Lynch Mob Mentality 1896


I was caught in a twitterstorm of hatred yesterday, much of it led by mainstream media journalists like David Aaronovitch and Dan Hodges, for daring to suggest that the basic elements of Boshirov and Petrov’s story do in fact stack up. What became very plain quite quickly was that none of these people had any grasp of the detail of the suspects’ full twenty minute interview, but had just seen the short clips or quotes as presented by British corporate and state media.

As I explained in my last post, what first gave me some sympathy for the Russians’ story and drew me to look at it closer, was the raft of social media claims that there was no snow in Salisbury that weekend and Stonehenge had not been closed. In fact, Stonehenge was indeed closed on 3 March by heavy snow, as confirmed by English Heritage. So the story that they came to Salisbury on 3 March but could not go to Stonehenge because of heavy snow did stand up, contrary to almost the entire twittersphere.

Once there was some pushback of truth about this on social media, people started triumphantly posting the CCTV images from 4 March to prove that there was no snow lying in Central Salisbury on 4 March. But nobody ever said there was snow on 4 March – in fact Borisov and Petrov specifically stated that they learnt there was a thaw so they went back. However when they got there, they encountered heavy sleet and got drenched through. That accords precisely with the photographic evidence in which they are plainly drenched through.

Another extraordinary meme that causes hilarity on twitter is that Russians might be deterred by snow or cold weather.

Well, Russians are human beings just like us. They cope with cold weather at home because they have the right clothes. Boshirov and Petrov refer continually in the interview to cold, wet feet and again this is borne out by the photographic evidence – they were wearing sneakers unsuitable to the freak weather conditions that were prevalent in Salisbury on 3 and 4 March. They are indeed soaked through in the pictures, just as they said in the interview.

Russians are no more immune to cold and wet than you are.

Twitter is replete with claims that they were strange tourists, to be visiting a housing estate. No evidence has been produced anywhere that shows them on any housing estate. They were seen on CCTV camera walking up the A36 by the Shell station, some 400 yards from the Skripals’ house, which would require three turnings to get to that – turnings nobody saw them take (and they were on the wrong side of the road for the first turning, even though it would be very close). No evidence has been mentioned which puts them at the Skripals’ House.

Finally, it is everywhere asserted that it is very strange that Russians would take a weekend break holiday, and that if they did they could not possibly be interested in architecture or history. This is a simple expression of anti-Russian racism. Plainly before their interview – about which they were understandably nervous – they prepared what they were going to say, including checking up on what it was they expected to see in Salisbury because they realised they would very obviously be asked why they went. Because their answer was prepared does not make it untrue.

That literally people thousands of people have taken to twitter to mock that it is hilariously improbable that tourists might want to visit Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge, is a plain example of the irrationality that can overtake people when gripped by mob hatred.

I am astonished by the hatred that has been unleashed. The story of Gerry Conlon might, you would hope, give us pause as to presuming the guilt of somebody who just happened to be of the “enemy” nationality, in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Despite the mocking mob, there is nothing inherently improbable in the tale told by the two men. What matters is whether they can be connected to the novichok, and here the safety of the identification of the microscopic traces of novichok allegedly found in their hotel bedroom is key. I am no scientist, but I have been told by someone who is, that if the particle(s) were as the police state so small as to be harmless to humans, they would be too small for mass spectrometry analysis and almost certainly could not be firmly identified other than as an organophosphate. Perhaps someone qualified might care to comment.

The hotel room novichok is the key question in this case.

Were I Vladimir Putin, I would persuade Boshirov and Petrov voluntarily to come to the UK and stand trial, on condition that it was a genuinely fair trial before a jury in which the entire proceedings, and all of the evidence, was open and public, and the Skripals and Pablo Miller might be called as witnesses and cross-examined. I have no doubt that the British government’s desire for justice would suddenly move into rapid retreat if their bluff was called in this way.

As for me, when I see a howling mob rushing to judgement and making at least some claims which are utterly unfounded, and when I see that mob fueled and egged on by information from the security services propagated by exactly the same mainstream media journalists who propagandised the lies about Iraqi WMD, I see it as my job to stand in the way of the mob and to ask cool questions. If that makes them hate me, then I must be having some impact.

So I ask this question again – and nobody so far has attempted to give me an answer. At what time did the Skripals touch their doorknob? Boshirov and Petrov arrived in Salisbury at 11.48 and could not have painted the doorknob before noon. The Skripals had left their house at 09.15, with their mobile phones switched off so they could not be geo-located. Their car was caught on CCTV on three cameras heading out of Salisbury to the North East. At 13.15 it was again caught on camera heading back in to the town centre from the North West.

How had the Skripals managed to get back to their home, and touch the door handle, in the hour between noon and 1pm, without being caught on any of the CCTV cameras that caught them going out and caught the Russian visitors so extensively? After this remarkably invisible journey, what time did they touch the door handle?

I am not going to begin to accept the guilt of Boshirov and Petrov until somebody answers that question. Dan Hodges? David Aaronovitch? Theresa May? Anybody?


1,896 thoughts on “Lynch Mob Mentality

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  • Tom Smythe

    Basically what has happened is the Met’s investigation failed despite being given immense resources. Realistically, they’re not going to stand up and say that. So what to do? come out with SOMETHING. Unfortunately, that entails resolutely defending it later, even as emerging facts render it indefensible. Met have painted themselves into a corner.

    Despite considering a commendable number of theories in early March like dust in Sergei’s BMW ventilation or spiked drinks at the Mill Pub, Met were never able to establish the mechanism of attack. They settled on the door handle, a poor choice but they had to show something but had nothing better.

    Now we are just looking at the sequel. Gotta find somebody wot plausible done it. As the perfume bottle surprise shows, they are a long ways from unravelling the operation. However there was immense pressure from above to produce suspects of a type, like vodka and beaver hats, only made in Russia.

