The mysterious chemical attack on a former Russian double agent is prompting conspiracy theories from both the mainstream and the margins, notes NOEL ROONEY...
On 4 March, in the quiet town of Salisbury, former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting him from Moscow, were found in a state of near unconsciousness on a park bench. Several witnesses attested to Skripal acting very strangely, pointing at the sky and occasionally gesticulating wildly. Eventually, a passing doctor and nurse took the situation in hand, examined the pair of by now comatose Russians, and called in the police and paramedics. They were taken to Salisbury District Hospital, where it was eventually confirmed that they were suffering from the effects of a nerve agent.
They were not the only people affected by the mysterious substance. A police officer who assisted at the scene is still critically ill, and there are reports that up to 21 other people suffered ill-effects, although only three appear to remain in hospital. A major incident has been declared, and the Army has been called in; a convoy of trucks and heavy equipment rumbled into Salisbury during the week, and locals were left scratching their heads at the small-scale military invasion.
Naturally, the incident has revived memories of the infamous Litvinenko affair in 2006 (see FT218:4-5; 220:4; 325:5), when another Russian émigré, Alexander Litvinenko, was apparently poisoned with a deadly radioactive isotope, Polonium 210, a substance 250 times more deadly than cyanide, while having tea with a couple of ex-KGB colleagues in London. Litvinenko has been repeatedly alluded to in media reports. He’s not the only one. Several other members of the Skripal family appear to have come to untimely ends in recent years. Mrs Skripal died in 2012, at the relatively tender age of 59, of an aggressive form of stomach cancer, and one of Skripal’s sons died in mysterious circumstances in St Petersburg in March of last year, while another died in unexplained circumstances two years ago. Police and forensic experts have apparently been poking around in the cemetery where the other unfortunate members of the Skripal clan are laid to rest, clearly hoping to uncover more than a simple can of worms.
Tragedy cluster or conspiracy? The mainstream media are in no doubt; the nefarious Vladimir Putin clearly had it in for Skripal and his kin and ordered yet another spectacular assassination on British soil. The media have trotted out a litany of names, past martyrs to the evil Vlad’s lust for revenge on those he sees as traitors to the Motherland: Alexander Perepilichnyy, Boris Berezovsky, and a few unlucky Brits: Gareth Williams, Matthew Puncher, and Scot Young. Not to be outdone, the alternative media have recited their own litany, although for rather different reasons.
You could probably write the alternative take on the affair yourself, but just in case you are feeling lazy, you can go to Signs of the Times (www.sott.net/article/379237MI5-Poisons-Another-Russian-Asset-toSmear-Putin-in-Ongoing-Propaganda-War), where Joe Quinn has set out the case for Vlad’s defence in clear and predictable terms. It was a set-up: the British secret establishment offed Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and endangered the good citizens of Salisbury with a nasty nerve agent, so that Putin would fail in his next election bid in Russia. Obviously. Russian media weren’t too far away from Mr Quinn in their reading of the event, dragging in one of the prime suspects in the Litvinenko affair, Dmitry Kovtun, to finger the sneaky Brits for the hit.
The claims of Quinn et al are really no more outrageous than some of the stuff that has seeped into the UK mainstream press like a poison gas. In fact, this is one of those incidents where both sides of the increasingly porous media parallax wall have acted in something approaching unison. How long before we get both sides of the story in one mainstream publication?