As the UK issues pictures of two men wanted in the Skripal poisoning case, the Kremlin’s denials look ever more implausible and Alex Salmond needs to realise he must quit his show on Russia Today.
It should have been fairly obvious from the outset who was behind the attacks on Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and British police officer Nick Bailey.
No one else had a combination of the motive – revenge against a former Russian spy who gave secrets to the West – the means – not too many criminals have access to nerve agents like Novichok – or the previous form of similar attacks, such as killing Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in London with a radioactive material and, almost certainly, the poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, the former president of Ukraine.
The use of polonium-210 against Litvinenko was widely seen as a way of sending a message that Russia was responsible without a public admission, as acquiring enough of it to kill someone would need a sophisticated laboratory and a nuclear reactor. There was an echo of this strategy in the use of Russian-made Novichok. It is a tactic known as “implausible deniability” and one that the Kremlin has also employed over the allegations of election tampering in the US, according to former US national security adviser H R McMaster.
The Russian reaction to the accusations by the UK Government was to issue threats, invent laughable conspiracy theories and make bad jokes. This is not behaviour expected of an innocent party, rather it smacks of a bully who believes they will escape any kind of punishment. But the wheels of British justice are turning with the police and security services turning up hard evidence in the case, which is also linked to the later death of Dawn Sturgess and the serious illness of her partner Charlie Rowley. The Metropolitan Police and Crown Prosecution Service now say there is enough evidence to charge two men, known as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, believed to be officers in Russian military intelligence.
Given all these facts, it is beyond comprehension that anyone from the UK would seek to aid the propaganda machine of the Russian state, so Alex Salmond, who hardly has his troubles to seek, should now resign from his Russia Today show – a sentiment expressed yesterday by the SNP’s House of Commons’ leader Ian Blackford.
If the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine wasn’t a big enough clue, Putin’s Russia is a hostile rogue state, prepared to use military force, murder and fake news against peaceful, democratic nations.