    That conclusion had been drawn before the investigation had even begun. Met’s job was merely to connect the dots. Put a square peg in a round hole if that is what it took.

    These two characters popped up on airport database filtering that intersected ‘Russian” with ‘time interval’. Possibly thousands of people did. Then a tedious and time-consuming manual third filter was applied: visa pictures intersected with Salisbury cctv. Possibly dozens of people still fit.

    These two had a murky background. The trail went cold back in Russia: they couldn’t be tied to GRU nor oligarch criminals. Met didn’t expend much effort on that because they assumed false names were used. Since Met, MI6 and GCHQ have vast investigative resources that joe blogger does not, they figured since they got nowhere with these guys, no one else would either.

    Since they knew all there would never be a trial, it seemed safe to go forward with an accusation. No one would ever be in a position of challenging the preposterous claim of spilled novichok in their hotel room.

    However, they miscalculated the Russian response. Given their names and photos, it didn’t take long for FSB to locate these guys, determine who they were and what they did. Given that information, Putin could make a public statement encouraging the duo to come forward, in full confidence no damage would be done to the Russian state when the facts emerged from internet sleuthing.

    So far though, even with the two coming somewhat out, reconstruction of their lives and putative “mid-sized” neutraceutical consulting business or whatever it is that they do, is murky, though I expect it to be unravelled no later than Monday.

    • Sergei

      “So far though, even with the two coming somewhat out, reconstruction of their lives and putative “mid-sized” neutraceutical consulting business or whatever it is that they do, is murky, though I expect it to be unravelled no later than Monday.”

      They do look shady, but to be honest, it’s most likely that it’s just they do their business off the books, meaning no registration or taxes, it isn’t unheard here in Russia. You don’t have to sell some forbidden sports drugs or other forbidden goods to feel uncomfortable to be looked at, which they will be at some point. So in this case I kind of understand their unwillingness to just explain what exactly they do – they will also have to explain why they aren’t registered as a business and why don’t they pay taxes which may mean severe fees or worse. Add to this that they’re probably closet gays who don’t want to be known as such to their friends and relatives, so right now the guys feel they’re screwed either way and have no idea what to do.

      What our govt should do is offer them full immunity on the condition of full cooperation, that’s if they don’t have anything to do with Skripals that is.

    • John Kerr

      You get close to the truth with some of that comment. I suggest caution when publishing future revelations if your reasoning is of the same quality. Freedom of expression in modern Britain is not what it once was!

      • Igor M.

        Bellingcat was discredited back in what, 2015, yet you would rather trust him, someone who had no training in the area and had background in an entirely unrelated field of finance (and we know how truthful “bankers” are…)? On the other hand, show me one example where Zakharova was demonstrably lying?

          • Charles Bostock

            Yes of course, the only true dissidents are you and the others who post on here. Don’t make me laugh! In many countries and under many regimes true dissidents are usually made to suffer for expressing their views – there is not a single commenter on here who has.

          • Igor M.

            @Charles Bostock,
            just like the Iraqi “dissident” that fed a baked story about Saddam’s chemical program to SIS and they were too eager to believe him because it fit he narrative (confirmation bias, look that one up!) without checking a single fact or watching “the Rock”?

        • Yuliya

          2016.10.22 17:53: 09 Bellingcat is partially funded by the UK Department of defense and is focused on the ukusa special services (Agreement on joint radio — technical intelligence activities of the UK and the US), – stated in one of the messages of correspondence published by journalist Emma Best (c).

    • Tom Smythe

      Yes, bellingcat irrevocably damaged their brand with that bit of mediocre research and analysis.

      • Charles Bostock

        By that criterion, Tom, the ludicrously named “globalresearch” and “voltairenet” websites would have gone off air years ago.

  • francis hocking

    Bang on Craig, the trouble with the media is they don’t like the truth.
    And the word Russian automatically triggers the word hatred. Like you i don’t think the Russians are responsible for the Skripal assault.
    I really think it is more like the Westminster and Trump governments are trying to use it as the excuse to start a war.

    • Borncynical

      francis,
      Agreed. I saw this morning’s ‘Dateline Europe’ (I think it’s called that) discussion on the BBC news channel where they have four international (French, US, UK etc) journalists/commentators pontificating smugly on their insight into current affairs. Their comments about the B&P case? Paraphrasing: “Well who would go to Salisbury when you have the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey etc to see? The interview was a joke set up by Putin – he was having a laugh at us, wasn’t he? That just shows what contempt he holds the UK in, to take us for such fools and to make a joke out of someone else’s misfortune. And [best of all]: Put off by a little snow and slush? Really? Two Russian MILITARY men and they’re put off by snow? Come on.”
      Well there you have it: innocent until proven guilty, or clearly not in the UK.

  • Horst

    I have criticized and even mocked B for their work on Ghouta.
    But this piece of analysis I applause. It’s concrete and verifiable information. A whole lot of people (civil servants of lowest ranks) have access to this database. If that information is genuine, it is 99.9% proof those 2 guys are indeed operatives, and Russia has a lot of explaining (or apologizing) to do.

      • Igor M.

        So, you hand-on-heart believe that, “GRU,” that hasn’t existed for over eight years or so, would issue passports of special sequence (enabling their agents to be lit up anywhere they travel) and all passports would be consecutively numbered??? Did you know that world “gullible” isn’t in the OED at all???

    • Borncynical

      As they pronounced many centuries ago “If that information is genuine, the world is flat”.

    • JB

      I do not know who these two are and what the truth is about them, but I am certainly not going to rely on Bellingcat to inform me about anything.
      Please see: https://thetruthspeaker.co/2016/02/28/eliot-higgins-of-bellingcat-who-is-he-everything-you-need-to-know/

      On another note: this discussion is in a closed circle, however big. All these questions need to be addressed to the UK Gov and other authorities (police, etc). It’s a democratic, free country, right?
      Russia also should provide answers, since there are questions about these two. Why not?

