When the BBC’s “Salisbury Poisonings” went to air in the UK, it seemed inevitable that it would be screened in Australia, giving us at least a chance to prepare for this new propaganda onslaught. But just as it was “unclear” why the BBC had chosen to screen it in June, or for that matter to produce the “drama based on true events” in the first place, so it was hard to imagine what particular event or circumstance would make the rather ridiculous “Russian Novichok” story relevant again. One might have thought it foolish to remind people of it in case they weren’t so easily fooled a second time round, though for many people in Australia the first time mostly passed them by. “Putin did it again” was about the extent of their memory of the Skripal affair.
But the Salisbury Poisonings did appear, heralded by a flurry of promotional clips – Yulia falling sideways on the park bench – Nick Bailey shouting “do NOT go in that door” – Dawn Sturgess spraying Novichok perfume on her wrist. It was immediately clear that the dramatic recreation of events that may or may not have happened would be more emotionally persuasive than the “true story” – whatever that was.
Recognising that the screening of the drama by SBS TV, on four successive nights from the 24th of August, could make it harder than ever to persuade people the story was a hoax, I wrote to SBS suggesting forcefully that there should be some sort of introduction before the first episode with a caution such as “SBS does not necessarily endorse the position of the UK government on Russian culpability for the use of a nerve agent in Salisbury” – or something of that kind. Naturally my request was accompanied by several thousand words of explanation on why the story could not possibly be true, and observations that the only “true events” it portrayed were those that the unwitting residents of Salisbury actually experienced, in their belief that “Putin’s poison” was out there and might kill them or their children. Broadcasting this dramatization I said, would discredit SBS’ reputation as a reliable news presenter. Or should!
I sent the letter on August 20th, copying it to some parliamentarians and interested parties. That very same day, SBS news carried the story of Alexei Navalny’s “episode” on a flight from Tomsk and claims he had been poisoned, perhaps by something in the tea he had drunk at the airport. The story developed over the weekend with a bizarre twist – that a German plane would fly to Omsk and take him to a hospital in Berlin, following the request of “his family” – which evidently included anti-Putin activist Jaka Bisilj of the Cinema for Peace. Bisilj seems to have a special relationship with the Charite’ hospital in Berlin, where he had taken a Pussy Riot member in 2018. Nevertheless the rapidity of his response to Navalny’s unexpected poisoning was surprising!
This in fact seems to be the nub of it, because Navalny’s sudden collapse, heard though not seen on the plane from Tomsk, appears not just to have been expected but even planned. Rather oddly this was exactly 80 years to the day after the attack on Leon Trotsky “on Kremlin orders”, with an ice-pick. More to the point however is the strange similarity to Jaka Bisilj’s previous “rescue” of Pyotr Verzilov, who claimed he was poisoned by GRU agents in Moscow on September 11th 2018. In that case however, German doctors failed to find any toxins in his system. They knew better this time.
Verzilov had been imprisoned for a protest during the Football World Cup final on July 15, a week after the death of Dawn Sturgess, when anti-Russian sentiment was once again being stoked in the UK. Also coincidentally, Verzilov’s claims of being poisoned by the GRU in Moscow came just days after the “exposure” of alleged GRU agents Petrov and Boshirov as the Salisbury assassins, which the British presented as some sort of “gotcha” moment. When the two guys came forward in a high profile interview on RT, that should have been the end of it, but Western media made mincemeat of them for their unpolished performance and embarrassment at being caught out, while completely ignoring the simple fact of it – as if we could believe Russian secret agents would reveal themselves on TV without even a credible excuse as cover.
The double lives of Petrov and Boshirov – or Mishkin and Chepika as Eliot Higgins has “identified” them, became a key battleground in the “Novichok war” and central to the remarkable disinformation campaign still being run against “the Kremlin” and Vladimir Putin. The whole raison d’etre of the Atlantic Council and NATO friendly network called “EUvsDisinfo” is to spread disinformation about Russian intentions and actions to enable the relentless prosecution of NATO interests and agendas against Russia and her allies. We can reasonably portray this effort as “a conspiracy” – a covert campaign of disinformation which presents Russia as the conspirator, invalidating her attempts to expose Western duplicity and lies.
To choose between these conflicting claims of disinformation one must decide whose conspiracy is more likely, and evaluating “coincidences” may be the only method available. So when it appears that some events have a relation in timing and nature, that shouldn’t be dismissed as “mere coincidence” from either point of view. In this case, CCTV photos showed Petrov and Boshirov walking in Salisbury, looking in a coin dealer’s shop “just minutes after their assassination attempt”, and also showed them walking along Wilton Road, which coincidentally is only a few hundred yards from the Skripal’s house.
