by James ONeill
On 4th of March 2018 former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found on a park bench in Salisbury England at 16. 15 hours in an unconscious state.
They were tended to by a number of passers by who included a doctor, an off duty nurse and some civilians. It was not known at that stage what had caused the Skripals illness. No one had any reason to believe that they were the victims of any nerve agent, and accordingly took no precautions against such a possibility. Despite the very well documented dangers of even casual contact with nerve agents, none of those helpful citizens suffered any ill-effects.
The Skripals were taken to hospital where they have remained ever since. The public were told that they were both in a coma and unable to communicate in any way. Yet on the morning of 7 March 2018 Yulia Skripal accessed the Russian equivalent of her Facebook page (VKontakte).
There are a number of possible explanations for this. She may have briefly returned to consciousness and her first thought was to access VKontakte before relapsing. Alternatively her VK could have been hacked, but that would not have been easy and there is no known evidence to support this possibility. A third possibility, implicit in the words of her treating physician, was that she came to her senses. Precisely what that meant is unclear because it was never elaborated upon.
The hospital authorities have disclosed that Yulia is now fully awake, eating, drinking and talking, these and other questions may be able to be asked and answered. Precisely what we are told about Yulias answers depends upon who is allowed to talk to her. Another of the disturbing aspects of this case is that none of her family, her fiancé, or the Russian consulate authorities has been permitted access.
This latter fact is directly contrary to the provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The British have pretended that this did not apply to Ms Skripal as she was a Russian national (unlike Sergei who had dual British citizenship) because article 37 of the Convention had not been incorporated into English law.
The judge who heard an application for the taking of blood samples came to this conclusion, apparently without reference to, or being advised by counsel acting for the Skripals on behalf of the British government, that there was in fact a consular treaty between the then Soviet Union and Britain. This treaty was ratified in 1968 and specifically provides for the right of consular access. Article 36 of the treaty provides:
(1) (a) A consular officer shall be entitled within the consular district to communicate with, interview and advise a national of the sending state and it may render him every assistance including, where necessary, arranging for aid and advice in legal matters.
(b) No restriction shall be placed by the receiving state upon the access of a national of the sending state to the consulate or upon communication by him with the consulate.
Notwithstanding this provision, which as the terminology makes clear, is not optional but mandatory, the British continue you to refuse the Russian consular staff their lawful access to the Skripals.
In that same court case (NoB228376 & 13228382  EWCOP 6 Judgement 22 March 2018) the judge was also apparently not told by counsel that while the Skripals appeared to have some relatives in Russia they had not been advised of the application before the court and neither were the Russian authorities. According to the judgement the Russians would find out about the court case after the event because the judge intended to publish his findings!
Ms Skripal does not just appear to have relatives in Russia. She has her grandmother and also a fiancé with whom she was living. She also has a cousin, Victoria, with whom she has recently had a conversation according to Russian TV that has released a transcript of the discussion.
The Russian authorities have also released copies of multiple requests made to the British government for consular access and other information. Not only were the requests ignored, contrary to the treaty quoted above, but the judge was not even informed that such requests had been made.
The judgement ordering the taking of blood samples from the Skripals was for the purposes of technical analysis to try and determine what caused their illness, from whence the presumed nerve agent had originated, and possibly identified who might be responsible. Then again it might not, for a host of technical reasons.
The point here however, is that the order was made on 22 March 2018 when the answers to those key questions were not known, unless of course the British themselves or one of their allies were the perpetrators. Both the Police who were inquiring into what was a possible attempted homicide, and the scientific investigation by both Porton Down and the technical team at the OCPW to whom the matter was eventually referred, said that the results would take some time and possibly weeks.
Yet on 14 March 2018, one week before the judgement, and weeks before the scientific results could possibly be known, British prime minister Therese May was telling the House of Commons that the culprit was a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia that had been used, and that it was an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom.
