On Sunday a former British-Russian double agent and his daughter were seriously injured in a mysterious incident in Salisbury, England. The British government says that both were hurt due to "exposure to a nerve agent". Speculative media reports talk of Sarin and VX, two deadly nerve-agents used in military chemical weapons. Anonymous officials strongly hint that 'Russia did it'.
New reports though point to a deep connection between the case and the anti-Trump/anti-Russia propaganda drive run by the Obama administration and the Hillary Clinton election campaign.
Sergei Skripal once was a colonel in a Russian military intelligence service. In the early 1990s he was recruited by the MI6 agent Pablo Miller. He continued to spy for the Brits after his 1999 retirement. The Russian FSB claims that the British MI6 paid him $100,000 for his service. At that time a Russian officer would only make a few hundred bucks per month. Skripal was finally uncovered in 2004 and two years later convicted for spying for Britain. He was sentenced to 18 years and in 2010 he and other agents ware exchanged in a large spy swap between the United States and Russia. Skripal was granted refuge in Britain and has since lived openly under his own name in Salisbury. His wife and his son died over the last years of natural causes. The only near relative he has left is his daughter who continued to live in Russia.
Last week his daughter flew to Britain and met him in Salisbury. On Sunday they went to a pub and a restaurant. At some point they were poisoned or poisoned themselves. They collapsed on a public bench. They are now in intensive care. A policeman one the scene was also seriously effected.
Authorities have declined to name the substance to which the pair is suspected to have been exposed, but:
Local media had on Monday reported the substance found at the scene to be similar to fentanyl: a lethally strong opioid available even on Salisbury's soporific streets.
The British government is hinting at Russian involvement:
The attempted murder of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, using a nerve agent was a "brazen and reckless" act, [home secretary] Amber Rudd has said.
Mr Skripal and his daughter are still critically ill after being found collapsed on a bench in Salisbury city centre on Sunday.
Ms Rudd told MPs it was an "outrageous crime", adding that the government would "act without hesitation as the facts become clearer".
She refused to speculate on whether the Russian state might have been involved in the attack, saying the police investigation should be based on "facts, not rumour".
While the British government is preparing the facts as it needs them, let us ask the ever important question of motive.
It was not Russian vengeance for Skripal's earlier spying. He had been in Russian jails for four years and lived openly in Salisbury for eight. There was plenty of time to off him. Russia certainly does not need any more anti-Russian propaganda in "western" media. If a Russian service would want to kill someone it would do so without making such noise.
The former British ambassador Craig Murray suspects a different motive and culprit:
Craig Murray @CraigMurrayOrg - 10:21 AM - 8 Mar 2018
Russophobia is extremely profitable to the armaments, security and spying industries and Russophobia reinforces intellectually challenged voters in their Tory loyalty. Ramping Russophobia is the most convincing motive for the Skripal attack.
Ambassador Murray also points out that Salisbury, where the incident took place, is just 8 miles away from Porton Down, a chemical weapon test site run by the British government. As the BBC noted in a report about the place:
... chemical agents such as VX and mustard gas are still manufactured on site ...
I believe that Craig Murray is wrong. Russophobia can be stoked without attempting to publicly kill a retired spy and his daughter.
More likely motives can be found in the tight connection to another important affair. The British Telegraph reports today:
A security consultant who has worked for the company that compiled the controversial dossier on Donald Trump was close to the Russian double agent poisoned last weekend, it has been claimed.
The consultant, who The Telegraph is declining to identify, lived close to Col Skripal and is understood to have known him for some time.
The Telegraph understands that Col Skripal moved to Salisbury in 2010 in a spy swap and became close to a security consultant employed by Christopher Steele, who compiled the Trump dossier.
The British security consultant, according to a LinkedIn social network account that was removed from the internet in the past few days, is also based in Salisbury.
On the same LinkedIn account, the man listed consultancy work with Orbis Business Intelligence, according to reports.
Meduza named the man the Telegraph declines to name as:
Pablo Miller, who at the time was posing as Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo and working in Britain's embassy in Tallinn. Russia's Federal Security Service says Miller was actually an undercover MI6 agent tasked with recruiting Russians.
Orbis is Christopher Steele's company and Sergei Skripal was an agent Steele himself was likely involved with:
Steele had spent more than twenty years in M.I.6, most of it focussing on Russia. For three years,in the nineties, he spied in Moscow under diplomatic cover. Between 2006 and 2009, he ran the service's Russia desk, at its headquarters, in London. He was fluent in Russian, and widely considered to be an expert on the country.
Steele was an MI6 undercover agent in Moscow around the time when Skripal was recruited and handed over Russian secrets to the MI6. He also ran the Russia desk so anything about Skripal will have passed through him. It is very likely that they personally knew each other. Pablo Miller, who worked for Steele's private company, lived in the same town as Skripal and they seems to have been friends since Miller had recruited him. Miller or someone else attempted to cover up the connection to Steele by editing his LinkedIn entry.
Here are some question:
- Did Skripal help Steele to make up the "dossier" about Trump?
- Were Skripal's old connections used to contact other people in Russia to ask about Trump dirt?
- Did Skripal threaten to talk about this?
If there is a connection between the dossier and Skripal, which seems very likely to me, then there are a number of people and organizations with potential motives to kill him. Lots of shady folks and officials on both sides of the Atlantic were involved in creating and running the anti-Trump/anti-Russia campaign. There are several investigation and some very dirty laundry might one day come to light. Removing Skripal while putting the blame on Russia looks like a convenient way to get rid of a potential witness.
The most curious point in the affair though is the visit of the daughter. She had just come from Moscow to visit her lonely father when both were poisoned in a rather sensational way. There must be some reason why she was involved in this.
- Did she have a bad message for him?
- Did they both decide that suicide was the only way out?
- Was locally bought Fentanyl involved as the local press had reported?
- Was the lonely old man Sergej Skripal preparing to go back to his homeland Russia?
- Did he offer a some kind of "gift" as apology to the Russian government that his trusted daughter would take to Moscow?
- Did someone find out and stopped the transfer?
The above questions are all highly speculative. But the connection between Steele and Skripal is way too deep to be irrelevant here. It certainly deserves more digging.
Unfortunately it is likely that the British government, and its U.S. cousin, will come up with some "blame Russia" story for the gullible people and leave it at that. That story will involve some "brazen and reckless" Russian plot and an "outrageous" attempt by Putin himself to publicly kill a friend of Britain with some with highly dangerous weapon of mass destruction. This will then be used to throw up new tensions, to put more sanctions on Russia and to sell more weapons.
That official story though is unlikely to be the true one.
h/t to commenter yoffa for providing the Meduza link.
Posted by b on March 8, 2018