Russian to Judgement 453

The same people who assured you that Saddam Hussein had WMD’s now assure you Russian “novochok” nerve agents are being wielded by Vladimir Putin to attack people on British soil. As with the Iraqi WMD dossier, it is essential to comb the evidence very finely. A vital missing word from Theresa May’s statement yesterday was “only”. She did not state that the nerve agent used was manufactured ONLY by Russia. She rather stated this group of nerve agents had been “developed by” Russia. Antibiotics were first developed by a Scotsman, but that is not evidence that all antibiotics are today administered by Scots.

The “novochok” group of nerve agents – a very loose term simply for a collection of new nerve agents the Soviet Union were developing fifty years ago – will almost certainly have been analysed and reproduced by Porton Down. That is entirely what Porton Down is there for. It used to make chemical and biological weapons as weapons, and today it still does make them in small quantities in order to research defences and antidotes. After the fall of the Soviet Union Russian chemists made a lot of information available on these nerve agents. And one country which has always manufactured very similar persistent nerve agents is Israel. This Foreign Policy magazine (a very establishment US publication) article on Israel‘s chemical and biological weapon capability is very interesting indeed. I will return to Israel later in this article.

Incidentally, novachok is not a specific substance but a class of new nerve agents. Sources agree they were designed to be persistent, and of an order of magnitude stronger than sarin or VX. That is rather hard to square with the fact that thankfully nobody has died and those possibly in contact just have to wash their clothes.

From Putin’s point of view, to assassinate Skripal now seems to have very little motivation. If the Russians have waited eight years to do this, they could have waited until after their World Cup. The Russians have never killed a swapped spy before. Just as diplomats, British and otherwise, are the most ardent upholders of the principle of diplomatic immunity, so security service personnel everywhere are the least likely to wish to destroy a system which can be a key aspect of their own personal security; quite literally spy swaps are their “Get Out of Jail Free” card. You don’t undermine that system – probably terminally – without very good reason.

It is worth noting that the “wicked” Russians gave Skripal a far lighter jail sentence than an American equivalent would have received. If a member of US Military Intelligence had sold, for cash to the Russians, the names of hundreds of US agents and officers operating abroad, the Americans would at the very least jail the person for life, and I strongly suspect would execute them. Skripal just received a jail sentence of 18 years, which is hard to square with the narrative of implacable vindictiveness against him. If the Russians had wanted to make an example, that was the time.

It is much more probable that the reason for this assassination attempt refers to something recent or current, than to spying twenty years ago. Were I the British police, I would inquire very closely into Orbis Intelligence.

There is no doubt that Skripal was feeding secrets to MI6 at the time that Christopher Steele was an MI6 officer in Moscow, and at the the time that Pablo Miller, another member of Orbis Intelligence, was also an MI6 officer in Russia and directly recruiting agents. It is widely reported on the web and in US media that it was Miller who first recruited Skripal. My own ex-MI6 sources tell me that is not quite true as Skripal was “walk-in”, but that Miller certainly was involved in running Skripal for a while. Sadly Pablo Miller’s LinkedIn profile has recently been deleted, but it is again widely alleged on the web that it showed him as a consultant for Orbis Intelligence and a consultant to the FCO and – wait for it – with an address in Salisbury. If anyone can recover that Linkedin entry do get in touch, though British Government agencies will have been active in the internet scrubbing.

It was of course Christopher Steele and Orbis Intelligence who produced for the Clinton camp the sensationalist dossier on Trump links with Russia – including the story of Trump paying to be urinated on by Russian prostitutes – that is a key part of the “Russiagate” affair gripping the US political classes. The extraordinary thing about this is that the Orbis dossier is obvious nonsense which anybody with a professional background can completely demolish, as I did here. Steele’s motive was, like Skripal’s in selling his secrets, cash pure and simple. Steele is a charlatan who knocked up a series of allegations that are either wildly improbable, or would need a high level source access he could not possibly get in today’s Russia, or both. He told the Democrats what they wish to hear and his audience – who had and still have no motivation to look at it critically – paid him highly for it.

I do not know for certain that Pablo Miller helped knock together the Steele dossier on Trump, but it seems very probable given he also served for MI6 in Russia and was working for Orbis. And it seems to me even more probable that Sergei Skripal contributed to the Orbis Intelligence dossier on Trump. Steele and Miller cannot go into Russia and run sources any more, and never would have had access as good as their dossier claims, even in their MI6 days. The dossier was knocked up for huge wodges of cash from whatever they could cobble together. Who better to lend a little corroborative verisimilitude in these circumstances than their old source Skripal?