Whether or not May appreciated it, such a statement amounted to her declaring that Russia had committed an act of war against the United Kingdom, contrary to international law. Her statements, together with those of her foreign minister Boris Johnson, carried hyperbole to extreme lengths. It immediately brings to mind the Mad Queen from Alice in Wonderland who demanded the sentence before the verdict.
That was not the end of the British rhetorical overkill. The Salisbury hospital authorities directly contradicted the British governments claims of dozens of people having been affected by the alleged nerve agent. The Consultant at Salisbury Hospital, Dr Stephen Davies, wrote a letter to The Times saying
no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury.
Davies told the newspaper that only three persons were being treated, presumably the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Bailey. Note that the physician was careful not to specify precisely what the three were being treated for, other than that it was not nerve agent poisoning.
This rare example of sanity in the mainstream media was lost in the ongoing stampede to indict, convict and sentence Russia before all of the evidence had been gathered and analysed.
The campaign of vilification against Russia was extended further by the British government circulating a six-page document to 80 foreign embassies in Moscow setting out their case for blaming Russia. That case was simply risible. Its manifold falsehoods and absurdities have been pointed out elsewhere (ONeill Australia confirms its colonial status with expulsion of Russian diplomats 5 April 2018).
That did not prevent Australia and more then 20 other allies of the United Kingdom expelling diplomats on no further ground than giving their support to the British government and its absurd claims. Not even all of Britains NATO and EU allies and partners were prepared to jump on that particular bandwagon, not to mention the more than 160 nations in the world who dissociated themselves from the allegations.
The means by which the Skripals became infected has also been a subject of constantly changing scenarios. At various times the nerve agent was said to have been brought into Britain in Yulias suitcase; that it was placed their cars air system; and that it was placed on the doorknob of the front door to Mr Skripals home.
Here again there were logical contradictions. The nerve agent was said to be up to 8 times more toxic than VX (a nerve agent of a type developed by the British and used in the Kuala Lumpur assassination of a relative of North Koreas President Kim.) Yet that door was touched multiple times by police and others without them becoming infected.
Even more problematic was the four-hour time gap between when the Skripals left their house and suddenly taking ill before being found on the park bench in central Salisbury. The word suddenly is apt because CCTV footage of pair 15 minutes before being discovered on the park bench shows them alive, seemingly healthy and walking along a Salisbury Street without difficulty after having a meal at Zizzis restaurant.
If the claims of Novichoks toxicity are true, then the front door handle could not possibly have infected them. If the nerve agent was so weak that it takes four hours to do its job of rendering targets dead or immobilized, then its utility as a weapon is less than useless.
The weight of logic therefore points to them being infected at some point during the 15 minute interval between leaving the restaurant and being found. Unless either eyewitnesses come forward; the CCTV cameras caught the crucial moment; or the now recovered Yulia is able to shed light on what happened, it may never be possible to ascertain the perpetrators.
On 3 April 2018 a further huge hole was blown in the British governments case. The director of Porton Downs defence science and technology laboratory told Britains SKY TV News that they had been unable to identify the source of the Novichok agent said to have been used against the Skripals.
The sophistication of the agent used was such, Mr Aitkenhead said, that it could probably be deployed only by a nation state. While Russia might be presumed to have such capability, the same is equally true of the United Kingdom, the United States, France, China and a significant number of other states with advanced technical capabilities (Hayward et al 1 April 2018).
The Porton Down statement directly contradicts the assertions of Theresa May, Boris Johnson and their Australian counterparts Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop. The latter pair, in the joint media release of 27 March 2018 said, this attack is part of a pattern of reckless and deliberate conduct by the Russian state. It would be unwise to hold ones breath waiting for an apology from those politicians and a withdrawal of the reckless, unfounded and inflammatory statements.
Instead, the mainstream media has either ignored the Porton Down statement and its implications, or they have been complicit in obscuring the original unequivocal claims of Russian culpability espoused by May, Turnbull and others ( 4 April 2018). This dishonesty has been evident throughout this whole saga.