    • Yeah, Right

      “If that information is genuine,”

      It isn’t genuine. Read the Bellingcat article again, and note that their “insider information” regarding the stamp on that document is someone who openly admits has never seen that stamp before and is, therefore, only guessing that it indicates a spy who is under deep cover.

      You may not have noticed that because Bellingcat uses the weasel-word “surmised” instead of “guessed”.

      But it means the same thing: that insider doesn’t *know* what that stamp represents, so he is making up an explanation.

      And as for Bellingcat’s claim that “S.S. is a common abbreviation for sovershenno sekretno ” it is enough to point out that the “source” of that common-knowledge is none other than that very same “insider”.

      Dollars for donuts he is guessing (sorry, “surmising”) here too.

      Bellingcat articles are always riddled with these errors of confirmation bias that allow them to come to a pre-determined conclusion, and this one is a particularly bad example.

      • Tom Smythe

        As Ivan has noted repeatedly, intelligence services do not flag semi-public databases of passports with mark-ups saying which ones are for secret agents. Then invest billions of rubles in deep cover stories and training? Nor do they issue a whole batch of spy passports with consecutive serial numbers. (Note BC skipped over the two intervening.)

        Even people on the blog won’t use GR. It will always be GRU in the West as it is suggests GRUesome. A case though could be made GRrrrr as in snarling dog. Either way, a bunch of commies. (Note Alexandra Elbakyan seems sympathetic to that, she is the only other Russian the educated class here has ever heard of — and very highly regarded as the rare individual who has actually made a big difference.)

        • Yeah, Right

          “Nor do they issue a whole batch of spy passports with consecutive serial numbers.”

          Agreed, Bellingcat’s attempt to use that argument is laughable.

          If we accept (for argument’s sake) that these two Russians are “a couple” then it is perfectly reasonable to “surmise” that they would submit their applications for an international passport at exactly the same time, and therefore that those applications would likewise begin to be processed at the same time, or very close to it.

          Q: Why does Eliot Higgins not consider that?
          A: Because he has a pre-determined outcome in mind, so he lets his bias determine how he interprets his data.

    • S McKay

      That is not fact, absolutely! Why would Russian Intelligence officers be so stupid to use such a ruse? If the public can access this database as Russia has history of being open society, why wouldn’t our intelligence services not change the details to make these two men look criminals? This is not facts and can not be trusted!!

  • Gary Littlejohn

    Craig Murray is entirely correct in his comments here. What is notable is the totally uncritical stance of the UK media regarding the claims by the UK government. When I raised this with the BBC through their complaints website regarding one new programme, I got the standard brush off. Since it was on their website, I cannot reproduce my compalintnhere, bbut on can get the gist of it from the standardized response.

    BBC Response dated 15 Sep to complaint submitted on 14 Sep on the BBC complaints website.
    Thanks for raising these concerns. After checking the report, Annita McVeigh reported that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov said they were just visiting the town. It then included footage of the RT interview with the men as they put their position forward. Sarah Rainsford also provided her analysis on the matter. Dr Andrew Foxall was invited onto the programme to provide a response. This is just one of many views on the story and a single report isn’t reflective of our wider coverage. That said, the report did provide Russia’s view on the matter.
    This is my comment on that response, which focussed on Dr. Foxall’s remarks. I cannot send this in because the BBC email address in question does not accept incoming replies.
    The report did not provide Russia’s views on the matter. It provided part of the fairly hostile RT interview with the two suspects. I do not recall anything on the BBC where the Russian Ambassador to the UK has been allowed to say that one of the 5 accredited OPCW labs (the Swiss One) pointed out that the Salisbury sample provided to them was tainted with another chemical weapons substance that is only produced in the USA. How did that happen? Neither has the Russian Ambassador’s point about the USA having patented a variant of novichok been reported to my knowledge. Furthermore, although a prominent Russian source has reminded us in a Channel 4 News interview that there is a camera opposite the Skripal house, there have been no videos or still photos from that camera released to the public.
    In addition, has there been no public critique on the inaccuracy in the statement on April 13th by the head of the UK intelligence, who said that the novichok was made in Shikhany. As I have pointed out in my complaint, Shikhany never manufactured chemical weapons. It was an R&D facility that was then taken over by the USA in the 1990s (as they did with the chemical weapons testing facility in Uzbekistan) and then demolished. On April 29th, the Daily Mail and Daily Express published stories that Shikhany had been hastily demolished before the OPCW could go and inspect it, implying that this had happened in April this year as part of a cover up. I assume that they got this claim from the UK government. The BBC is showing a similar lack of critical commentary on this story. Has anyone from the BBC been to Shikhany to interview people there about when the facility was closed?
    Given that the late Dr. David Kelly was prominent in the process of ensuring that the Russian Federation was clear of chemical weapons and received OPCW certification to that effect, it seems that the BBC has not checked with the OPCW for their account of that process, including evidence submitted by Dr. Kelly. Unfortunately, Dr. Kelly did not get to Central Asia, and in particular did not inspect the chemical weapons dump that is still there in Central Asia. It is still a hazard since it is unguarded, and so I am not going to reveal its location, since it could conceivably be used for terrorist actions.

    • Radar O'Reilly

      is there any UK group, university department or freedom charity perhaps, who are forensically cataloguing the untrustworthy news anchors who are participating (asume: willingly) in the Skripal charade? If the BBC’s Jack de Manio or Brian Readhead or newer chums are participating unwillingly, then they are surely free to let Craig know, as this is a free society.

      It seems , from my point of view, that the UK media is knowingly telling fairy-stories, however not everyone is doing it, the actual list of ‘gate-keeper’ front-persons (“allowed-list” reporters) and indeed editors for those news outlets that hysterically repeat the anti-personal propaganda is easy to determine. Would require the UK equivalent of French Revolution ‘tricoteuses’ extreme knitters, perhaps Labour / Momentum has already recruited via Mumsnet a crowd of observers, who note-down any mention of the trigger propaganda keywords of the moment – and who/when said it.