Skripal was at hand in the UK, and allegedly even close to Miller in Salisbury. He could add in the proper acronym for a Russian committee here or the name of a Russian official there, to make it seem like Steele was providing hard intelligence. Indeed, Skripal’s outdated knowledge might explain some of the dossier’s more glaring errors.

But the problem with double agents like Skripal, who give intelligence for money, is that they can easily become triple agents and you never know when a better offer is going to come along. When Steele produced his dodgy dossier, he had no idea it would ever become so prominent and subject to so much scrutiny. Steele is fortunate in that the US Establishment is strongly motivated not to scrutinise his work closely as their one aim is to “get” Trump. But with the stakes very high, having a very loose cannon as one of the dossier’s authors might be most inconvenient both for Orbis and for the Clinton camp.

If I was the police, I would look closely at Orbis Intelligence.

To return to Israel. Israel has the nerve agents. Israel has Mossad which is extremely skilled at foreign assassinations. Theresa May claimed Russian propensity to assassinate abroad as a specific reason to believe Russia did it. Well Mossad has an even greater propensity to assassinate abroad. And while I am struggling to see a Russian motive for damaging its own international reputation so grieviously, Israel has a clear motivation for damaging the Russian reputation so grieviously. Russian action in Syria has undermined the Israeli position in Syria and Lebanon in a fundamental way, and Israel has every motive for damaging Russia’s international position by an attack aiming to leave the blame on Russia.

Both the Orbis and Israeli theories are speculations. But they are no more a speculation, and no more a conspiracy theory, than the idea that Vladimir Putin secretly sent agents to Salisbury to attack Skripal with a secret nerve agent. I can see absolutely no reason to believe that is a more valid speculation than the others at this point.

I am alarmed by the security, spying and armaments industries’ frenetic efforts to stoke Russophobia and heat up the new cold war. I am especially alarmed at the stream of cold war warrior “experts” dominating the news cycles. I write as someone who believes that agents of the Russian state did assassinate Litvinenko, and that the Russian security services carried out at least some of the apartment bombings that provided the pretext for the brutal assault on Chechnya. I believe the Russian occupation of Crimea and parts of Georgia is illegal. On the other hand, in Syria Russia has saved the Middle East from domination by a new wave of US and Saudi sponsored extreme jihadists.

The naive view of the world as “goodies” and “baddies”, with our own ruling class as the good guys, is for the birds. I witnessed personally in Uzbekistan the willingness of the UK and US security services to accept and validate intelligence they knew to be false in order to pursue their policy objectives. We should be extremely sceptical of their current anti-Russian narrative. There are many possible suspects in this attack.

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453 thoughts on “Russian to Judgement

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  • Jürgen Lahmann

    I Ärger withthe above Text, and I remember that – at the end of the Soviet Union – it was reported one could buy even nuclear bomb material in the international black weapon market. So, anybody who disliked the Skripal Family for whatever reason, could have been the asassinators.

  • George Roberts

    Wow to comments underneath here, basically. What evidence as to Mossad or any other involvement do you have? None. This is a ridiculous article. Do your worst. I’ve been called a Zionist , neo liberal, war mongering stooge today. I’m not any such thing, but can’t be doing with this nonsense.

  • Spencer Eagle

    ‘Novichok’ has become a distraction, it doesn’t matter what type of agent or compound, if any, was used. What matters is why ? Never mind Mossad or Orbis, could the real culprits be closer to home? Starting a new cold war with Russia would certainly boost defense spending. The UK spends 2% of GDP on defense. The MoD would like to see this closer to 3%, but that would mean cuts in health, education or other state spending. So a false flag may be a very convenient way to get that extra 1% of GDP.

  • Larry


    The very same people, really? Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, George W. Bush, Tony Blair have all come out of retirement to pontificate about Russian nerve agents? Well, if they were wrong on that one occasion fifteen years ago, they must inevitably be wrong now!

  • sy1972

    I think evidence shows that Viktor Yanukovych asked Putin to intercede in Urkaine which led to the Crimea situation. Yanukovych has said as much in interviews so the notion that Russia are in Crimea illegally is incorrect.

