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Sun04Mar MI6 Russian Sergei Skripal, Salisbury nerve agent?
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Whitehall_Bin_Men
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Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Posts: 2317
Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.

PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2018 8:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DIS remain rather more attached to the truth than MI6, so when Defence Minister Gavin Williamson tweeted out a thrilled endorsement of Bellingcat’s work on Colonel Chepiga, DIS urgently advised that he delete it. Which he did.
https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/09/spy-games/

Which is not to say DIS are sure it is not Chepiga; rather they believe – as would anyone with half a brain – that the Bellingcat photo falls a long way short of proof. The British security services have been unable to stand up the ID with facial recognition technology. The experts are describing the Boshirov/Chepiga identification as “possible”.

I have this information from an impeccable Whitehall source, who told me there is a concern in the security services that runs like this. They genuinely believe Boshirov and Petrov are GRU agents and the would-be assassins. (I judge that my source themself believes the security services really do think this). Bellingcat, while they are sometimes fed security service material, did not in fact get fed the Chepiga material by the CIA or MI6, whether or not through a cutout. The security services are worried the Chepiga ID may be a blind alley fed to Bellingcat’s sources by the FSB. If the UK government endorses it, this could be followed by the Russians producing Chepiga and apparently discrediting the entire British narrative.

Hence the fact no charge has been laid against Chepiga, and the charges are still in the name of “Boshirov”, plus the fact that no British minister or official has named Chepiga, with only the fool Williamson stepping out of line and being slapped down.

Please note I am not endorsing the views and beliefs of the British intelligence services; I am reporting them.

Russia is fascinating at the moment. Komsomolskaya Pravda reports Ministry of Interior identification experts unofficially endorsing the Chepiga/Boshirov identity. Now there is no way these experts in the Ministry of the Interior – who would not be hard for the authorities to single out – would have done that for Komsomolskaya Pravda without an official nod. Either the Russians are indeed egging on the British into a false identification, or some inter-agency rivalry is afoot in Russia. This follows on the very open report in Kommersant – which is very close to Putin – that opinion was divided in Chepiga’s home village.

None of which brings us an awful lot closer to the truth of what happened in Salisbury, which I suspect is a great deal more complicated than any official narrative. But it is a fascinating peek into a shadowy world most people never see inside, with which I was once familiar.

_________________
--
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
http://aangirfan.blogspot.com
http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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Whitehall_Bin_Men
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter


Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Posts: 2317
Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2018 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By far the best piece on this story so far, from the experts

Whitehall_Bin_Men wrote:
SKRIPAL CASE: ISRAELI EXPERT ON THE WORK OF THE SPECIAL AGENTS
Date of publication: 28 09 2018, 12:05
https://en.news-front.info/2018/09/28/skripal-case-israeli-expert-on-t he-work-of-the-special-agents/