      Anti-semanticisim , or Skruplegate, or whatever the meme of the moment, trivial to cross collate mountains of data and then have meaningful words later, following the DNAdams quote “a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.”

      Not that I’m seeking to influence government policy in any way, that might be terrorism after all.
      Greenwald goes further: “jobs over lives” https://www.twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/1039833532582031361/video/1

      • Enquirer

        “If the BBC’s Jack de Manio or Brian Readhead …… are participating unwillingly, then they are surely free to let Craig know, as this is a free society.”
        Craig will have to go to a seance if he wants to hear their views.

    • Tom Welsh

      When complaining to the BBC or any other such organization, I always write my complaint first (in an editor or word processor), then save it and only then copy and paste to the Web form.

      Competent organizations that respect their viewers ask for an email address and copy any communications back to the submitter. The BBC, in contrast, does everything it can to make sending a complaint inconvenient, and then buries it.

    • Tom Smythe

      >>Salisbury sample provided to them was tainted with another chemical weapons substance that is only produced in the USA.

      Please. You can buy 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate online openly and anonymously from any chemical supply house in the world. Post your shipping address and I will order you up a bottle. OPCW has used it for years as a sample control because it is safer than actually salting with BZ which was NEVER REPORTED by Spiez Labor or anyone else.

      • Rowan

        @Tom Smythe: “You can buy 3-quinuclidinyl benzilate online openly and anonymously from any chemical supply house in the world. Post your shipping address and I will order you up a bottle. OPCW has used it for years as a sample control because it is safer than actually salting with BZ which was NEVER REPORTED by Spiez Labor or anyone else.”
        3-quinuclidinyl benzilate is BZ, why do you keep implying it isn’t?
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3-Quinuclidinyl_benzilate

  • chris

    I just found this:

    http://www.wunc.org/post/one-small-nc-city-stands-out-lgbtq-pride#stream/0

    “One Small NC City Stands Out In LGBTQ Pride ”

    and an idea came up:

    The two should come out and tell the world, why the wanted to go to Salisbury. All of a sudden they would have the world wide gay community to defend them. And it would bring the GRU-assassination-accusations to a screaching halt. Imagine Theresa May after Elton John is done with her…

    What about tolerance and human rights for the poor, russian gay men, almost outed by this terrible
    Russian state TV-woman, who shuold well know about the risks and danger they face in their country.

    And now they can’t even go any other place thanks to the Brits pursuing them and threatening to have them arrested as soon as they cross the border.

    Coming out is the only chance they have, and it might help not only them but all homosexuals in Russia. I hope, s.b. is encouraging them, otherwise they won’t get their lifes back.

    • Robyn

      How do you know they’re gay? If they are, does that advance the case that they took deadly nerve agent to Salisbury?

      • PleasebeleafMe

        I think he’s trying to imply that if they were proven gay, jewish ,cat loving peace lovers with terminal ass cancer then they would quickly be absolved of all guilt.

      • chris

        I know, it’s North Carolina, but I heard from friends, that this S. is also interesting for gay people.

        How I know? Because of their reaction to the inquisitive question of Simonyan.

    • bj

      All of a sudden they would have the world wide gay community to defend them.

      There’s quite a bit of bias in what you’re stating here.

  • N_

    Why have Boshirov and Petrov been charged in absentia?

    An arrest warrant does not require a prior charge. Can someone please point to a case in the last 50 years when prosecutors in England or Wales have charged a person in their absence.

    The only legitimate reason I can think of is to proceed to a TRIAL. When a person is charged in their presence, they must be physically brought before a court as soon as possible. But a trial can proceed in absentia. Why haven’t prosecutors gone down this path?

    Given that they haven’t, what is the point of issuing charges?

    • Yeah, Right

      “Why have Boshirov and Petrov been charged in absentia?”
      They haven’t. There are no charges pending before any UK court.

      “An arrest warrant does not require a prior charge.”
      There is no arrest warrant that has been issued against either person in any UK court.

      Read Teresa May’s statements again, where she clearly says that these men would be arrested and charged with a crime *if* they returned to Britain. Which sounds like tough-talk until you consider that these two gentlemen *aren’t* actually in Britain.

      Which means that Teresa May is actually admitting that no charges have been brought before any UK court (apparently she’s waiting *until* they are in Britain to begin that process. Or Hell Freezes Over. Whichever comes first.)

      No arrest warrant
      No criminal charges

      Teresa May has pulled a crude magician’s trick while performing in a theatre of the absurd, and you’ve fallen for it.

  • Sharp Ears

    Kate! You can’t say ‘Broken Britain’. The Tories won’t like that.

    Kate’s mission to rescue kids at risk: Duchess of Cambridge launches her first solo charity campaign to help disadvantaged children failed by ‘Broken Britain’
    Kate believes right support will help disadvantaged children reach potential
    She is bringing together experts from academia, education and health fields
    The 36-year-old duchess says she sees it as a big an issue as climate change
    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6169611/Duchess-Cambridge-launches-solo-charity-campaign-help-disadvantaged-children.html

    ‘The subject is politically fraught, with some blaming Broken Britain on parents and others blaming budget cuts. But sources say the 36-year-old duchess is determined to push ahead because she sees it as potentially as big an issue as climate change. ‘This is a lifelong project,’ said one royal source. ‘She is looking at what she can do over the next five, ten, 15, 20 years. She wants to be able to look back and see what difference has been made. That’s what her position in public life allows her to do.’ ‘

  • Ray

    QUOTE
    Max_B
    September 15, 2018 at 10:17
    Craig Murray: “The Skripals had left their house at 09.15, with their mobile phones switched off so they could not be geo-located. Their car was caught on CCTV on three cameras heading out of Salisbury to the North East. At 13.15 it was again caught on camera heading back in to the town centre from the North West. ”

    I’m not sure what you are talking about with these times here Craig?

