Kremlin’s spies in crisis over Salisbury poisoning
The Russian secret services are in crisis over the fallout from the ‘‘botched’’ chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, British intelligence officers believe.
The GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service, is being accused by rival agencies of ‘‘crossing the line’’ over the way the attempted killing of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was carried out, senior Whitehall sources claimed yesterday.
British officials told The Sunday Telegraph they believe the two suspects accused by Scotland Yard of the attack were wheeled out on Russian statesponsored television as punishment for leaving a trail of evidence during the operation to target Skripal.
This included numerous sightings of them on CCTV walking around Salisbury in broad daylight, using public transport and carelessly discarding the bottle containing Novichok in a park, leading to the death of Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old Salisbury woman, in July.
A Whitehall source said that one theory under review was that the men ‘‘are being thrown under the bus by another agency because they’ve messed up’’.
The source said: ‘‘It’s a line of inquiry – that there’s an internal Russian [dispute] that ’that agency has crossed the line, let’s throw the guys under the bus’. We’re waiting with interest to see what they come out with.’’
The claims come as this newspaper separately reveals that a new suite of sanctions against corrupt Russian officials is to be shelved for up to two years.
Yesterday Conservative MPs warned Theresa May that the Government must ‘‘get its act together’’ over the measures. British agencies believe that one indication of the growing tension between different branches of the Russian secret services is the faltering Russian propaganda.
A deluge of disinformation being pumped out by Russian bots following the poisoning in March fell away earlier this month after the two alleged GRU operatives were named by Scotland Yard, according to analysis by cyber security experts. Instead, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov gave an implausible account of their actions on RT television, claiming they had travelled to the city as tourists to visit the ‘‘beautiful’’ cathedral and its ancient clock.
That suggests the painstaking police investigation may have put the Russian state on the back foot. – Telegraph Group