An Israeli expert on international terrorism, writer Alexander Brass, shared his view on the case of the Skripals poisoning in Salisbury. Brass draws parallels between the work of the special services of Israel and Russia – he believes that if to compare the British version with the practice of the special agents, then the absurdity becomes obvious.
“Alexander, so what, in your opinion, happened in Salisbury?”
-There was a rough provocation by the British special services. In my opinion, this is obvious.
– Why do you think so?
“There’s a lot of stupidity on stupidity.” The story with Petrov and Boshirov does not hold up any professional peer review. According to the Brits, the Skripals were poisoned by GRU agents (this is what the department is called, although this is now the Main Directorate of the RF General Staff).
I want to explain how the special services work. If you need someone to eliminate, then this is a very serious operation, which is being prepared for a long time. A very significant material and human resource is allocated. We are talking about dozens of employees. On the territory of this state, an “advanced command post” is being created.
In the operation, a technical support group, a logistic group, a cover group, an external surveillance group and a group of performers are involved.
The performers themselves appear at the very last moment. They do not go anywhere, lighting up on cameras, do not use public transport, but move on rented cars, which they do not rent themselves. And the more they will not stop in hotels, but will live on safe houses provided by the logistics group.
Such groups do not come under the passport of their country, do not go to the embassy for obtaining a visa, leaving fingerprints. This is complete nonsense. Professionals do not work that way.
If the GRU acted, both the killers and the other participants in the operation would come to the UK on the passports of other countries that have visa-free relations with it. Here, two alleged GRU officers go to the embassy, ​​leave their fingerprints there, get a visa, stop at the hotel, pass under all the cells. This you will not find even in ladies’ detective novels.
– Maybe it is unprofessionalism associated with the degradation and decay, which after the collapse of the Soviet Union took place in all structures and institutions of society, including in the special services? Lost skills, methods, no one to teach young people. There is such an opinion.
– This is an opinion at the level of kitchen conversations. Where did the armed forces and the military-industrial complex of the Russian Federation manage to raise such a “bardak” to such a level as they could organize the World Cup and the Olympics at such a high level? The GRU has always been and remains one of the most professional and most intelligent intelligence agencies in the world.
If the GRU decided to eliminate Skripal, then I have a question: why was the “Novichok” used? This is not a remedy, it’s a chemical weapon of mass destruction. It’s like dropping an atomic bomb on a city to kill one criminal. When special services eliminate an object, they always try to do it so that no autopsy shows that he was poisoned.
– Can you give examples?
– I can give many examples. In 1978, the well-known international terrorist Vadia Haddad, one of the founders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was killed. “Mossad” did not take responsibility for this, but sewed in a bag you can not hide. A potent biological poison was mixed with chocolate. Within three months he died of a painful and incomprehensible illness in the GDR clinic. His autopsy was conducted at the University of East Berlin. No trace of poison was found. The doctors assumed that he died of leukemia.
– How did you know that he was killed by Mossad?
– Information about this began to leak a few years ago. It came from Algeria. One of the former Mossad agents during another trial gave evidence that he witnessed how this happened, calling the specific names of the performers. This man also confirmed that he was a participant in this operation. This information was also confirmed by other, non-overlapping sources.
– Were there any cases when the Mossad operation ended unsuccessfully and the enemies of Israel were still alive?
– Take the last unsuccessful attempt of the Israelis to kill Khaled Mashaal, one of the leaders of the terrorist organization Hamas. He would have been killd if he had not been given an antidote at the last minute.
Everything happened on September 25, 1997 on one of the streets of Amman – the capital of Jordan. Just some passer-by, who was next to Mashaal, “accidentally” stumbled and splashed the liquid from the can of Coke to his neck. The next day Mashal would have died of a heart attack, and no traces. But the performers were seized on the spot. After that, the King of Jordan Hussein demanded that Israel provide an antidote, and in return promised to release Israeli agents.
– That is, substances that leave no traces are not detected by expertise and imitate death from the disease, the secret services have long been known?
– That’s it. Could the GRU not have been able to use some other poison, and not the “Novichok”, which leaves traces everywhere? If such technologies were in the special services already in the 1950s, do not the GRU have them today?
Let’s talk about the cameras. The UK on this some kind of fad. In no country in the world there is such a number of surveillance cameras per capita.
If I’m not mistaken, about one camera for 15 people. Literally every meter is looked through. MI5, the British counterintelligence service, is considered one of the best in the world. And if Britain took care of Skripal, he was very well guarded. At least his house was hung with all the cameras, which are only possible.
If, according to MI5, these agents visited Salisbury, they came to the house of Skripal and coated the door handle with this substance – so show the records from the cameras! How can it be that it was at this point that the cameras suddenly turned off?
“But maybe these agents found the cameras and turned them off?”