    We know the Skripal’s did leave home at just after 13:30 on the 4th March because of this video which has an actual time of 13:33…

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5510871/Chilling-CCTV-shows-ex-spy-Sergei-Skripal-driving-Salisbury.html

    Which was taken from this house on India Ave (just round the corner from Skripal)… Although the timestamp on the video is wrong because the clock was out, the 13:33h timing seems spot on, because Sergei’s BMW was recorded approximately 2 minutes later at 13:35 in Devizes Road heading towards the City center.

    https://www.google.com/maps/dir/51.078512,-1.8142026/51.075962,-1.8136185/@51.0778631,-1.8184017,345a,35y,90h,39.38t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!4m1!3e0

    They may have come and gone at other times earlier in the day too… but if so… either the Devizes Road CCTV, the India Ave CCTV or the Wilton Road Shell Garage CCTV didn’t capture them, or, the CCTV has not been released.”
    END QUOTE

    The video shows the vehicle being driven away from Devizes Road NOT towards it ??

    • Igor M.

      Did you miss this part:
      “At 13.15 it was again caught on camera heading back in to the town centre from the North West.”

      Or are we simply too illiterate to read?

      • Tony

        Need a source for the caught on camera at 13:15. If correct the India ave timing does not make sense

    • Igor M.

      You’re also making a grossly fallacious inference that a video of him driving means that’s when he left home—I drive past my home without calling in, for example! On top of that, you’re completely overlooking that them leaving at 9.15am and turning off phones so as to disable geolocation is an accepted fact…

  • pretzelattack

    hey, the guardian opened up comments on the freedland hit piece. that won’t last long, i predict.

    • pretzelattack

      didn’t take them long to delete my comment. apparently telling the guardian that it can stop catapulting the propaganda about russia hacking the u.s. election and poisoning the skripals if they are interested in the truth violates site policies.

    • Radar O'Reilly

      Not the Guardian this time but the financial times ( a very worthwhile read in this time of BREXIT chaos) says

      https://www.ft.com/content/c7cdcde4-b82e-11e8-bbc3-ccd7de085ffe

      Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service said on Friday that it had worked with Dutch and British partners to foil a plot involving Russian spies who were expelled from The Hague — home to the headquarters of the international chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW…

      The Swiss laboratory in Spiez works on behalf of the OPCW. It has investigated chemical attacks in Syria as well as confirming the UK’s claims that a Russian-made nerve agent, from a family of nerve agents known as novichok, was used in the attack in Salisbury…

      [but did the OPCW REALLY confirm this, we are denied the full report and there were many weasely words from UK and OPCW?]

      The Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service declined to comment on the reports. British security officials also declined to comment on the reports or the statement from the Swiss FIS.

      The news came a day after the two Russians accused by the UK of carrying out the attempted assassination of Mr Skripal appeared on Russian state TV to deny any involvement in the attack — saying they were just tourists.

      Although Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov told RT, an English language news channel, that they had travelled to Switzerland for the new year, it is not thought that they are the same men detained and expelled from the Netherlands a few months later.

      Speaking in Berlin, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said he had no information about the detention.

      “I cannot even imagine that such an event, in which representatives of the three countries participated, could remain out of the media’s view,” he said following talks with his German counterpart. “If any facts are presented to us, we may be able to comment on them.”

      Mr Lavrov added the recent UK accusations against Russia seemed to be motivated by a desire to “turn European partners against us”, and to deflect political pressure raised by Brexit. “This is being done because of Brexit,” he said.

      Russia’s embassy in Switzerland said it was also unaware of the incident.

      “This supposedly happened six months ago. Why did they only write about it just now? That’s very suspicious. They cite anonymous sources. It’s all very questionable,” an anonymous representative told Interfax news service

  • Dish-Washer

    A European arrest warrant has been issued for the two Salisbury suspects. The Government and its intelligence agencies have claimed that the two Russians had passports issued under false names and that they know their real names. Does anyone know, as seems likely, whether the EAW was issued in the names we, the public, know them as, or under their ‘real’ names with Boshirov and Petrov given as aliases? And if the Government has not told us or the Europeans their real names, what was the point, beyond theatrics, of issuing a EAW? If they are GRU operatives, they are hardly likely in future to be travelling around the world under the names Boshirov and Petrov; that would invite arrest. And if HMG has not filled in the real names on the EAW, is that not evidence that its claims they are GRU agents under false names is baseless and this whole brouhaha involving two innocent civilians equally so?

    • Yeah, Right

      “A European arrest warrant has been issued for the two Salisbury suspects.”

      Which is essentially meaningless, since the UK government issues itself that EAW curtesy of the prosecutor’s office.
      No UK court is involved, nor is any EU court.

      So the UK can simply make up any shit it wants in that EAW and it won’t be challenged because the “approver” is the same as the “applicant”. It is a self-licking ice-cream.

      But what is meant to follow next is very different: the EAW is used as the basis for an application for an Interpol Red Notice.

      But the UK government has not applied for an Interpol Red Notice, which in any place other than Crazy World might strike the interested observer as being somewhat puzzling, if not downright bizarre.

      Q: Why hasn’t the UK applied for an Interpol Red Notice?
      A: Because unlike an EAW the application for a Red Notice isn’t a self-licking ice cream.

      The UK government has to actually name names to Interpol and – as you point out – that might present some problems for Teresa May.

      That the UK government has granted itself an EAW but then *hasn’t* applied to Interpol for a Red Notice tells you all you need to know i.e. that this is all a theatre of the absurd, and Teresa May is merely grand-standing.

      • Doodlebug

        You’re good. It compares with the old coin trick (‘it’s going to leave my right hand for my left and then return. There. It’s come back. And you didn’t even see it move’).

  • Muscleguy

    We are clearly being softened up for at the very least a new Cold War with the Russians. Sure Putin is no saint but neither does he have such an iron grip that EVERYTHING which happens in Russia happens at his specific say-so.

