MPs and the mainstream media were queuing up last night to blame Russia for the Skripal Nerve Gas incident. This morning’s headline in the Metro was ‘From Russia … with hate.’ Theresa May shot off a letter to the Russian Ambassador demanding an explanation. The BBC reports: ‘The UK has given Russia a midnight deadline to explain why a Russian-made nerve agent was used in the attack.’
The principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ appears to have been suspended. And it is a very Biblical presumption. It is founded on the necessity to find at least two actual witnesses to a crime before any conviction:
Deut 19:15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
The Lord Jesus confirmed this word:
Matt 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
Nerve Gas: what evidence?
So what evidence lies against the state of Russia for the apparent attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia? Alternatively, because a nation state is not an individual, can we argue that rules of evidence may be suspended? However, if the latter is assumed, it could become murky. There are just too many agencies and state players – and political expediencies – to pass definitive judgment.
So what can we say we safely know? What matters are agreed as fact? Furthermore, what is in dispute?
We know Yulia Skripal and her father Sergei were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury. We know they are currently ill in hospital. As Yulia’s concerned friends have pointed out, we know no more than that. What is their condition? We know a policeman, Detectice Sergeant Nick Bailey, was affected by some substance as he responded. He is still in hospital and well enough now to sit up and talk. Or is he ‘seriously ill’? However, we know from the BBC that a doctor who was out shopping attended Yulia and suffered no ill effects from examining her and her father as an ambulance was being called. The doctor has not been identified but said Yulia was “slumped in her seat, completely unconscious.”
Yulia Skripal flew in the day before
Furthermore, the same BBC web page informs us: ‘Yulia Skripal flew into London’s Heathrow Airport on a flight from Russia at about 14:40 GMT on 3 March’. (Yulia lives in Moscow according to her Facebook page. Curiously, no arrivals from Moscow appear to be scheduled to land next Saturday at Heathrow at that time.) The next day, 4th March, ‘at about 13:40 GMT, Mr Skripal and his daughter arrived at the Sainbury’s upper level car park in Salisbury city centre’. After that they ‘went to the Bishop’s Mill pub’. Then they ate at the Zizzi restaurant at 14:20 GMT. They stayed ‘until 15:35 GMT’.
So here is a strange co-incidence. Father and daughter were both found incapacitated the day after she flew in from Russia. If someone intends to kill them both he must know her movements. It would be easy for a Russian agent to find Yulia’s departure time. However, British intelligence could do that as well. But who planted poison in their home? Why have the police given no description of anyone they want to interview? Did no witness see someone loitering around their home? If there was a break-in, why did Mr Skripal not report it to the police?
With the death in New Malden of Russian businessman Nikolai Glushkov, the BBC reports police are appealing for witnesses who saw anything near his home. Yet there has been no police appeal for witnesses who saw anything around the Skripal home.
Or perhaps there is no description or appeal because the police know no other party was involved. In that case, was Yulia carrying something that accidentally went wrong?
Was DS Bailey infected at the Skripal home?
Returning to DS Bailey, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary said: ‘The officer was one of the first responders on Sunday, acting selflessly to help others.’ That is as reported in the Independent (caution: video ad!) ‘The latest update from the hospital is that the officer remains serious but stable and is conscious, talking and engaging.’ Police sources have also been giving the impression DS Bailey became ill because he rushed to help the couple as a ‘first responder’.
However, the Guardian stated this, some days ago: ‘DS Nick Bailey is seriously ill in hospital having visited the home of Skripal after the defector and his daughter were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Sunday afternoon.’
Did DS Bailey attend at the scene or not? And if so, given he is a detective sergeant, in what capacity? Suppose the nerve agent was at the home of Mr and Miss Skripal. Numerous police who attended the scene in ordinary uniforms have not fallen ill, as reported in this story.
