtrusive location and insert nozzle
If you have the intent to murder someone I doubt you will see the need to avoid some property damage to the target’s car. The tool of choice for bicycle thieves is a battery powered drill equipped with an abrasive disk which saws through most bike locks in under a minute. The same drill equipped with a carbide drill bit would create a small diameter access hole in under 15 seconds.
The toxic agent may then be blown into the car interior. Most garden stores carry a variety of pressure sprayers. You insert the material, pump the device by hand, and then spray. Bike stores sell CO2 cylinders designed to inflate a bike tire to 120 PSI. It would not be difficult to adapt this to pressurize a container full of toxic agent and then blow the agent into the car interior. The toxic effect comes from the fact the target is breathing the poisoned atmosphere for an extended period of minutes. In the case of the Skripals movements on March 4th they spent a total of 25 minutes in the car after leaving the cemetery (15 minutes cemetery to home, 10 minutes home to the Maltings area in Salisbury).
What was the Toxin?
Up to this point the primary concern is with the mode of application and finding an answer to the question “How do you apply a toxic agent to your target without arousing undue suspicion?”
It is assumed that Skripal, as a former GRU agent, has some knowledge of trade-craft. I suspect that a stranger approaching him on the street and spraying him with a foreign substance of any kind would cause him to yell out and seek shelter in the nearest store and summon both the police and an ambulance. There is no evidence of Skripal having taken such action. This suggests the toxic agent was applied in a surreptitious manner and the first indication of a problem came after leaving the Zizzi restaurant. My hunch, as there is no evidence of this, is that the Skripals felt the onset of fatigue and “tummy troubles” and went to sit on the park bench to rest. They never had a chance to get up as they were incapacitated by the agent.
The next question to be asked is “What was the toxic agent?”
Toxic Agent – The First Item of Evidence
The answer is found in two items of evidence located in Scott Humor’s article on the Saker web site: https://thesaker.is/the-british-spy-skripal-hoax/
The first item of evidence is the letter from a physician at Salisbury Hospital. The letter states:
“No patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning”
The physician denies the existence of any patients with “nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury . . .”
The physician also states there have “only ever been three patients with significant poisoning.” I believe these three to be the two Skripals and Detective Bailey.
What the doctor is saying is that no patients have been admitted with signs of poisoning by a military grade nerve agent but the hospital has admitted three patients with a significant degree of poisoning. Just as there is a difference between being hit by a caterpillar, and being hit by a Caterpillar D9, there are differences between being poisoned by a military grade agent and being poisoned by something else. The doctor is intimating that in regard to the Skripals, they were poisoned by something other than a military grade nerve agent.
Toxic Agent – The Second Item of Evidence
The second item of evidence (and I thank Scott for going to the trouble of saving me some work 🙂 is found in Scott’s excellent set of reference links. I refer to the article by natsouth at the following URL: https://natsouth.livejournal.com/4629.html?utm_source=twsharing&utm_medium=social
This article contains the following image:
When the image is increased in size the following detail is clearly shown:
The same image is too large to be viewed in a single image. The second portion of the enlarged image is presented here:
The final portion of the enlarged image is presented here:
Why is this important?
The key information is found in the left column. All prior military grade nerve agents were unitary agents. That is to say they were created in a production facility and then transferred to a second facility where they were loaded into artillery shells, or into military rockets.
The problem with unitary nerve agents is that the nerve agent degrades over time. The second major problem comes when it becomes necessary to move the loaded projectiles to the front lines for use.
The Novichok program attempted to create a binary chemical weapon. This had two clear advantages. First, the toxic agent was in two parts which were mixed within the projectile at time of use. This resulted in greatly increased safety as the unmixed binary components were either non-lethal, or much less hazardous than the final mixed form. Second, because the binary agents were mixed immediately prior to use the chemicals did not have a chance to degrade and therefore exhibited an increased level of toxicity and lethality.
But this is the important part. The Russian research was not concerned with creating new nerve agents. The Russian research concentrated on taking existing known nerve agents and remaking these agents in a binary two part form.
I believe this fact is known to the scientists at Porton Down and this is the reason they are being very careful in exactly how they describe the toxic agent employed in the Skripal incident. The British government, Teresa May and Boris Johnson, are deliberately misleading the people of the UK and the greater global public. They are also acting to mislead parliament and, in most Westminster jurisdictions, if you do that you are compelled to resign.
Toxic Agent – The Third Item of Evidence
Finally I wish to present a web site of interest. When you open this page read carefully the list of agents found in the first paragraph. All of the agents.
What you are reading is a list of organophosphate toxins. I believe the Skripals were poisoned with an item found in this list. But I doubt very much that it was one of the listed nerve gasses: Soman, sarin, tabun, or VX. The Skripals were likely poisoned with one of the other organophosphates found in this list.
The nerve gasses Soman, sarin, tabun, and VX are military grade toxins. What the Salisbury doctor is saying is that the Skripals, and detective Bailey were poisoned, but they were not poisoned with a military grade agent as Theresa May and Boris Johnson would wish you to believe.
If Craig Murray is accurate in his reporting, what Porton Down is saying under pressure is that the agent was “of a type developed by Russia.” Porton Down does not make the claim that the Skripals were poisoned by a military grade nerve agent. Porton Down is making the claim that they were poisoned by a type of organophosphate of the type the Russian’s were attempting to recreate as a binary nerve agent. There is a significant difference.
Porton Down is known to contain a sophisticated treatment center capable of treating persons poisoned by a military grade nerve agent. If in fact the Skripals and Detective Bailey had been poisoned by a military grade nerve agent they would have been relocated to Porton Down for treatment. That they remain under treatment in Salisbury Hospital is evidence that they were not poisoned by a military grade nerve agent as alleged by Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
I have been through military NBC training as has Cassandra who wrote in the Part I comments that with a military grade nerve agent “a drop on your skin is enough to rapidly disable you and, if an antidote isn’t rapidly administered, kill you in very short order.”
I agree with his statement. Note that what is being referenced are military grade nerve agents of western origin such as VX. Russian research sought to increase the lethality of the same agents 2 to 7 times by recreating them in binary form. The fact the Skripals are still alive and under treatment is prima facie evidence that they were not attacked by a military grade nerve agent of the Novichok type originally researched by Russia.
Both May and Johnson should resign for misleading parliament.
In memory of David Christopher Kelly, CMG (14 May 1944 – 17 July 2003)