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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  • Mochyn69

    Speechless, utterly speechless at the appalling performance of TM and the toxic tory dictatorship in rushing to judgement on what certainly appears to be a very nasty and complex occurence in Salisbury.

    Difficult to make sense of the MSM narrative but obvious problems are the UK’s refusal to comply with international protocol and turning the burden of proof on its head by requiring Russia to prove its ‘innocence’.

    And Jeremy Corbyn is the only parliamentarian who is speaking any sense, and yet is being villified beyond belief by the MSM propaganda machine.

    All very strange, and worrying as betrays utter incompetence of this damned tory clique.


    • MJ

      “Russia has 10 days to respond to the allegations”

      No, the UK has 10 days to respond to Russia’s request for clarification.

  • siskin

    Thank you for your detailed analysis of this case. Lately, I often think that I must be crazy as I don’t see what I’m told by the media and politicians. Thank you for confirming my sanity.

  • Herbert Dorsey

    Craig Murray is the man who gave Jlian Assange the data files on the corrupt activities of the DNC which lead to the resignation of DNC head and which the Russia Gate people claim the Russians gave to Assange. Murray claims that he received these files from an unnamed person in Washington D.C. who had legal access to these files. That unnamed person very likely was Seth Rich who was murdered shortly after.

    • Bob Apposite

      Yeah, it’s not Seth Rich.
      Common sense tells you it’s not.

      1. Since he’s dead, there’s no “source to protect” anymore. No reason not to come out and identify him.
      2. That Assange is out there implying that it’s him – he’s not *actually* protecting a source either.
      3. i.e. WikiLeaks just looks profoundly dishonest here. Not only are they lying about protecting sources, but they’re also lying about who the source was. With so much obvious lying, the logical question is – what else are they lying about?
      4. Ergo – they’re probably lying about the whole thing, including whether there even was a “legal” source.

  • mike

    Sturgeon and Blackford singing from the same fact-free hymn sheet.

    How very disappointing.

    • Greg

      Totally agree most disappointing. Though having just seen how Corbyn’s reasoned and sensible approach to this issue was greeted with cat calls and mockery, even by some on his own side, maybe Sturgeon and Blackfoot decided to ‘play it safe’

  • Bob Apposite

    And let’s add – if your source WAS killed – you’d do a lot more than IMPLY that he was the source.

    You’d raise a gigantic stink and demand investigations.

    i.e. WikiLeaks behavior is not consistent with Seth Rich being a cover story, not Seth Rich being an actual source.

    • Clivejw

      Correct. Novichok means simply “newcomer” in Russian, designating that this was a new class of CW.

      Craig also uses the spelling novachok once. A bit sloppy.

  • Vierotchka

    To understand what is *really* going on, see:

    Top French Intel Boss Reveals Operation Beluga: US-UK Plot to Discredit Putin and Destabilize Russia

    Published on 3 Aug 2017

    Renowned French security expert Paul Barril discloses the existence of Operation Beluga, a covert Western intelligence scheme intended to undermine Russia and its leaders.

  • Samenleving

    New York Times
    U.S. and Uzbeks Agree on Chemical Arms Plant Cleanup
    By JUDITH MILLER MAY 25, 1999

    The United States and Uzbekistan have quietly negotiated and are expected to sign a bilateral agreement today to provide American aid in dismantling and decontaminating one of the former Soviet Union’s largest chemical weapons testing facilities, according to Defense Department and Uzbek officials.

    Earlier this year, the Pentagon informed Congress that it intends to spend up to $6 million under its Cooperative Threat Reduction program to demilitarize the so-called Chemical Research Institute, in Nukus, Uzbekistan. Soviet defectors and American officials say the Nukus plant was the major research and testing site for a new class of secret, highly lethal chemical weapons called ”Novichok,” which in Russian means ”new guy.”

  • KMG

    The ‘legal’ argument for Russia embracing Crimea is that after the US-backed coup in Kiev, Crimea was left without a legal government and so turned to Russia. The moral argument is that after the Kherson massacre, the Crimean people had to close their border with Ukraine for their own safety.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      Do explain to the mentally subnormal cretin, Keir Starmer. His nonsense on Question Time is so ridiculous that he is a disgrace to concept of a politician, a legal professional, even a sentient adult human being….