No nerve gas on the streets
Yet another Guardian story said:‘Earlier, the home secretary, Amber Rudd, described the use of a nerve agent in a busy city centre as “attempted murder in the most cruel and public way”.’ But if the nerve agent was at the home of the defector, it was not deployed ‘in a busy city centre’. Albeit, we understand traces can adhere to clothing, if the two were in contact with it at their home. And how did that happen? The Guardian also spoke of ‘pressure’ on the government and police ‘for answers’. Nevertheless, few are forthcoming. Why is the Government being so cagey about the evident contamination in the Skripal residence?
According to the BBC on Thursday 16th March, ‘Wiltshire Police said 131 people had been identified as potentially being exposed to the nerve agent – but none has shown any symptoms.’ The head of counter-terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, even said 35 people had been seen by doctors.
But the truth is, there was nothing wrong with any of them. The BBC went on: ‘Salisbury District Hospital has also assessed 46 people who came forward expressing health concerns but they were not admitted.
‘In a letter to the Times, Salisbury NHS Trust emergency medical consultant Stephen Davies said only three people – the Skripals and Det Sgt Nick Bailey – had needed treatment.’
Here is the plain and honest truth. We have seen men in chemical suits, the disruption of Salisbury businesses, and the scaremongering of AC Basu. Despite all that, nobody at all has been affected by a nerve agent in the street. As a more honest policeman might say: ‘There is nothing to see here; move along please’.
On 12th March, Amber Rudd identified the toxin as ‘Novichok’. We only have the word of the UK Government for that. Craig Murray says Porton Down have not identified it as such at all. (Thanks to ‘Off-Guardian’ for that.) On 16th March they said they had sent it to the OPCW. Be that as it may. This substance is one of a family of organophosphates known as ‘nerve agents’. Nerve agents were discovered in the 1930s. This website explains how they work.
Apparently, nerve agents, of which Sarin is the most famous, are relatively easy to make. You take two base materials and mix them. The difficulty, if you are the perpetrator, lies in keeping out of the way of the finished product. New Scientist reports: ‘Andrei Zheleznyakov, a Russian scientist involved in their development, reportedly died not long after being exposed to a small amount that leaked out of a rubber tube in the lab.’
New scientist also tells us Novichok is ‘eight times as deadly as VX, the V-series agent that was used to kill North Korean exile Kim Jong-nam last year. Just 10 milligrams of VX on the skin can be lethal.’ So just 1-and-a-bit milligrams of Novichok will kill you. Yet Sergei and Yulia are still alive, we are told, and DS Bailey is awake.
They quote John Lamb of Birmingham City University, UK: ‘The Novichok family was specifically created by Russia to be unknown in the West and as such it’ll be one of their most tightly guarded secrets.’
But is it? Martin Boland of Charles Darwin University in Australia says: ‘Western intelligence agencies probably have knowledge of the exact Novichok structures, allowing them to detect a match,’ in hospital analysis of enzymes in the body.
How to make nerve gas
This website tells you how to make VX nerve agent, but warns you not to bother. The author also explains why it is unlikely that it was VX used to kill Kim Jong-nam.
Putting it all together, Novichok, meaning ‘newcomer’, was developed in Russia in the 1970s. It was manufactured at a plant in Uzbekistan. So there is a definite ‘Kremlin link’. But the Metro tells us US experts arrived post-Soviet era in 1999 ‘to dismantle and decontaminate the facility’ in Uzbekistan.
The US experts must have left after documenting everything they found. They must know by now how to make Novichok. According to RT, a Russian chemist named Vil Mirzayanov published the formula for Novichok in his book. He now lives in the US. And it would stretching credulity to suppose the clever boys and girls at Porton Down can’t make this nerve agent as well. However, if they can, we can be certain the Home Secretary will not tell us. The fiction that it is a closely-guarded Russian secret suits the narrative.
So there is much here that just does not add up. Above all, there is a great deal about which we have to trust our politicians to tell us the truth. Moreover, since the Dodgy Dossier, that level of trust simply is not there. The Russians have denied they were involved. As even Al Jazeera reports, suggestions of British or US involvement are plausible. Russia’s foreign minister said claims of Russian involvement were ‘rubbish’. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia had been refused access to the substance that was used to poison Mr Skripal. It would not respond to the ultimatum until it was given access.