    This story smacks of ‘we have fingered the Russians, now look hard, we need some Russians to finger’. I’m with you on the small sample size. I’m not a chemist but chemistry is not biology where we can amplify truly tiny amounts of DNA. With mass spec as the amount decreases so the degree of environmental contamination also goes up and so as you say Craig, An organophosphate at best. They apparently sell sports ‘supplements’ which can constitute a lot of things. Also has the hotel completely denied applying no pesticides of any sort in that room in the last 18months? No treatment for bed bugs for eg? I would be astonished.

    • __alex__

      there is a plenty of that kind of poison in anti insect dog/cat collars. I say it as dog owner.
      …by the way… why they killed scripal’s cat?

    • richard henson

      You may remember that that sort of evidence (“traces” in a car glove box) was used to find Irish people guilty of being involved in an IRA bombing. And do you remember the poor misfit who was found guilty of murdering Jill Dando? Something must have happened to the proud tradition of British justice back in the 1970s. Maybe someone can explain…

      • Dish-Washer

        Maybe if you looked at the Christie serial-killer case and the innocent fellow-lodger (Timothy Evans) who was hanged in Christie’s stead before they caught the latter, or even at the Hanratty case, and most certainly at the famous case of the mass-patient-killer doctor in Eastbourne (Dr Bodkin Adams) who got off the hook thanks to his closet homosexual relationships with a judge and police-chief, you would be less inclined to believe there was a proud tradition of British justice… Except that we British tended to believe we were the best in most fields and were proud of it…

  • James Malley

    Comments sound fair enough after so much hyperventilating over conjectures. I hope the pictures the two took on their trip to Salisbury are produce as promised to show time and dates.

      • Sergei

        If they are gays they are obviously closet ones. It was amazing to see how Boshirov suddenly got all worked up about the idea they might have slept in one bed, starting explaining away things he hadn’t been even asked about (at least it was clear in Russian with no translation).

        • Dish-Washer

          Yes, and the fear that having a female Nina Ricci might suggest to customs they were gay. Actually it’s a great pity they didn’t show RT any photos of themselves at the cathedral. It would certainly have helped their case. The interviewer said they should have lots of photos and they said they took some.

      • Elly

        Not everyone is on facebook or instagram, and the duo are well past their teenage years. I do not have any social media accounts, and am not planning to. This is the only way to protect one’s privacy and personal data.

  • Jack

    LOL @
    “Bellingcat assumes that the men are “officers of a Russian security service” because their Russian passports were issued in 2009, while no records reportedly exist for them prior to this year. The website also consulted “at least two sources” who insisted that “various ‘top-secret’ markings” on the passport of one of the men mean a symbol of “members of secret services or top state operatives.””

    Moscow slams Bellingcat for ‘leaking misinformation’ on Salisbury suspects from special services
    https://www.rt.com/news/438524-bellingcat-skripal-russia-passports/

    • __alex__

      looks like CIA makes statement, that has russian internal databases cracked 🙂
      after all that scandals about “russian hackers”.

    • Yeah, Right

      If you read the article you will see that Bellingcat has only the single “source” for the “mysterious stamp means a deep=cover spy” and the “hand-written SS means Top Secret”.

      But it’s not just that Bellingcat claims two sources when they only have one, but that singular source is openly-admitting that he has never come across that stamp before. Not once. Not ever.

      Or, put another way: Eliot Higgins “insider source” has seen that stamp exactly as many times as Higgins has, which is “never”.

      Or, put yet another way: Eliot Higgins is only guessing about what that stamp means, because his one and only source is also guessing.

      Sorry, not “guessed”. The word Bellingcat used was “surmised”.

      Perhaps greater minds than me can explain the difference, but to my understanding “surmised” is simply a pompous word for “guessed”.

    • S McKay

      The bellingcat report is trash and can not be trustworthy information due to database being a public one with many access points. Not all Russians have passport and use ID card instead.
      The Russian Secret Service wouldn’t be so childish as to oversee this fake process, it must be our military secret service who made it up or hacked russian databases. Our boys are more better equipped to attack the russians and have proved that fact during the Skripal cases.

  • Jude D

    In fairness David Aaronovitch might know more about the GRU than the average guy on the street, he being an ex member of the ardently pro-Soviet “tankie” Communist Party of Great Britain – as was his good buddy Peter Mandelson. Indeed the number of Nulabor hacks of a certain age with Stalinist pasts is quite astounding – many of them seem to have made a seamless transition from championing the Soviet Union to ardently supporting the endless war agenda of the Anglo-American empire.

    • Igor M.

      How is this different from the UK government so concerned about innocent civilians while selling bombs that bomb Yemen after obliteration of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya?

      So you found one hypocritical Russian, BIG F-ing WHOOP, do you think you deserve a medal for spoiling the “evil Kremlin plot,” get real!

    • S McKay

      I don’t think we can trust all indidual in Russia, but one individual does not make the whole nation and the government it democrtically elect all liars. I know of many truthful guys in russia and google can help you find such people. Vladinmir Putin may have lied in the past to proect military people but I trust him more than our own government who are proved to be liars. Just look at Mr David Kelly, he was murdered by our very own goverment to stop secret papers being leaked on the Iraq war case.

  • Jude D

    One has to bear in mind that the entire British corporate media (by its own admission) agreed to suppress information about Prince Harry Windsor’s tour of duty in Afghanistan, on the stated basis that to reveal such information might endanger his colleagues in the armed forces. Thus, for better or worse, the British corporate media (and its western counterparts) see one of their roles as supporting western war efforts by suppressing information that might damage these efforts. You can agree or disagree with these wars, but neutral, impartial sources of information the corporate media most certainly are not.

  • Jude D

    I know folk who firmly believe the former Labour leader John Smith, the former foreign secretary Robin Cook, and the left-wing anti-Blairite trade unionist and political activist, Bob Crow, were all bumped off by the British deep state. Maybe the Russians should conduct investigations into whether there is any substance to any of these claims.

