Also in Russia a Russian hand is seen behind the nerve-gas attack in Salisbury

The UK's interior minister says a "very rare" nerve agent was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Photo: screenshot from Aljazeera video 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Article by: Willem Alsderhoff

For the British government and any normally-thinking person, it is clear that in one way or the other Russia is behind the horrible attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English town of Salisbury.

Read more: The bold assassination attempt on ex-Russian spy Sergey Skripal in Salisbury, England

The indications are simply too strong: a Russian spy who defected to “the enemy,” for years a hysterical hate campaign against “enemies and traitors” of Russia, threats by the authorities against defectors that they knew how to find them, Russian involvement in earlier attacks on opponents of the regime abroad and a highly sophisticated, extremely dangerous and difficult to handle nerve-gas that was developed in specialised Russian laboratories.

But of course, following pure logic, it is always possible for the Russian authorities to maintain: “Sorry, we have nothing to do with that. Please provide us proof.

Just like they did when the International Doping Agency WADA on the basis of an avalanche of verifiable data concluded in 2015 that hundreds of Russian athletes were guilty of doping with the active cooperation of the authorities. The affair had been set in motion by anonymous tips from an official in the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. Fully in line with the tradition of President Putin’s Russia, two former directors of the Agency died mysteriously in February 2016. Director Rodchenkov of the anti-doping laboratory then fled to the US and lives there now under a witness protection program for fear of being on a Russian hit-list.

What many in the West do not realize is that well informed and independently thinking Russians quite openly say and write that Russia is behind the attack on father and daughter Skripal.

One of those Russians is opposition politician Alexei Navalny, who said the attack was carried out in order to “mobilize the Russian electorate” for the Presidential elections of 18 March.

A more authoritative voice is that of Vil Mirzayanov, a former researcher in the laboratory near Moscow that in the 1970s and 80s was working in the greatest secrecy on a new generation of chemical weapons. The result was the “Novichok” used in Salisbury, ten times stronger than the nerve-gases VX and sarin.

Examples of structures claimed as Novichok agents. Source: Wikimedia commons

Examples of structures claimed as Novichok agents. Source: Wikimedia commons

In 1992, Mirzayanov turned whistleblower by making Russia’s chemical weapon program public and later fled to the US. He calls the poisoning of the Skripals as “a brazen attack of Vladimir Putin, who thinks he can use everything to kill enemies. They must be punished. It is a demonstration of Russian terrorism.” He is absolutely sure that it is impossible for no-state actors to handle Novichok, since it is extremely dangerous to handle.

Also in the independent Russian news site Novaya Gazeta one can read that the attack was carried out with the nerve-gas Novichok “that was developed in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s.” The article ridicules the usual Russian reasoning regarding such attacks: “First the authorities threaten: if you do that, we know where to find you. And once the threat has been carried out they say: that was done by an enemy of Russia.”

Articles on the independent news-site Ekho Moskvy also make clear that Russia was responsible. One of them asks why it was necessary to kill Skripal’s daughter. And also why Skripal himself? After all, he had completed his thirteen-year prison sentence, a sentence the author does not consider to be really severe, indicating that his treason was probably not that serious.

A few days ago Russian media quoted a niece of Sergei Skripal that the attack was not directed at him but at his daughter Yulia. The explanation was that Yulia was romantically involved with the son of a high-ranking woman in the Russian security services who did not want her family to become contaminated by a traitor-family. However bizarre this story may be, it is noteworthy that for the niece it is apparently fully clear that Russia is responsible for the attack (and that there is a link with the security services).

Finally, there is a remarkable opinion-article by Ksenia Sobchak, candidate in the Presidential elections of 18 March. She is the daughter of the first democratically elected mayor of Saint Petersburg and mentor of the young Vladimir Putin. Sobchak writes that it is very well possible that Russia had a hand in the attack in Salisbury. She refers to the “fanning of hatred against ‘enemies and traitors'” for years. The statements by public figures that “traitors do not deserve anything else” make Russia at least responsible for incitement to murder. Sobchak also writes that she has full confidence in the British investigation and that (the British authorities) are capable to find the truth without political bias. She feels it important that Russian citizens get to know the truth, and ends her article with: “At the root of this crime lie those problems that our country must address in order to move into the future, rather than remain in the margins of history.”

willem

Willem-Gert Aldershoff has held various positions in the Departments for International Relations and Justice and Home Affairs at the European Commission and is now an independent analyst on international issues.

 

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