“If you say that the GRU has deteriorated so badly that it has lit up everywhere and left its mark, why did this degraded intelligence agency manage to turn off the surveillance cameras near the Skripal house at the right time?” Where is the logic?
– When our agents killed the Chechen terrorist Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar, they got caught and were captured by the local police. True, they carried out the task …
“And how many Israeli agents were arrested?” This does not mean degradation. I do not know what happened after the collapse of the USSR in the GRU, but I know what happened in the Foreign Intelligence Service, since I had been friends with one of the very high-ranking officers of this service for many years in retirement. We had very close, friendly relations with him for many years. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago.
He told me that the degradation of the special services is only an appearance. He retired, because he already had years of service and he did not agree with the mess that was going on in the country. But there was no mess in the secret services! Who wanted to – left. But was there a leak of information? Have they discovered an agent network? Agents of Soviet special services worked all over the world. Have any of them suffered? No one. The mess can be anywhere, but not in the special services.
– Let’s admit. All this really looks strange – first let out Skripal, then kill him. Would not it be easier to just leave him in jail?
– Now about the personality of Sergei Skripal himself. The main version, which is voiced by the British side, is revenge. But in special services there is no such thing as revenge. Neither the Israelis, nor the Russians. Only the Cubans had it. We must understand that the special services are a very practical organization. Why revenge? A person is eliminated only when he can cause real harm. The Skripal has already done harm. He could not do more harm.
– For example, as a lesson to other potential traitors, no?
– No. I once asked my acquaintances who worked in your special services (I have never had any contact with active staff, only with retirees): “Why did not Kalugin be killed?” And they answered me with a counter question: “Why haven’t you eliminated the defector? “I said: he has already done harm. To eliminate him, it is necessary to develop a very serious operation, to send people, people should risk their lives. For the sake of what – for the sake of revenge? They say: “For the same reason, we do not touch Kalugin and do not touch anyone.” Israelis are not even exterminated by former terrorists. At the moment when the terrorist stops terrorist activities, regardless of what he did before, he is left alone. The only ones who were persecuted to the end were Nazi criminals.
– There is an opinion that he was eliminated because he taught at the counterintelligence school and taught young employees how to deal with the GRU.
– And what, in MI5, except for Skripal, no one knows how to do it? I think they know it better than him.
– In such cases, there is a very simple practice. When Skripal was taken on treason, he probably was intelligibly explained: either you go to life imprisonment and you will be in solitary confinement somewhere beyond the Arctic Circle, or you will receive 12 years of strict regime in the European part of Russia. But for this, you must fully tell what you have handed over, and give evidence. To cooperate with the investigation.
Similarly, when the former colonel of the Defense Intelligence of Israel’s Defense Intelligence Department, I did not name him, went into business and got into debt.
He went to Lebanon to buy heroin and conduct a drug deal, and was captured by Hezbollah. He told everything he knew, inflicting enormous damage to Israel’s defense capability. Because he was an officer on this site, he worked for Lebanon.
The Israelis exchanged him, they pulled him out. He was told: let’s make a deal. You will not be prosecuted. But you must thoroughly, in every detail, tell what you told them. We need to know what they know. The same was with Skripal. And there was simply no need to eliminate him.
– So there was no motive for Russian special services?
– There was no motive. Then, imagine: they used “Novichok”, they carried it with them in a bottle from under the perfume. In the practice of special services this does not exist. Performers go light, with other people’s passports. They receive weapons on the spot. And when such a group of liquidators works, it works autonomously, without affecting the local residency. In case of failure, do not harm the residence. When the surveillance is working and the capture team is working, they do not know each other in person, they communicate only through certain communication channels.
– The question is also why the poison did not act instantly, and Skripal was still wandering about for a few hours.
– It’s a different matter. The British are so disrespectful to Russia that even provocation can not be done at a decent level. It’s even humiliating. Therefore, Russia does not comment on this in any way. And why is it necessary to comment on some kind of nonsense?
It took half a year to Brits to find the “suspects.” Although they left their full personal data and fingerprints in the embassy when they received visas. This is a separate nonsense. Then Russia said: please! Here they are, here’s their interview. If they were active GRU officers, they would not have left their fingerprints in the embassy for anything.
“Who are they?”
– I do not know who they are, but certainly not employees of special services. If the GRU needed to kill Skripal, he would now be dead. This would have been done quietly and without scandal.
“Why Britain needs this?”
– This is a well-thought-out strategy of demonization and international isolation of Russia. In the UK, as in the rest of the Western world, everything works very simply. Most people do not read newspapers at all. And those who read, do not understand half. But everyone sees the headlines. Provocation with the Skripals is needed to exclude the Russian Federation from the Commission for Investigating the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria. This is a minimum program.