    On to the whole Novichok/Russia did it narrative. Anyone with access to amazon books can download Mirzayanovs book regarding Russia’s chemical weapons program which gives the formulas for Novichok in it, he has said as much because he stated in an interview that if it isn’t Russia that has done this then it could plausibly be someone who has got the formula from his book, and that had access to commercial chemical facilities which produce fertilizers and pesticides.

    The west are playing a dangerous game, and it has a strong possibility of backfiring in the most apocolyptic of manners. One can only hope that those in the west pushing for war with Russia start taking a few steps back before it escelates to a far more serious situation

  • Dennis Morgan

    Thanks for your brilliant analysis, Craig. In an era of anti-Russia hysteria, it’s refreshing.

  • John Ward

    The objectively forensic nature of this piece – and the geopolitical logic applied throughout – is what keeps me coming back to this site. Craig Murray remains one of the most courageous and dilligent online commentators we have, and I dearly wish there was a portal to an even wider audience for him.
    In 2018, whether one shares somebody’s politics is a lot less important than whether one respects the Truth that sings out from the prose. The bloke is a massive asset to every free thinker with an open mind.
    For myself, with every month that passes I am more and more convinced that there is a continuum of motive that runs CIA Texas Pentagon Ukraine Syria Oil pipeline routes NATO hegemony; but among Brits of both Left and Right, much effort is required to convice them that the UK is (of its own volition) a pawn in the game.

  • Tony C

    Such a shame we live in a “post-factual” world. Great article which lays bear the shrill narrative of our ever-so-trustworthy mainstream media outlets.

    • ignas bednarczyk

      Are ‘the birds’ you refer to so uniformatively & vaguely, the bombers with chemical & barrel bombs used to genocide civilians from other tribes than Assad’s that have ‘saved’ the Middle East ? I don’t know who you think your taking in, but I’m disgusted by this rubbish you have written.

    • ignas bednarczyk

      Are ‘the birds’ you refer to so uniformatively & vaguely, the bombers with chemical & barrel bombs used to genocide civilians from other tribes than Assad’s that have ‘saved’ the Middle East ? I don’t know who you think your taking in, but I’m disgusted by this rubbish you have written. I thought I would explain ‘This is dire’- but the publisher isn’t having it.

      • Jeremy Walford

        Not sure where the genocide you refer to is happening in your view, but objectively speaking that is the best description of the campaign in Yemen, which has already killed thousands of civilians, and which threatens millions with cholera and starvation.
        As for Syria, that war was obviously engineered by nato, and they have armed and supplied a number of terrorist groups and unleashed them on the Syrian people. The contrast between western coverage of the liberation of Aleppo and Mosul could not have been more different. That was all the more grotesque, because while Mosul and Raqqa were carpet bombed, slaughtering many thousands of civilians, and then left as smoking, blood smeared rubble, littered with unexploded missiles, the campaign to free
        Aleppo was very much more targeted, and the city was soon functioning and habitable again.

      • Marek Maltz

        Most Poles can be counted on to view the world’s events through their russophobic spectacles. It is interesting to notice that in the past they could be counted on the hatred toward both: Germans and the Russians with the Germans bearing the brunt of the hatred. 30 years into the “independent Poland” the hate priorities have changed. Now as 90% of the Polish press is German owned, as Poles love to drive VW and Audi, love to work in German factories both in Poland and Germany, learn to speak German in numbers unmatched by any other nation on earth and even start to consider themselves Aryans as proven by the signage present during the nationalistic independence parades the Russians became the most loved to hate nation. But then did we really believe the Beatles that money can’t buy me love? and so the hate of the Russians may not last forever: let’s imagine the world when the oil price hits $250 a barrel and we may start to see Polish high school students being shipped to Russia not to visit Katyn but to spend summer vacations there to forge “better understanding between the nations”:).

  • John Graham

    Good article, which makes more sense than the UK Government’s baseless claims about Russian culpability for the attempted murders in Salisbury.

    Crimea was Russian for hundreds of years before its administrative transfer within the then Soviet bloc to Ukraine in 1954 by Nikita Khrushchev. It has always had a Russian population of around two thirds. With the USA/EU’s totally destructive regime change in Ukraine, the Crimean Republic declared independence in 2014 and decided to join the Russian Federation, which was its right under international law.

