Skripal saga: 'Trail of reckless evidence' casts doubt over Moscow's involvement, analyst tells RT
If Russian military agents were involved in the Salisbury poisoning affair, they apparently did everything to leave behind a trail of evidence leading British investigators directly to Moscow, a security expert told RT.
UK police on Wednesday identified two people they believe to be responsible for the poisoning attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Prime Minister Theresa May claimed the two were officers of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, citing classified intelligence reports.
The supposedly highly-trained perpetrators did a remarkably poor job of covering their tracks, pointed out Charles Shoebridge, a security expert and a former British military officer.
"It seems very strange that these people have absolutely left what seems to be a very reckless and clear trail of evidence, which almost seems to be designed, or at least would almost inevitably lead to the conclusions that the police and the authorities have come to today, in other words that Russia were to blame," he told RT. "So many mistakes were made, if indeed they were mistakes."
According to the British investigators, the two men came to Britain from Moscow, left traces of the poison used in the attack in the hotel room they stayed in, were caught on CCTV cameras in Salisbury twice, including on the day of the attack and traveled back directly to the Russian capital. The poison used was also linked to Russia in the public perception – a point which was used by the British government to put the blame on the Russian government almost from the start of the investigation.
Shoebridge pointed out that so far there is no publicly-available evidence linking the two suspects to the Russian government and even their nationality may be different, considering that the police themselves say their passports may have been under false names. May's accusations are based on "unverifiable intelligence" rather than evidence.
He added the British investigators must have been pretty frustrated that due to the government's accusation of Russia they could not rely on the Russian law enforcement in their work.
"We know the departure and arrival times of these two individuals. That could have been cross-checked by the Russian authorities on their systems, as to what identifies were used," he said.
"If the British authorities went to the Russian authorities as soon as possible after the instant it happened, it's possible that there would have been a very good chance that video surveillance images could be used to track those individuals back. There could be phone records that these individual used and a whole wealth of evidence and aspects that could have been covered by the Russian investigators."
The latest development in the Skripal case will "add rocket fuel to anti-Russian sentiment that has dominated the thinking of the UK political and media establishment for quite some time now," John Wight, a Britain-based journalist, told RT.
He added that Theresa May, who once again reiterated the claim that Russia orchestrated the Salisbury attack, will try to use it to strengthen her leadership amid a challenge from the opposition. May "will use it as political capital, her government is in crisis, she's been weakened by attacks within her own cabinet," Wight said.
Russia and the UK don't have an extradition treaty, so it is unlikely to see the suspects in court. The only trial that will take place will be done by the media – and Russia has already been found guilty as charged, the journalist said.
Wight referred to Seymour Hersh, an award-winning author and reporter, who earlier said his contacts believe the Skripal case was related to organized crime. Britain harbors a lot of Russian exiles who are called dissidents but are actually criminals, he said, adding that Skripal himself may have been involved with some of them.
Annie Machon, a former MI5 intelligence officer, told RT she found it suspicious and alarming that the inquiry into the Salisbury incident has effectively turned into this trial by media, based on "bits of evidence that may look pretty compelling but will never be tested in a real court of law."
"You know, even if it is finally proven that [the suspects] were GRU officers, there's high probability they may indeed be rogue – how would you know what the thinking was within the GRU?" she suggested, adding British and US intelligence agencies, for their part, do carry out covert operations without proper oversight.
Both Machon and Wight, also wondered what the motive for the attack could be, especially coming just before Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup – an event meant to show the foreign fans how different the country is compared to its stereotypical portrayal in the Western media.
"I said right at the start of this story I can't see what the motive would be for the Russian state [to go for] a former GRU officer who betrayed his country, was caught, imprisoned, released under pardon and swapped in 2010 spy swap," Machon said.
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