Tags: EU; Russia; Skripal case; UK

_________________
--
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
http://aangirfan.blogspot.com
http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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Whitehall_Bin_Men
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter
Trustworthy Freedom Fighter


Joined: 13 Jan 2007
Posts: 2317
Location: Westminster, LONDON, SW1A 2HB.

PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2018 3:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

By far the best piece on this story so far, from the experts

Whitehall_Bin_Men wrote:
SKRIPAL CASE: ISRAELI EXPERT ON THE WORK OF THE SPECIAL AGENTS
Date of publication: 28 09 2018, 12:05
https://en.news-front.info/2018/09/28/skripal-case-israeli-expert-on-t he-work-of-the-special-agents/

An Israeli expert on international terrorism, writer Alexander Brass, shared his view on the case of the Skripals poisoning in Salisbury. Brass draws parallels between the work of the special services of Israel and Russia – he believes that if to compare the British version with the practice of the special agents, then the absurdity becomes obvious.
“Alexander, so what, in your opinion, happened in Salisbury?”
-There was a rough provocation by the British special services. In my opinion, this is obvious.
– Why do you think so?
“There’s a lot of stupidity on stupidity.” The story with Petrov and Boshirov does not hold up any professional peer review. According to the Brits, the Skripals were poisoned by GRU agents (this is what the department is called, although this is now the Main Directorate of the RF General Staff).
I want to explain how the special services work. If you need someone to eliminate, then this is a very serious operation, which is being prepared for a long time. A very significant material and human resource is allocated. We are talking about dozens of employees. On the territory of this state, an “advanced command post” is being created.
In the operation, a technical support group, a logistic group, a cover group, an external surveillance group and a group of performers are involved.
The performers themselves appear at the very last moment. They do not go anywhere, lighting up on cameras, do not use public transport, but move on rented cars, which they do not rent themselves. And the more they will not stop in hotels, but will live on safe houses provided by the logistics group.
Such groups do not come under the passport of their country, do not go to the embassy for obtaining a visa, leaving fingerprints. This is complete nonsense. Professionals do not work that way.
If the GRU acted, both the killers and the other participants in the operation would come to the UK on the passports of other countries that have visa-free relations with it. Here, two alleged GRU officers go to the embassy, ​​leave their fingerprints there, get a visa, stop at the hotel, pass under all the cells. This you will not find even in ladies’ detective novels.
– Maybe it is unprofessionalism associated with the degradation and decay, which after the collapse of the Soviet Union took place in all structures and institutions of society, including in the special services? Lost skills, methods, no one to teach young people. There is such an opinion.
– This is an opinion at the level of kitchen conversations. Where did the armed forces and the military-industrial complex of the Russian Federation manage to raise such a “bardak” to such a level as they could organize the World Cup and the Olympics at such a high level? The GRU has always been and remains one of the most professional and most intelligent intelligence agencies in the world.
If the GRU decided to eliminate Skripal, then I have a question: why was the “Novichok” used? This is not a remedy, it’s a chemical weapon of mass destruction. It’s like dropping an atomic bomb on a city to kill one criminal. When special services eliminate an object, they always try to do it so that no autopsy shows that he was poisoned.
– Can you give examples?
– I can give many examples. In 1978, the well-known international terrorist Vadia Haddad, one of the founders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), was killed. “Mossad” did not take responsibility for this, but sewed in a bag you can not hide. A potent biological poison was mixed with chocolate. Within three months he died of a painful and incomprehensible illness in the GDR clinic. His autopsy was conducted at the University of East Berlin. No trace of poison was found. The doctors assumed that he died of leukemia.
– How did you know that he was killed by Mossad?
– Information about this began to leak a few years ago. It came from Algeria. One of the former Mossad agents during another trial gave evidence that he witnessed how this happened, calling the specific names of the performers. This man also confirmed that he was a participant in this operation. This information was also confirmed by other, non-overlapping sources.
– Were there any cases when the Mossad operation ended unsuccessfully and the enemies of Israel were still alive?
– Take the last unsuccessful attempt of the Israelis to kill Khaled Mashaal, one of the leaders of the terrorist organization Hamas. He would have been killd if he had not been given an antidote at the last minute.
Everything happened on September 25, 1997 on one of the streets of Amman – the capital of Jordan. Just some passer-by, who was next to Mashaal, “accidentally” stumbled and splashed the liquid from the can of Coke to his neck. The next day Mashal would have died of a heart attack, and no traces. But the performers were seized on the spot. After that, the King of Jordan Hussein demanded that Israel provide an antidote, and in return promised to release Israeli agents.
– That is, substances that leave no traces are not detected by expertise and imitate death from the disease, the secret services have long been known?
– That’s it. Could the GRU not have been able to use some other poison, and not the “Novichok”, which leaves traces everywhere? If such technologies were in the special services already in the 1950s, do not the GRU have them today?
Let’s talk about the cameras. The UK on this some kind of fad. In no country in the world there is such a number of surveillance cameras per capita.
If I’m not mistaken, about one camera for 15 people. Literally every meter is looked through. MI5, the British counterintelligence service, is considered one of the best in the world. And if Britain took care of Skripal, he was very well guarded. At least his house was hung with all the cameras, which are only possible.