    • laninya

      Crimea has long been an autonomous republic, with its own governing body. That was true when it was the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic as part of the USSR, and it was true when it became the Autonomous Republic of Crimea as part of an independent Ukraine after 1991. After the US-backed coup, the Crimean government voted again to repatriate with Russia — as it had done, if memory serves, at least twice before since the dissolution of the USSR. The moral argument you cite is a very important factor, and one which is seldom/never mentioned by the press.

      This legal status issue is important, because it highlights why Crimea was able to secure that swift protection from the approaching punisher battalions, while Donbas was not. Simply: there was no legal framework within which Russia could extend its borders around the Donbas to pull it to safety.

      All this is as I understand it, of course. But, the legal points are important.

  • Rich Hillary

    Would another explanation be that he was working for Russia all along and set up to test our processes for bringing home “one of our own”. The British found out recently and staged an attack with, well frankly whatever they liked.(The policeman was probably very unlucky.) Playing on Litvinenko, we then use the incident to discredit Russia, deflect from woes at home, and make Mrs M look more statesman-like?

    No need to bring in Israel as it was all home grown.

    Just a thought!



  • Al Bourke

    No doubt 2 distract us from what,s happening in OUR COUNTRY! Murdoch,s rags publishing this,rather than the DEVASTATING “ISDS” clauses in TPP! Let,s C a frontline heading on that subject eehh,?

  • Lesley Jane

    Excellent article . We are so full of self rightous indignation ( un deservedly so ) food for serious thought . Thank you

  • Interested in Interesting Times

    Re the Clyde what his name twitter thread – it is kind of being pulled apart in the guardian comments all places! One if the questions:

    But this analysis really does beg the question as to why, if this nerve agent so directly attributable to the Russians is so potently and devastatingly deadly and that one drop smaller than a pin head of a compound 10 times less potent can kill a healthy man, why this attack did not result in the immediate death of the victims? Is it dilutable? Are it’s effects known to be non instantaneous? Any research chemists care to elaborate?

  • Mick

    This is balanced logic to some extent but ignores motivations that Putin may have for sponsoring such an outrage:
    1. Anti Western rhetoric that is soaked up but an ‘electorate’
    2. Humiliating the UK
    3. Personal macho posturing

    The logic above would have more credibility had the response from Russia been more ameliorative – the spokesperson on R5 Live on Tuesday morning was obscene in his likening of UK leaders to Hitler and calling Poland a ‘prostitute’ to the west.
    This is Gerry dangerous games playing indeed – is it pure coincidence that so many emigres have died in unexplained circumstances?
    If Litvinenko – why not the Skripals?

    • Rhys Jaggar

      Many of the Russians may well have enemies distinct from Putin and the State. The various Russian Mafias for a start. Business adversaries (gunshots were the tools of negotiation in the 1990s). Maybe others too.

      The simplistic nonsense that only the Russian State and Putin can deal with enemies simply has to stop….

      • Clark

        Hear, hear, Rhys Jaggar. If May seriously wants to get serious with Russia, she could take on all the oligarchs living in London, yet they go completely unmentioned.

    • laninya


      You know, I’ve noticed that people who attribute motives to Putin — especially those who use qualifiers like “may have had” and “most likely”– are precisely those who have not done any homework on the subject.

      You ask “If Litvinenko – why not the Skripals?” Do your research on the “if Litvinenko” side of that question, and you will notice that the original reports and reporting on that case mostly pointed in a very different direction than the one the official narrative has coalesced around. That guy was into some very shady business. See if you can find some information on how and why his body was shipped to Chechnya after his death, for example.

      Just sayin’.

