What happened on March 4 has been at the center of a global press scrum, as literally everyone – including the Kremlin – tries to find out what happened.
But, the mystery just keeps getting more mysterious. The list of unanswered questions is growing longer by the day.
Let’s start, perhaps, with how three people survived contamination by a “military-grade” nerve agent considered to be among the deadliest in the world? Here are some of the biggest mysteries.
Initially we were all convinced the Skripals were going to die. After all, they were exposed to a “military-grade” nerve agent. Every paper in Britain said so. And Theresa May announced the substance’s name within days.
Images of Alexander Litvinenko were rolled out across mainstream media and headlines literally screamed POISON and DEADLY.
Others went to the lengths of actually killing the Skripals, like the Times, which carried the headline: “May set to hit back at Russia over spy death.”
It was changed of course, when it emerged the pair were still alive. It only makes sense though – if Novichok was used, they’d be dead, right?
We were all frantically googling Novichok, talking to experts who said exposure to a 1mm drop is deadly.
“Nerve agents kill people with gruesome efficiency,” the Business Insider said, while the FT reported: “Novichok is among the world’s deadliest chemical weapons.”
The thing is, the Skripals said in a statement they’re “fine” and a police officer was out of hospital within weeks.
So was it really the deadly nerve agent we’re all now fearing? Or was such a small amount used that it wasn’t effective? Considering the press says it was all over the door, the pub and a car – that seems unlikely. What a Novi-cock-up.
The paper wasn’t the only one to make the error, with the Frontline Club also tweeting about its upcoming event: “Who killed Sergei Skripal?” to its 32,000 followers.
The tweet has since been deleted and the name amended to “Who attacked Sergei Skripal?”
A pint, a pizza & two guinea pigs
The Skripal story has changed so rapidly it’s hard to keep up. The only constant being “Russia did it.”
First, the poison was rumored to have been administered in the Zizzi restaurant – or was it the pub? Then the press claimed it was smeared on a door handle, at Sergei’s wife’s graveside, in a restaurant, and in a car (as well as on a copper) – we’re all a bit baffled.
So the world has plunged into a new cold war over the murder of a cat and two guinea pigs. https://t.co/NaZFqx13Bz
— Jamie Ross (@JamieRoss7) April 6, 2018
One of the deadliest nerve agents known to man was smothered all around Salisbury – and nobody died.
Not only did nobody die, the Skripals managed to get from home to town, out for food, a quick drink and a stroll in the park before they were found comatose.
A nerve agent considered to be one of the “most deadly” apparently took hours and hours to work. Not only that, the Skripals pet guinea pigs did die – along with their cat. From dehydration.
The cat was “distressed” and put down, the rodents – well the coppers forgot to give them water. A nerve agent which can be inhaled was smothered on their house and they died from lack of water.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson didn’t hesitate to tell the media it was Russia. Porton Down – the top secret lab where the chemical was tested – told him there was “no doubt” Moscow did it, he said.
But then the chief executive of the lab said the chemical can’t be sourced back to Russia. The Foreign Office deleted tweets, the government went a bit quiet and the finger-jabbing was all but paused.
Until the following day. Overnight the mainstream media had managed to speak with numerous unnamed “sources” who just knew it was Russia.
The Daily Mail spoke to one “source” who could reveal Russia had been practicing smearing Novichok on door handles. They couldn’t say how they knew, or when it happened or provide any evidence – but the story went ahead.
The Times’ source knew the exact lab where the Novichok was made – as does the government they said – but of course, they couldn’t reveal the source.
Funny how when the government can’t defend itself Whitehall springs a leak. Or 10.
Skripal relative denied visa to visit UK and return poisoned relatives to Russia
Viktoria Skripal had planned to travel to Britain after her uncle Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to a chemical agent in Salisbury on March 4.
The UK Home Office said on Friday that Viktoria is not being granted a visa to come to the UK. “We have refused a visitor visa application from Viktoria Skripal on the grounds that her application did not comply with the Immigration Rules,” a Home Office spokesman said.
Viktoria was behind the first public statements from either of the Skripals and the world’s media this week when she released a recording of a phone call with her cousin Yulia.
In the clip, the two discussed Viktoria getting a visa. Yulia flatly told her she would not be granted one.
“Vika, nobody will give you a visa,” Yulia said.
She said she and her father were fine and there were no life changing injuries. She gave little detail other than to say they would address one issue at a time.
Russian Ambassador Alexander Yakavenko said the embassy is currently getting its information from the mainstream media, after being locked out of Britain’s investigation. He says requests for access to the Skripals have been repeatedly denied.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has demanded that London officially explain the grounds on which the visa was denied to Viktoria Skripal. “This is a complete and utter disgrace when a country, which is vocal about every aspect of Russian domestic politics, [and] our lives, [the UK] for some reason refuses to comment on the British visa issue in such extraordinary circumstances,” Zakharova told Rossiya 24 channel.
