'Questions need answering': Academics pull apart UK's Skripal poisoning claims
In response to the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media - made up of British academics specializing in subjects from Russian studies to medical science - concluded that “substantive questions raised need answering, especially given the seriousness of the political situation in the Middle East and UK-Russian relations.”
Among other things, the briefing suggests that:
- It is not seriously disputed nerve agent A-234 can be produced in any advanced lab.
- The failure of the assassination attempt suggests the perpetrators lacked competence of state-directed assassins.
- No other attempted assassinations of defectors from Russian intelligence services have been recorded.
Professor Paul McKeigue from the University of Edinburgh, Professor David Miller from the University of Bath, and Professor Piers Robinson from the University of Sheffield compiled the ‘briefing note’ exploring the finer details of the Skripal case and the A-234 poison that was reportedly used on them.
Explaining their interest in the case Co-convenor of the group, Robinson, told RT: "Our initial attention was drawn to the possible propaganda dimensions of the Skripal incident and possible connections with the ongong and tense situation in the Middle East, especially Syria. This potential connection, in terms of the potential exploitation of the Skripal incident as part of a propaganda campaign in relation to Russia, couple with relevant knowledge re chemical and biological weapons, led us to examine the Skripal case."
The note reads: “The UK government’s case against Russia, stated in a letter to NATO, is based on asserting that ‘only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals."
“The police statement that the Skripals were exposed through contact with their front door is implausible as there are no known nerve agents that cause onset of symptoms delayed by several hours, and it is improbable that absorption through the skin would cause both individuals to collapse later at exactly the same time,” the paper says.
“No data on the toxicity of A-234 [also referred to by the UK Government as Novichok] are available in the public domain,” the paper said, also pointing out that “similar compounds” have been synthesized by national chemical defense labs in Russia and the USA in the 1990s, and “more recently in Iran and Czech."
The Working Group also argues that, as any organic chemist with a modern lab “would be able to synthesize bench scale quantities of such a compound” like A-234, “it is therefore misleading to assert that only Russia could have produced such compounds.”
The group, recently slammed by the Times for questioning the accepted narrative on the alleged chemical attack on the Syrian city of Douma - which is still to be proven - questioned whether there was reasonable motive.
“It is alleged that Russia has a track record of state-sponsored assassination, but this is not enough to support the assertion that ‘only Russia’ could have enough experience to attempt unsuccessfully to assassinate two unprotected individuals,” the academics pondered in their briefing note.
“No other attempted assassinations of defectors from Russian intelligence services have been recorded,” the paper said. “Even if such an assassination campaign had been ordered, the Russian state would have good reasons not to initiate it in the first half of 2018”... such as the Russian election that was weeks away at the time of the Skripal attack.
Sergei and Yulia were discovered slumped on a bench at the Maltings Shopping Centre in Salisbury on March 4, after they were apparently poisoned with A-234 nerve agent, also known as Novichok.
The father and daughter were left in a serious, life-threatening condition in the weeks that followed. Yulia, 33, was discharged from hospital last month and is now understood to be living under the protection of the UK government. Sergei, 66, is understood to still be a patient of Salisbury District Hospital.
Russia has vehemently and repeatedly denied being behind the attack in Salisbury.
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