If, according to MI5, these agents visited Salisbury, they came to the house of Skripal and coated the door handle with this substance – so show the records from the cameras! How can it be that it was at this point that the cameras suddenly turned off?
“But maybe these agents found the cameras and turned them off?”
“If you say that the GRU has deteriorated so badly that it has lit up everywhere and left its mark, why did this degraded intelligence agency manage to turn off the surveillance cameras near the Skripal house at the right time?” Where is the logic?
– When our agents killed the Chechen terrorist Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev in Qatar, they got caught and were captured by the local police. True, they carried out the task …
“And how many Israeli agents were arrested?” This does not mean degradation. I do not know what happened after the collapse of the USSR in the GRU, but I know what happened in the Foreign Intelligence Service, since I had been friends with one of the very high-ranking officers of this service for many years in retirement. We had very close, friendly relations with him for many years. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago.
He told me that the degradation of the special services is only an appearance. He retired, because he already had years of service and he did not agree with the mess that was going on in the country. But there was no mess in the secret services! Who wanted to – left. But was there a leak of information? Have they discovered an agent network? Agents of Soviet special services worked all over the world. Have any of them suffered? No one. The mess can be anywhere, but not in the special services.
– Let’s admit. All this really looks strange – first let out Skripal, then kill him. Would not it be easier to just leave him in jail?
– Now about the personality of Sergei Skripal himself. The main version, which is voiced by the British side, is revenge. But in special services there is no such thing as revenge. Neither the Israelis, nor the Russians. Only the Cubans had it. We must understand that the special services are a very practical organization. Why revenge? A person is eliminated only when he can cause real harm. The Skripal has already done harm. He could not do more harm.
– For example, as a lesson to other potential traitors, no?
– No. I once asked my acquaintances who worked in your special services (I have never had any contact with active staff, only with retirees): “Why did not Kalugin be killed?” And they answered me with a counter question: “Why haven’t you eliminated the defector? “I said: he has already done harm. To eliminate him, it is necessary to develop a very serious operation, to send people, people should risk their lives. For the sake of what – for the sake of revenge? They say: “For the same reason, we do not touch Kalugin and do not touch anyone.” Israelis are not even exterminated by former terrorists. At the moment when the terrorist stops terrorist activities, regardless of what he did before, he is left alone. The only ones who were persecuted to the end were Nazi criminals.
– There is an opinion that he was eliminated because he taught at the counterintelligence school and taught young employees how to deal with the GRU.
– And what, in MI5, except for Skripal, no one knows how to do it? I think they know it better than him.
– In such cases, there is a very simple practice. When Skripal was taken on treason, he probably was intelligibly explained: either you go to life imprisonment and you will be in solitary confinement somewhere beyond the Arctic Circle, or you will receive 12 years of strict regime in the European part of Russia. But for this, you must fully tell what you have handed over, and give evidence. To cooperate with the investigation.
Similarly, when the former colonel of the Defense Intelligence of Israel’s Defense Intelligence Department, I did not name him, went into business and got into debt.
He went to Lebanon to buy heroin and conduct a drug deal, and was captured by Hezbollah. He told everything he knew, inflicting enormous damage to Israel’s defense capability. Because he was an officer on this site, he worked for Lebanon.
The Israelis exchanged him, they pulled him out. He was told: let’s make a deal. You will not be prosecuted. But you must thoroughly, in every detail, tell what you told them. We need to know what they know. The same was with Skripal. And there was simply no need to eliminate him.
– So there was no motive for Russian special services?
– There was no motive. Then, imagine: they used “Novichok”, they carried it with them in a bottle from under the perfume. In the practice of special services this does not exist. Performers go light, with other people’s passports. They receive weapons on the spot. And when such a group of liquidators works, it works autonomously, without affecting the local residency. In case of failure, do not harm the residence. When the surveillance is working and the capture team is working, they do not know each other in person, they communicate only through certain communication channels.
– The question is also why the poison did not act instantly, and Skripal was still wandering about for a few hours.
– It’s a different matter. The British are so disrespectful to Russia that even provocation can not be done at a decent level. It’s even humiliating. Therefore, Russia does not comment on this in any way. And why is it necessary to comment on some kind of nonsense?
It took half a year to Brits to find the “suspects.” Although they left their full personal data and fingerprints in the embassy when they received visas. This is a separate nonsense. Then Russia said: please! Here they are, here’s their interview. If they were active GRU officers, they would not have left their fingerprints in the embassy for anything.
“Who are they?”
– I do not know who they are, but certainly not employees of special services. If the GRU needed to kill Skripal, he would now be dead. This would have been done quietly and without scandal.
“Why Britain needs this?”
– This is a well-thought-out strategy of demonization and international isolation of Russia. In the UK, as in the rest of the Western world, everything works very simply. Most people do not read newspapers at all. And those who read, do not understand half. But everyone sees the headlines. Provocation with the Skripals is needed to exclude the Russian Federation from the Commission for Investigating the Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria. This is a minimum program.