The spokeswoman also rejected speculation in the media that the cousin was somehow influenced by the Russian authorities. “This is complete absurdity, but we’ve already heard hundreds of such absurd statements coming from Britain,” she said.
‘Skripal case plays amazingly into Britain’s campaign to isolate Russia’
At an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, Russia said that Britain was playing with fire by accusing Moscow of poisoning of former double agent Sergey Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The UK reiterated its allegation that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible.
RT spoke to political analyst Dan Glazebrook, who believes that the UK’s evidence is crumbling.
RT: The Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzia described the UK allegations as a “theater of the absurd.” Is that an accurate description?
Dan Glazebrook: Absolutely. There have been three pillars of the UK case and they are crumbling away one by one. The basic three pillars are: first, this pseudo-scientific argument that this is Novichok, this chemical that no one ever heard of until three weeks ago, this nerve agent, and it is only Russia that is capable of producing it and using it. And the second [has] to do with this idea that Russia has form and the motive. But the first case is really crumbling away now that the head of Porton Down has come out and admitted, “We can’t verify that this is Russian-manufactured.” Two very important facts are totally obscured and neglected in the mainstream media. One is that in September 2017, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) actually verified the destruction of Russia’s entire chemical weapons program. The US and the UK have never put forward any reasons as to why they doubt the OPCW’s verification here or any evidence that Russia still is producing Novichok. But that is a very important piece of information that is never picked up on. And secondly, the Russian chemist who revealed the existence of Novichok published a book with his formula in 2008, saying that it could actually be made with fairly simple bits and pieces you get in pesticides and fertilizers. Far from the idea that Russia is the only power capable of producing this stuff, it turns out that actually anyone with access to a decent lab and Amazon.com could produce this stuff. So, that holds that pseudo-scientific argument that it could be only Russia completely crumbled away.
First of all, we have to start with the premise that in recent months, Russia has been blamed for everything from the kneeling scandal in the NFL to the Charlottesville protests. Russia seems to be the first country that is blamed for anything. That makes me very skeptical when people rush to judgment against Russia, especially the US, which Russia seems to be the punching bag for… right now, but frankly, for many decades. There is no evidence Russia was behind this and frankly, the motive doesn’t appear to be there. Why would Russia wait for 8 years to go after this spy and his daughter? […] This smells like a set-up of Russia, and people have to be skeptical of what is happening. – Dan Kovalik, human and labor rights lawyer, author of The Plot to Scapegoat Russia: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Putin
RT: Vasily Nebenzia also said on a practical level it would make no sense to carry out such an attack before the Russian election and the World Cup. Is it fair to say the UK has failed to come up with a convincing motive?
DG: Exactly. With the crumbling away of this pseudo-scientific part of the argument, Boris Johnson [and others] are left really revealed that actually they don’t have evidence as such but Russia has the form and has the motive. This is now basically the case that the UK is making. If we look at form, Boris Johnson really needs to learn a bit of his own history before he starts accusing Russia of form in this regard. Not only has Britain invaded 90 percent of the world’s countries, not only has Britain committed active genocide on most of the world’s continents, but actually we know from a report by the Independent newspaper two years ago the extent of the British state’s testing of chemical and biological warfare on its own population is much bigger than anyone ever realized. Over 750 experiments carried out on unsuspecting, non-volunteers, members of the population in coastal towns in Britain, on the Tube, or London Underground, having chemical or biological agents released on them during the Cold War from the ‘40s to the ‘50s. And including testing sarin nerve gas on British soldiers right up until the 1980s. So, if we are going to talk about form, Mr. Johnson, Britain has form on using nerve agents against British citizens on British soil. So, then it is reduced down to ‘motive’… I get the idea that you want to send a message to the so-called traitors, that Putin wants a spat with the West in advance of the election. I understand that. But what about what Britain has gained of all of this? Britain has got 28 countries to expel Russian diplomats. Hasn’t Britain been trying to wage this campaign of isolation against Russia for years now? Hasn’t this amazingly played into this campaign? If we are going to reduce everything to “which country’s got the form and the motive,” then Britain is on a very shaky grounds accusing Russia. And that is why it is so important to have evidence rather than just talking about motives.
Knobs and Knockers
What is left of the government’s definitive identification of Russia as the culprit in the Salisbury attack? It is a simple truth that Russia is not the only state that could have made the nerve agent: dozens of them could. It could also have been made by many non-state actors.
Motorola sales agent Gary Aitkenhead – inexplicably since January, Chief Executive of Porton Down chemical weapons establishment – said in his Sky interview that “probably” only a state actor could create the nerve agent. That is to admit the possibility that a non state actor could. David Collum, Professor of Organo-Chemistry at Cornell University, infinitely more qualified than a Motorola salesman, has stated that his senior students could do it. Professor Collum tweeted me this morning.
The key point in his tweet is, of course “if asked”. The state and corporate media has not asked Prof. Collum nor any of the Professors of Organic Chemistry in the UK. There simply is no basic investigative journalism happening around this case.