Needs to be a ‘direct act’
According to RT: Maria Zakharova for the Russian Foreign Ministry called the events in Parliament ‘circus show’. She went on, ‘The conclusion is obvious: this is another information and political campaign, based on provocation.’
Miss Zakharova’s comments came after Mrs May said the ‘attempted murder’ of Skripal was either ‘a direct act by the Russian State against our country, or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.’
But what would Russia have to gain from murdering a double-agent they let go in a spy swap in 2010? And with an easily-identified nerve gas? We do know that in the shadowy world of the ‘spooks’ anything can happen. We also know that there are people in this world who benefit from war and distrust between nations.
According to the BBC, ‘Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said if the attack was shown to be a “direct act” by the Russian state it would be a “clear violation of the chemical weapons convention, a breach of international law and a threat to those who abide by the rules-based international order”.’
There is a big ‘if’ there. And scant evidence of it. The best Mrs May can do is to say it’s “highly likely” Russia was involved. So on no more than a ‘highly likely’ she is setting back diplomatic relations between the UK and Russia. She could also disrupt businesses in both countries with sanctions. This is not statesmanship. Who benefits from such trouble-making if not the warmongers?
The Russian response to the OPCW
Russia was never going to respond to an ultimatum. Furthermore, to give twenty-four hours for a response is quite unreasonable. It is certain the police are still gathering evidence. Not even the Home Secretary has all the facts yet. To act as if they know it all already itself raises suspicions.
But Russia’s Ambassasdor to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons at the Hague has made a statement. We are grateful here to the Off-Guardian website. In a measured response, Alexander Shulgin told the OPCW:
‘… clarifications under the Convention are provided to the requesting member state as soon as possible, but in any case no later than 10 days following receipt of the request. As such, the ultimatum’s demand that information be provided immediately, by the end of today, is absolutely unacceptable.
‘Britain’s allegations that they have everything, and their world-famous scientists have irrefutable data, but they will not give us anything, will not be taken into account. For us, this will mean that London has nothing substantial to show, and all its loud accusations are nothing but fiction and another instance of the dirty information war being waged on Russia.’
How to respond – an object lesson
On Thursday 16th March, Jeremy Corbyn wrote in the Guardian warning against “hasty judgements”, and not to “rush ahead of the evidence”.
Jeremy Corbyn was right to object to the UK’s incursion into Iraq, right over Afhganistan, right to voice concerns about destabilising Libya and Syria. He is right to be cautious now. The Bible says:
Prov 14:29 He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
Contrast Mr Corbyn’s statesmanlike approach with that of our Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, Who says Russian President Vladimir Putin is “overwhelmingly likely” to have ordered the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter. How can you have “overwhelmingly likely”? The Bible warns:
Prov 25:8 Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame.
Even worse is the behaviour of Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Defence. He said Russia should ‘go away and shut up’. As reported by RT, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Gavin Williamson (41) as lacking in ‘upbringing’.
He has a point. The Lord disposed of Mr Williamson’s predecessor, Sir Michael Fallon. Sir Michael’s friends excused his inappropriate advances towards women by saying he was drunk at the time. Instead of a drunk in charge of our defences, we now have a petulant schoolboy. There is so much to pray for here!
Nation shall speak peace unto nation
It is rather sad to find the BBC so often leading the anti-Russia charge. That’s despite this motto chosen by Lord Reith on its coat of arms: ‘nation shall speak peace unto nation.’ It is a reference to a verse from the prophet Micah:
Micah 4:3 And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
That is a millennial prophecy of the just rule of Messiah, the Lord Jesus. Nevertheless, it shows one thing above all. The heart of God is for peace. And if so, those who engage in sabre-rattling in what is supposed to be a time of peace are opposed to the purpose of God.
So let us keep a sceptical eye on what our politicians say and pray that the truth will come out. The words of Jesus himself:
Matt 10:26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.