The issue yet to be properly addressed by the investigation is who had the means, motive and opportunity to carry out what increasingly looks like a false flag attack, and a not very competent one at that.
A series of events occurred shortly before the attack on the Skripals that possibly provide some insight into the perpetrators motives. First, the so-called Russiagate witch-hunt, attempting to blame Russia for interfering (rich in irony) in the 2016 United States presidential election had spectacularly collapsed.
That particular campaign against Russia had relied heavily upon a dossier produced by a former British spy named Christopher Steele. In the weeks preceding the Skripal attack it was revealed by Britains conservative newspaper the Daily Telegraph among others, that Sergei Skripal had links with Steele and another major player, Pablo Miller, in the Steele dossier saga when they worked together during the time of Skripals betrayal of his country. Miller also lived in Salisbury and was known to have had contact with Skripal.
Secondly the Anglo American attempt at regime change in Syria through its terrorist proxies and others had failed miserably thanks largely to Russian and Iranian intervention.
Those terrorist groups have being responsible for a number of false flag chemical weapons attacks blamed upon the Assad Government. With the liberation of Eastern Ghouta, the Syrian and Russian forces found a significant cache of chemical weapons materials. The Russians announced that those materials were clearly destined to be used in another false flag attack that would provide the justification for United States and its coalition allies, including Australia, to mount air and missile attacks upon Syrian and Russian forces.
The chemical cache discovery, which received minimal coverage in the western media, was accompanied by a blunt warning from the Russian military command, that any such air and missile attack would be met with retaliation, including against the source of the attack. This was a clear warning to US ships and missile sites. The discovery of the chemical weapons and materials and the blunt warning were sufficient to deter any attack. Clearly however, the Anglo American forces were angered by their plans being thwarted.
Thirdly, on 1 March 2018 President Putin addressed a joint sitting of the Russian Parliament. Part of that speech announced a range of new weapons that were years ahead of any western systems. Russia not only had the capacity to defend itself with its sophisticated S400 anti-missile systems, it could retaliate against any western military attack with devastating force, against which the west had no defence.
Fourthly, despite a prolonged campaign of vilification against Mr Putin, he was overwhelmingly re-elected by the Russian people for a further six-year term. That result was entirely consistent with his level of popularity as revealed in opinion polls conducted by Western polling agencies.
Those results did not stop the western media from a alleging that the vote was rigged, or that Putin did not allow real opposition, and some other desperate claims. The American analyst Gilbert Doctorow has written a number of articles demolishing the western medias claims, although one is unlikely to see them given wider coverage. ( 15 March 2018) Western analysts for the most part prefer the comfort of your own prejudices.
In the light of these four factors, it is a reasonable hypothesis that the Skripal attack was a sign of the increasing desperation of some western governments, chief among them the United States and United Kingdom. The propaganda barrage and the pointless posturing over diplomatic expulsions gave those governments and others foolish enough to be taken in by their patently nonsensical allegations some brief self-satisfaction.
The latest revelations from Porton Down however, are exposing that anti-Russia campaign for the shoddy and deceptive conduct that it is. In time, the Skripal incident will be placed alongside the Gulf of Tonkin, Saddam Husseins weapons of mass destruction, the attacks upon Yugoslavia in 1996, Afghanistan in 2001, Libya in 2011, and Syria in 2015 as examples of provocations justifying the destruction of societies that threaten Western hegemony.
The Russia-China strategic alliance; the progressive de-dollarization of the worlds economy; and the success of defeats of Anglo American plans in Ukraine, North Korea and elsewhere indicate that the geopolitical balance of the world is changing rapidly. The challenge will be to discourage the increasingly desperate crazies who inhabit Western centres of power from embarking upon a war to try and reverse the inevitable destruction of their rapidly failing plans for full spectrum dominance.
James ONeill is a Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at [email protected]