Krem­lin’s spies in cri­sis over at­tack

The Southland Times - - World -

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 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.

The White­hall source said: ‘‘We’ve been proac­tive in call­ing out what the Rus­sians are do­ing. We’ve got a lot bet­ter at coun­ter­ing Rus­sian comms ac­tiv­ity. Pre­vi­ously they could get away with plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity, in this case it’s not at all plau­si­ble, it’s im­plau­si­ble de­ni­a­bil­ity. That’s pretty much down to work­ing across Govern­ment: po­lice, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies work­ing with us both on the case.’’

– Tele­graph Group

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