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Salisbury poisoning unleashed Russian bogeyman ... but where are the Skripals 2 years on?

Simon Rite
Simon Rite

is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites

is a writer based in London for RT, in charge of several projects including the political satire group #ICYMI. Follow him on Twitter @SiWrites

Salisbury poisoning unleashed Russian bogeyman ... but where are the Skripals 2 years on?
Forget Where’s Wally, what we really want to know is where are the Skripals? It’s exactly two years to the day since the Russian spy and his daughter were novichoked in Salisbury, and we’ve still not seen hide nor hair of them.

Former double agent Sergei has been completely off-grid, while Yulia Skripal was seen in a highly staged video in 2018, filmed in an anonymous but pleasant leafy glade shortly after recovering from her poisoning ordeal; but, apart from that, there has been no statements or updates about them at all.

The most recent piece of ‘information’, and I use that term loosely, to leak out about their whereabouts came this weekend from Britain’s Mail on Sunday, courtesy of a source which became ubiquitous throughout the Skripal saga, the reliably unreliable “security insiders.”  It’s always amazing how willing these apparent insiders are to release top-level secrets to the home of the “sidebar of shame.” 

The latest speculation from ‘security insiders’ is that the Skripals are hoping to head for a new life down under in Australia after “effectively living under house arrest since the attack.”  This means either those insiders are the leakiest spies in the world, or the Skripals are going to be nowhere near Australia anytime soon.

The house arrest must be at Julian Assange in Belmarsh levels of security, because even the Skripals’ family in Russia say they haven’t heard from them in months.

So all quiet on the Skripal front and, frankly speaking, it’s all quiet on the geopolitical front, too, and in the media. The disputed events of March 4, 2018, over poisoned spies and their aftermath formed the biggest story on the planet, and not just because the whole world finally started paying attention to the majesty of Salisbury cathedral’s glorious 123-metre spire.

This incident seemed like it might have genuine life-changing political consequences. Britain entered the phrase “highly likely” into the lexicon of geopolitics, and [then-PM] Theresa May’s declaration that it was “highly likely” that the Kremlin was to blame was deemed strong enough to see the West turn en masse against Moscow, and Russian diplomats and ‘diplomats’ were expelled by the dozen, by London and its allies across the world. It seemed the bar for state-to-state accusations had been lowered.

Russia to this day denies involvement in what happened in Salisbury.  

So what has changed? If anything, all that has changed over the last two years is a desire to get back to business, to rebuild ties and move on. Some of those expelled diplomats have reportedly moved back

French leader Emmanuel Macron is pushing hard for relations between the West and Moscow to be repaired, something Germany needs little encouragement for.

Britain is still pretending to be in a huff, but British imports of Russian oil were up 57 percent last year, so realpolitik reigns supreme in London, as ever. 

Boris Johnson is now the prime minister and with a thumping majority doesn’t need to use bogeyman Russia as a tool to look strong quite as much as his predecessor did.  Johnson and Putin even met in January and there are reports the prime minister is considering an invitation to attend a second world war commemoration parade in Moscow this May. 

And as for the media, it’s all gone quiet there, too. Skripal coverage is about as common in the mainstream now as coverage of Julian Assange’s imprisonment. He’s a journalist whose supporters say is ‘highly likely’ a victim of a demonstrable state campaign against him because he attempted to uncover the misdeed of power. However, a boring attack on free speech is nowhere near as exciting as a poisoned spy, is it?!

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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