It is surprising to realise that the whole credibility – or “incredibility” of the UK’s claims against Russia rests on that single “coincidence”.
The inference that Petrov and Boshirov were heading for Sergei Skripal’s house, where it is alleged they applied Novichok to the door handle, could have been justified by some additional forensic or photographic evidence, but there is simply nothing more to link them to the alleged act (which itself is no more than “hearsay”) than there would be to link some other random members of the public passing in the vicinity of Skripal’s house around that time. Equally, publishing a picture of a Nina Ricci perfume bottle allegedly found by Charlie Rowley four months later, which was either picked up in Queen Elizabeth Gardens after being discarded by the assassins, or found new in its sealed package in a charity bin, does not link the bottle or its contents to the two Russian visitors in any way. There is no “chain of custody”, and barely even a coincidence given the four-month time gap.
So discussion of the toxicity of Novichok, where and whether it was present in Salisbury and who was affected by it, becomes entirely irrelevant if no connection can be made to Russia and the Kremlin.
However, when we consider what coincidences may point to a conspiracy by those making the accusations against Russia, the evidence is considerable. In the case of the – alleged – Salisbury Poisonings, the UK government’s covert objectives were to further its strategic aims from Syria to Crimea, and from the Russian Presidential election in March to the World Cup in June, with the general objective of changing public perceptions of Russia’s actions and of its President. Putin’s dogged pursuit of International Law and Russia’s peaceful interests were a serious roadblock to Imperial expansion and aggressive projects abroad, particularly in Syria.
For months before the Salisbury Operation, there was much focus on the Syrian Army’s drive to liberate the Eastern outskirts of Damascus from their violent Islamist occupiers, portrayed in Western media as a desperate humanitarian crisis needing intervention. Russian military police oversaw the corridors to bring the trapped residents to the safety of Syrian government held territory, while the White Helmets and their terrorist partners set up the scene for the Douma “chemical attack”. While there is some evidence this was planned for mid-March, the establishment of Russia as a state that would use a chemical weapon in Europe cleverly framed Russia to then be portrayed as a willing collaborator with Syria’s “murderous dictator”.
That the whole thing was a pack of lies illustrates the depth of deceit by the US/UK/French-led coalition, which planned it all and then launched a concerted missile attack on Syria. That this pack of lies continues to be told by Western states and their media, despite all evidence that exposes the truth, is the measure of where we now stand, as we face another chemical weapon hoax in the alleged poisoning of Alexei Navalny.
The circumstantial and coincidental connection between the Salisbury Skripal hoax and the alleged Chlorine attack on Douma, events which bizarrely were under discussion at the OPCW simultaneously, as well as in the UK’s Foreign Office, is fairly obvious and one might say “highly likely” to indicate a coordinated operation.
But when it comes to the “Navalnychok” Operation, the circumstances make such a causal connection “beyond reasonable doubt”. While there may be other strategic opportunities from the operation – in Belarus for example – the barely concealed intent to sabotage the Nordstream gas project makes this latest act by the Atlantic coalition a defining moment in the hybrid war on Russia. Not only does the intent to cut Germany’s contract with Russia, pursued by some German politicians and aggressively prosecuted by Mike Pompeo, explain why it was Germany that insisted on rescuing Navalny, but the recycling of the debunked “Novichok” myth further incriminates all those governments who colluded in the UK’s Salisbury hoax.
What remains under suspicion, but unproven, is the degree to which this recycling of the “chemical weapon” by the intelligence agencies of the NATO coalition and their disinformation think tanks was an operation planned before the creation of “The Salisbury Poisonings” in the back offices of the BBC and those of the Institute for Statecraft. How else can we explain the extraordinary coincidence here in Australia that allowed the story of Navalny’s poisoning to feature in SBS news bulletins immediately after the viewers’ heads were filled with the story of the deadly Novichok “contagion” in Salisbury two and a half years earlier?
SBS didn’t act on my request of course, nor reply until mid-September, noting that:
“the series was presented as a dramatisation of the events in Salisbury, which is subject to different editorial standards to our news coverage”. SBS considered that: “Viewers would have understood that the series, while based on true events, was not being presented as reportage”. And “The focus of the series was on the bravery, resilience and, in some cases, personal tragedy of the unsuspecting locals, who were affected by the crisis.
How long before the unsuspecting viewers understand that they have been poisoned?
David lives in Australia, but grew up and graduated in the UK.