    • Deb O'Nair

      Don’t forget David Kelly. What must also be considered is the number of people that have been bumped off that would not make front page news, I’m thinking of, for example, the mysterious deaths that occurred sometime ago at Marconi, and some low level spook stuffed into a sports bags. There is always a certain level of ambiguity about such cases in order to act as a deterrent to others.

      https://apnews.com/a150a1b0d0403b57c2f44e6ab9503819

    • Charles Bostock

      JudeD

      I know people like that as well. But since it’s you who’s posting and not they, tell us if you share their opinion.

      • Borncynical

        CB

        Why exactly should @Jude D tell you what he/she thinks? That is irrelevant to the point being made.

  • Jgrahamf

    If you want cctv evidence do a google map search of Salisbury cathedral and drop down on the front entrance view. You can do the usual 360 degree view and you will see two stacks of cctv cameras. If you visited this venue you will appear on cctv

    • MaryPau!

      They said in the video that they were surprised none of the CCTV stills released, showed them in the cathedral. If that was their cover story I should imagine they went there.

    • Yeah, Right

      They said they visited, and they expressed surprise that the British authorities haven’t released CCTV footage of them at the Cathedral.

      I think it is a lay-down misere that they are telling the truth about visiting the Cathedral and, furthermore, I would bet very good money that the Metropolitan Police already has that CCTV footage.

      The Russians appear to be doing a double-dog-dare with this: not only are they prodding the police to release CCTV footage from Salisbury Cathedral but they are also claiming that they took their own photos.

      The latter presents a problem for the Police because it prevents them from making a blanket statement that, no, neither of them appeared in any CCTV footage from the Cathedral. The release of just one happy-snap of them standing in front of the Cathedral would then call out the Police as hopeless jokes (at best) or craven liars (at least).

      I know that it is the prevailing opinion that the interview is laughably amateurish, but when you actually read the transcript you can see that there are some very dangerous landmines hidden in there just waiting for the British authorities to step on.

      The did-they/didn’t-they regarding Salisbury Cathedral is one of those landmines.

  • Gary Weglarz

    Theatre of the Absurd being passed off as “reality” by our betters. The only thing that surprises me is how many people are willing to buy into each and every PSYOP promoted by the Western power apparatus. Perhaps to really examine and question the evidence, as Mr. Murray does, is just too psychically dangerous for many. If one comes to “disbelieve” the latest government lies, one might then have to start questioning the whole set of historic lies that have created this teetering house of cards.

    The notion that Russian intelligence operatives lack the necessary skill-set to properly assassinate someone, (with a military grade nerve agent no less), should in fact elicit shrieks of laughter from any sane member of Western society. Instead we get an extended Monty Python episode in which reality is simply suspended and propaganda takes full center stage. The Skripnal affair in the U.K. and Russiagate here in the U.S. prove that for most Western citizens critical thinking is simply no longer possible – so dumbed down and beholden to corporate media propaganda have Western populations become.

  • James Hugh

    Unsure if anybody on here will be able to answer these question…

    Does anybody know if the 2 Russians came to England with hand luggage or did they have larger suitcases in the hold?

    I’m asking that because if they travelled with hand luggage/back pack only, then does anybody know what size the perfume bottle was?

    Bearing in mind it couldn’t contain any more than 100ml or it would have been confiscated…

    Just something that came into my mind and felt it was worth exploring in this game.

    • MaryPau!

      None of it makes sense. Maybe the poison was already here brought in by someone else in their hold luggage. Maybe these guys are just a smokescreen.

      • Tony_0pmoc

        MaryPau!

        “None of it makes sense.” One of your better comments, so don’t fall into the trap, of spending too much time, trying to analyse this nonsense. The Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, recently said something close to, “Well, if I hadn’t grown up in Russia, watching Monty Python, from the BBC, I would have absolutely no idea, how to respond to The British Government doing an extremely good impression”

        He obviously knew The Theresa May one was part of her training – and not faked at all

        “Monty Python – Dead Parrot” (dead cat – one of the best comments yesterday on here) – possibly made by a Russian.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vuW6tQ0218

        Go out to your local pub, that has some live music on – and talk to people and Dance.

        Saturday Night Fever – for you I guess.

        We are going to see some heavy rock.

        Tony

    • N_

      Now that’s interesting. The published photo of the packaging suggests the bottle was a miniature containing 5.5 ml. All containers of liquid taken on as hand luggage are supposed to be put inside a single transparent bag which passengers are told to take out of any other bag it’s in before putting it into a tray to go through the X-ray machine. As I understand it, liquids kept in a suitcase or otherwise put through the X-ray machine by passengers who ignore this instruction are supposed to be one of the things that security staff manning the X-ray machine look out for. The instruction wouldn’t make much sense otherwise.

      And if they did check in any luggage, the time from landing to leaving the airport is unrealistic, right?

      • Borncynical

        N_,
        I note that BA’s website and the Moscow airport website explain the requirements as you describe. One difference in the explanatory notes is that (on exit from the UK) “you may be required to open the items”. The Moscow guidance doesn’t say that specifically but I wonder if they periodically open/test bottles as well. Hypothetical I know, but If that were the case potentially a bit risky if you’re transporting Novichok as a ‘routine’ passenger (as opposed to a diplomat). There’s always the possibility as well of being pulled in on arrival in the UK for a baggage search either randomly or on suspicion so, again, carrying a bottle of Novichok would be risky – at what point would you confess?!

      • Chris

        security screening for liquids is for departing baggage, not arriving – so no impact on “time from landing to leaving airport”

        • Borncynical

          Chris,
          @N_’s point is that if they circumvented the risk of carrying any ‘Novichok’ in hand luggage by putting it in checked-in hold luggage they would have had to go to baggage reclaim on arrival at Gatwick. I have waited up to an hour in the past for the baggage to even start appearing on the conveyor belt. Usually at an airport like Gatwick it would take a good ten minutes at least at quiet times (and remember this was 4.00 on a Friday afternoon so presumably busy) for bags to appear once the passengers start arriving at the baggage collection. Taking account of that and the passport/security checks and the fact that we are led to believe from the CCTV images that B & P had been disembarked, walked to the passport/immigration checks, been checked and would have had to collect their baggage all within 25 minutes would suggest they certainly were unlikely to have travelled with checked-in luggage.