Tags: EU; Russia; Skripal case; UK

_________________
--
'Suppression of truth, human spirit and the holy chord of justice never works long-term. Something the suppressors never get.' David Southwell
http://aangirfan.blogspot.com
http://aanirfan.blogspot.com
Martin Van Creveld: Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother."
Martin Van Creveld: I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing."
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TonyGosling
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Joined: 25 Jul 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2018 12:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We should be asking for answers about the Skripals and Bellingcat – and not just from Russia
Bellingcat has grown rather a lot beyond its shoestring origins. It has money – where from? It has been hiring staff. It has transatlantic connections. It has never, so far as I am aware, reached any conclusion that is inconvenient to the UK or US authorities
https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/skripals-bellingcat-gru-novichok- anatoly-chepiga-alexander-mishkin-putin-russia-a8577161.html

Mary Dejevsky @IndyVoices
Wednesday 10 October 2018 11:15

It is now more than seven months since assassins from Russia’s military intelligence service tried to kill a former double agent and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury. Or did they? The only incontrovertible fact in that assertion is the location, Salisbury. Pretty much everything else remains speculative.

The Skripal case has troubled me since the first news broke in March. It is not the improbability of what was reported to have happened – improbable things are the stuff of news. It is rather the mixture of utter certainty, unsubstantiated claims and glaring information gaps that is so disconcerting, from the immediate rush by UK officials to blame the Russian state, to the way the main figures in this drama have simply vanished, and now to the contradictions that have gained blithe, and almost universal, acceptance.