  • James wilson

    A weeks a long time in politics am wae you disnae make sense nothings clean in the murky world a world politics but its savin mays skin the bitch strong n stable eh? Hahaaaaaaaaaaaa?we’re aw doomed

  • JB from Germany

    Why Israel?
    It puzzles me that Israel’s interest to make Russia withdraw from Syria is being mentioned, since blaming Russia for a severe crime will almost certainly not lead thereto.
    Let us figure out what could happen: UK blames Russia and forces Russian diplomats to leave. Russia does the same (already happed by now), the rest of the EU follows (some have announced to do so).
    But although Russia is afterwards isolated from the West, it is still capable to keep its military forces in Syria for quite a long time and will do so (the Russian naval facility in Tartus is too valuable to be abandoned without any proper substitute). And when push comes to shove and Russia should unexpectedly run out of essential supplies, China will probably step in at Russia’s side to avoid that the West becomes too powerful as long as China is not on equal basis with the West.
    And finally: Although with a Russian withdraw the axis Teheran – Damascus – Hezbollah will be severely weakened, this will also mean that Turkey under Erdogan will primarily benefit.–Not the best perspective since Erdogan has begun something like a cold war against Israel.
    So let us ask who else could benefit from blaming Russia for a murder.
    In the first place I see the Ukraine–not Israel. Ukraine is still at some kind of war with Russia over the Crimea and Donbass region. Furthermore, a deeper connection between western Europe and the Ukraine has never been established since the West always shied away when the Kremlin threatened with serious consequences. Finally, we may expect that Ukrainian chemists have also taken part in the Soviet chemical weapons program–not only Russians and Uzbeks.

  • David Collins

    A fearless and thought provoking article by one of the brightest analysts anywhere. Thank you Craig.

  • Stumbler

    Stumbled upon your site. Just want to thank you for this, as it is near impossible to find an opinion that goes against the hysteria of the media.

  • Botrot

    Many people have good reasons to do things
    It doesn’t mean that they will do them. Or if they are done that they have done them. That is what courts of law are for. This rush to Judgment is wholly unprofessional. And unnecessary. Surely a statement saying we suspect Russian involvement but will investigate and reprt back is far more credible.

    • Rhys Jaggar

      You assume the aim is defusing tensions.

      If the aim is going to war in Syria, the dodgy dossier play book comes out again. This time it is a dodgy killing, not dodgy WMDs.

      My assumption until proven otherwise is that Uk MPs represent the US Deep State, not the UK electorate. The US Deep State wants war in Syria, it wants it now and has been thwarted at least twice already by Putin.

      What I find sad is that the majority still think MPs are honourable…..

      • Jo Dominich

        Hi Rhys, the USA has, for some years now, as I can tell, been dying to have a pop at Syria but have so far been prevented by Russia and the UN. I believe this is the focus for May’s actions and the clearly false flag here.

  • Ineke

    Thank you! I really appreciate this because when I heard May my first thought was
    IRaQ – weapons of mass destruction, which was a big lie the same as now!

  • alexandre

    A well-argued case, ruined by the superfluous reference to Mossad/Israel, which brings the whole argument down to bog-standard conspiracy level. Is it really necessary to have recourse to Mossad in considering possible explanations for a chemical attack, a few miles from Porton Down, on a former GRU/MI6 agent with connections to Orbis and the Trump dossier? Who might have wanted Skripal out of the way or silenced? Mossad is not among those who come first to mind.

    As for the motive you ascribe to the Israelis, it is worth noting that Israel relies on Russia to restrain Iran – neither further East-West escalation nor a Russian withdrawal from Syria would necessarily be in Israel’s interest.

  • Rosa

    Russian “occupation” of Crimea?
    Well, that’s where I stopped reading.
    Coming from a man with your intelligence and integrity, what a disappointment!

    • joeblogs

      I could not put it better myself – one of the commenters above explained the background very well.

  • William Banks

    I applaud the fact that you believe the Russian occupation of the Crimea is illegal. But can you tell me what was behind Eastern Ukraine,s uprising against Western Ukraine

  • Horst Schmitt

    The sorry efforts to blame Russia of poisoning their pardoned and released spy, reminds me of the west’s
    failed proves to link Assad to gas attacks on his own people. Both hilariously illogical?

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