Have I got a scoop for you! It has come to my attention that a British minister asked the prime minister “Why don’t you expel 70 Russian diplomats? That has been our practice in the past when we want to ensure the press loses interest in something.
“It would be a great headline for you ‘Government cracks down on red spy ring. Very patriotic,” suggests his colleague. “It must be a story that no one can disprove and which will be believed even if it is denied.”
I’m certain you were not duped even though I used literary licence to change ‘Soviet’ to ‘Russian.’ The above exchange comes from that great British comedy “Yes, Prime Minister” aired on December 10, 1987, which does provide an insight into a certain political mindset.
Sadly, the British version of events surrounding the poisoning of a Russian double agent and his daughter appears more like fiction as each day passes.
Are we to seriously believe that a deadly, fast-acting military-grade nerve agent, allegedly ten times more potent than VX gas used to murder the brother of the North Korean leader, that was smeared on a door knob permitted its victims to drive into town before stopping off in a pub and subsequently enjoying a meal in a restaurant before conveniently passing out on a park bench? Not while crossing a busy road, mind you, or while driving.
Is it credible that while a policeman who rushed to the scene was contaminated and hospitalised although a doctor who tended to the comatose pair was not? Interestingly, too, policemen who guarded that door for days sans protective clothing before it was cited as the culprit were apparently unaffected.
The fate of Sergei Skripal’s pet Persian cat and guinea pigs, initially raised by Yulia Skripal’s cousin Victoria, also raise more questions than answers. The house was searched and sealed but for some strange reason those animals were not checked for contamination for weeks. The guinea pigs died from lack of food and water. The poor cat was in such a “distressed state” it had to be euthanised.
In the early aftermath of the incident, Russian scientist Vladimir Uglev, who once worked to produce nerve agents of a similar type to the one allegedly used as a tool of assassination, said there was no antidote in existence and if the Skripal’s were taken off life support they would die. Other experts have maintained that any survivors would be permanently disabled.
Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former head of the UK’s Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear Regiment, told the Express that the Novichok class of nerve agents would be absorbed into a person’s blood as soon as they were touched.
However, the scientists’ appraisals came prior to the multiple miracles. Hallelujah! All three victims have not only survived but are said to be thriving. The stricken policeman has returned to his job. Yulia expects to be discharged from hospital soon and her father is well on the way to a full recovery.
Sky News put this miracle down to the fact that the toxin only penetrated their skin. The British government’s military research facility Porton Down knocked that theory on the head by confirming that the poison did penetrate their bloodstreams.
Likewise, the facility’s chief, Gary Aitkenhead, contradicted a televised claim made by Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that he’d been told by a Porton Down scientist that the nerve agent in question was produced in Russia. Quick off the mark, the BBC censored the offending video while Foreign Office personnel deleted tweets claiming the poison was made in Russia.
The UK’s behaviour has also been oddly secretive from the start. Russia was accused of the crime within hours and was given a 24-hour deadline to respond. Since, Moscow has been kept entirely out of the loop.
Russia’s ambassador to Britain says almost all his country’s questions have been met with silence. Requests for samples of the agent were denied. Russian diplomats have been barred from offering consular assistance to their own citizens. Victoria Skripal’s application for a UK visit visa was turned down, just as Yulia predicted it would be during a surprise phone call to her cousin in Moscow. I am left to wonder whether the Skripals are being held hostage.
It’s crystal clear who the winners and losers are in this dubious set-up.
Russia has been branded rogue not only by Britain but also many of its allies in the EU and NATO, which banded together on flimsy supposition without bothering to wait for the kind of evidence that would stand up in a court of law. For instance, French President Emmanuel Macron initially told the UK that his country doesn’t do fantasy politics yet didn’t hesitate to expel four Russian diplomats days later.
Israel along with India, Brazil, China and most of the international community was more circumspect, declining to punish Moscow.
Like everyone else I have no idea who is behind this controversy but like rotting poisson [fish] Britain’s version begins to stink.
Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.