  • Mary Cecil

    “Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship…

    Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

    – Hermann Goering (as told to Gustav Gilbert during the Nuremberg trials)

  • Nick Kollerstrom

    letter to The Times, March 16th: ‘Sir, further to your report (“Poison exposure leaves almost 40 needing treatment”, Mar 14), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve gas poisoning in Salisbury and there have only been three patients with significant poisoning. Several people have attended the emergency department concerned that they may have been exposed. None has had symptoms of poisoning an d none has needed treatment. Any blood test performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved.’ STEPHEN DAVIES

  • John Farnham (@opit)

    Your thoughts on the ‘illegality’ of Russia’s protection of Sevastapol by annexing the Crimea sparked a little Search for historical context. There is a bit of hypocrisy by any state promoting such a position, as force of arms helped bring the original situation into place.
    I can imagine what the Yanks would think of similar representation about Guantanamo, or Britain about Diego Garcia.

  • Kevin

    Murray’s analysis is spot on, MOSSAD has every reason to target Russian, UK relations, and Syria is the reason for the targeting. I’d be looking over CCTV footage to find a match between Salisbury and the Israeli embassy, likely a team of 2-3 agents were sent to do the deed, and got the chemical weapon from the embassy, who could have trafficked in into the using the diplomatic secure mail system. Nice work Murry, you got the answer faster than me, but then again, you are the expert.

    • Jo Dominich

      Hi Kevin, Added to your view, which I agree with, is the fact that, not 2-3 days after this incident, the Jewish Council in the UK decided to send a letter to Jeremy Corbyn about anti-semitism within the Party (because Corbyn, quite rightly, does not agree with Israeli action in Palestine), this letter being based on comments he made 6 years prior about an allegedly anti-semitic mural. Analysis of the mural shows absolutely no sign that the players of the monopoly game are Jewish at all, they could be Turks, Syrians, Armenians. However, dragging something up from 6 years ago – something meaningless at that – strikes me as being very odd indeed. The good old rabidly right wing Tory gutter press happily spread this story (another deflection technique I believe). So yes, the MOSSAD theory is entirely plausible.

  • Kevin

    Murray’s analysis is spot on, MOSSAD has every reason to target Russian, UK relations, and Syria is the reason for the targeting. I’d be looking over CCTV footage to find a match between Salisbury and the Israeli embassy, likely a team of 2-3 agents were sent to do the deed, and got the chemical weapon from the embassy, who could have trafficked into the UK using the diplomatic secure mail system. Nice work Murry, you got the answer faster than me, but then again, you are the expert.

  • Rod Rasmussen

    Dear Mr Murray :

    I read your book, Murder in Samarkand, years ago and found it most riveting and enlightening. I found this website only yesterday and I have to say I am gripped by it – you haven’t lost your touch.

    Best wishes

  • Jo Dominich

    Hello Craig, this is an interesting article which provides good quality information. I do not think the Russian Federation was in the least bit responsible for this incident. It seems to me as though Teresa May, making a monumental mess of Brexit, the economy and other important home grown issues such as rising inflation and the downturn in the property market, needed something to deflect away from her appalling Government and more appalling leadership. I can’t shake off the feeling that this is more of a CIA/MI6 covert operation. I have done my own timeline and your articles certainly help because you seem to have knowledge we cannot access. There are so many anomalies, distortions and obvious lies in the Government statements I would be surprised if anyone believed Russia did it so to speak. There are two key questions for me that remain unanswered: (i) How is it that Teresa May was able to flout the Convention and refused a joint investigation with Russia and the OPCW and refused to provide a sample to either to aid the investigation and (ii) How the alleged nerve agent actually got into the UK given how allegedly deadly it is. A third question has arisen for me following the announcement last week that Yulia, apparently having been at death’s door the evening before with relatives saying they should be allowed to die, not 10 hours later was suddenly up and talking following a miraculous, rapid recovery. There has been a lot of speculation on line that they are not in hospital but rather in a secret location. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    By the way, I do not agree with you that the annexation of the Crimea is illegal. My understanding, from all the information I read at the time, is that 90% of the Crimean population wanted to return to being part of the Russian Federation as their own Government, that of the Ukraine were incompetent and the standard of living since independence from the USSR has dropped dramatically and is dire.

  • Patricia Springborg

    Brilliant and very convincing. That this assassination attempt should coincide with the Israeli-fed attempt to oust Corbyn on the grounds of antisemitism strengthens the argument especially given that such a high percentage of young voters are deeply sceptical about the Israeli Lobby’s intentions! It my finally be a step too far for the Israeli Lobby. Could we be so lucky?

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