    • Yeah, Right

      If these two really are GRU assassins who were sent to Britain to carry out a state-sanctions hit then they would not attempt to bring their murder weapon with them to pass through airport security.

      Why on Earth do that when there is a risk of a very, ahem, embarrassing baggage check at Gatwick immigration?
      Why do that when the weapon can be safely sent to Britain as diplomatic baggage.

      Send the bottle to the Embassy in a diplomatic bag.
      Send the two assassins to Gatwick and from there to a nondescript doss-house in East London.
      Send an Embassy goon to that temporary safe-house to deliver the bottle.
      Then sit back and watch these two pros strut their stuff.

      That’s how you’d do it i.e. you would do everything you can to ensure that the bottle of poison was not “in-play” until the very last moment.
      You would do everything you could to ensure that the bottle could not be intercepted, and that means NOT PACKING IT IN THE BAGGAGE OF THESE TWO GUYS.

  • Max_B

    I love John Barry’s Bond Music, I also enjoyed what David Arnold later did to them. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the only Flemming book I read, but it was gritty, and one really understood just why Bond, became Bond.

    • John A

      When I was growing up in the 1960s, you had a child’s library ticket under the age of 15. When I was 13 or 14 I tried to check out a James Bond book and the librarian refused claiming it was ‘too adult for me’. On my 15th birthday I got the upgraded library ticket and took out a James Bond book. As I recall, one of the raciest description was of Bond peeling off some woman’s brassiere (yes am sure it was a brassiere not bra) and the brassiere button (still not sure what a brassiere button is) went flying across the room.
      Yep, got to keep such such literature out of the hands of innocent boys.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    RobG,

    I agree.

    They don’t make films like this any more. I don’t know any of the people involved, except a bloke who used to paint their cars. As for the music, yeh, some of it is O.K.

    I think this is one of the most exciting sequences, possibly because I used to regularly wear a parachute at the same time it was made. Unlike my wife, I never actually had to use it.

    “Moonraker”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDdEeDUeUco

    Tony

    • Tony_0pmoc

      I liked Kes too, for similar reasons. I thought why are they filming a documentary at my school? It was actually filmed just over the Pennines in Barnsley. We now know some people from Barnsley. We meet up at old farts Rock Festivals – all over England and Europe. It was almost exactly like this, except I didn’t have a Kestrel…I had a Budgie.

      “Kes – football match”

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9nDHupVqVw

      Tony

  • Dave G

    The Guardian is saying, based upon info from Bellingcat, that the two men have links to the Russian defence ministry. So that sounds like the UK authorities think that Boshirov and Petrov are their real names. Which in turn suggests that they think the Russian government sent these two men to the UK to kill someone using their own passports, which doesn’t sound very likely to me.

    • MaryPau!

      UK government has said on more than one occasion it has intelligence which leads it to believe they are GRU officers who travelled to UK using aliases. However Met police’s Neil Basu is now requesting any sitings or background info and it appears they don’t know their “real” names. So EWAs must have been issued using the aliases. I have an ominous feeling the British authorities are being led into a trap here.

      • N_

        UK government has said on more than one occasion it has intelligence which leads it to believe they are GRU officers who travelled to UK using aliases.

        On 5 September the prime minister made a much stronger statement than simply that intelligence “led her to believe” that these men were GRU.

        Hansard:

        the Government have concluded that the two individuals named by the police and CPS are officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU.”

        She does not say they probably are, or that she is led to believe that they are. She says that they are. If she had any doubt, she lied. And lying to the Commons isn’t just a resignation as PM issue; it’s a Chiltern Hundreds issue.

        • Borncynical

          N_

          I would go so far as to say that have no doubt she is lying, as she has done about so many ‘known’ facts about President Assad’s “heinous” activities in Syria over the years.

    • N_

      Imagine a country that has such a supine press, and a government and a press which have such contempt for the country’s population, that crap about “links to the defence ministry” sourced to an outfit such as Bellingcat makes the news.

      Theresa May told the House of Commons that these two men, Boshirov and Petrov, are GRU. I can tell you something: the GRU is part of the Russian army and it is “linked” to the Russian defence ministry. What is the point of sourcing this “news” to Bellingcat? Is Bellingcat where MI6 got its information from before they briefed the prime minister?

      Never mind this vague stuff. Either MI6 knew that these men were serving in the GRU and briefed the prime minister accordingly, or else either MI6 or the prime minister lied. In any case, it is the prime minister who is responsible for what she says to the Commons.

      • Doodlebug

        If you’re correct about Bellingcat’s being the ultimate source for security data passed to the PM in this instance, then it’s an even more egregious faux pas than Blair’s appeal to an Iraq dossier which was copied from a student thesis posted on the internet.

        • Borncynical

          And I think I’m right in saying that other oral ‘evidence’ of Saddam’s oppressive behaviour in Iraq was sourced from a chat between a solitary taxi driver and a Western journalist in Baghdad.

      • Rowan

        @Blunderbuss: “BZ or 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate is a more likely agent than Novichok. This would explain why most of the victims did not die.” But BZ doesn’t implicate Russia the way the almost entirely fictional Novichok does. If the whole thing was intended simply to frame Russia, then BZ may have been the non-lethal substitute, though the simulation of nerve agent poisoning tests the patriotism of Sergei and (now-defector) Yulia. DS Bailey could administer the BZ spray to them on the park bench. The rest could be fabrication and fantasy.

  • M.J.

    This post is a good reason why I hope that you and your blog are preserved. The world needs people who will help to restrain mobs.

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