When the Metropolitan Police showed the passports of two Russians they believed to be the assassins, they strongly hinted that the names on the documents were false. The invitation to establish their real names was taken up by investigative organisation Bellingcat, which has now – amid a blizzard of documentation, seductive reference to “open source” techniques, and not a little help from Russian whistleblowers – come up with what it says are their real identities.

One of them is Colonel Anatoly Chepiga; the other is a medically qualified agent called Alexander Mishkin, and both have received state honours from President Putin.

What’s so suspect about this, you may ask. Well, let’s start with Bellingcat, which has presented itself in the past as a microcosm of well-meaning and very British amateurishness, based in a Leicestershire bedroom, producing results that put the professional sleuths to shame. In fact, Bellingcat has grown rather a lot beyond its shoestring origins. It has money – where from? It has been hiring staff. It has transatlantic connections. It has never, so far as I am aware, reached any conclusion – whether on the downing of the Malaysian plane over eastern Ukraine, or chemical weapons use in Syria, or now, with the Skripals – that is in any way inconvenient to the UK or US authorities.

That need not cast doubt on its findings. But should the authenticity of the documents it cites not be subject, at very least, to the same scrutiny as might be applied to other evidence? And when, as this week, UK officials say they do not “dispute” Bellingcat’s identification of Chepiga and Mishkin, does this not prompt a few questions about whether, say, our “agencies” reached the same conclusions long ago, but kept quiet, or why most of the UK’s media apparently find Bellingcat a more trustworthy source than the UK intelligence services (possible answer: Iraq)? Might not the group’s good name be being used to get information into the public domain that officials do not want to vouch for? And, if so, would this be to inform, or to mislead?

What else do I find troubling? How about the UK and US focus on Russian military intelligence, still referred to as the GRU? I don’t recall any specific Soviet or Russian agency being so clearly fingered in this way before. Accusations might have been levelled at the KGB – or its Russian successor, the FSB – but this was usually in a generic, not specific, sense. Why the change?

Read more

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The implausible claims made by Russians accused of novichok attack

The conspiracy theories about the Skripals which might be true
It could be, of course, because the UK knows for certain that it was the GRU that targeted the Skripals. But it could equally be that officials simply assumed this because the GRU was Sergei Skripal’s agency, or because the GRU was already in the dock in the US for alleged involvement in hacking. Or it could be because it sounds much scarier than just saying “intelligence”, or even – though I concede this is unlikely – to make clear to Vladimir Putin that we are not blaming him, because the GRU was never “his” agency.

But there is a big contradiction here. On the one hand, the GRU is being presented as a bunch of duffers, whose decorated and highly qualified agents were booked into an east London dive, behaved badly, were deterred by a bit of snow, abysmally failed in their mission, and now face the wrath of Putin. On the other hand, we are told that the GRU is the crème de la crème of state agencies, that Russia is mighty and malevolent and that we should be very, very afraid. Which is it?

Lastly, let’s consider the connections that the UK public is being encouraged to make. Between the two Bellingcat identifications of Chepiga and Mishkin, a clutch of western states, including the UK and the US, came out with a coordinated condemnation of specific cases of Russian cyber-espionage. One related to the chemical weapons watchdog, the OPCW, back in April; another to the World Anti-Doping Agency in Switzerland. All this was presented to the UK public at least in the context of the Skripal case.

But there is a broader and more obvious explanation for Russia’s “behaviour” here – which is that, whether in sport or in matters of chemical weapons, the western allies have closed ranks to exclude Russia from information it is entitled to as a member of these international organisations. In such circumstances, wouldn’t you try to find out what was going on? Might you not also wonder why an apparent attack in an English city was being treated not as a crime – so a police matter – but as “the first use of a chemical weapon in Europe since the Second World War”, which allowed it to be immediately shut behind the impenetrable wall that supposedly protects UK intelligence and state security?

And the point that troubles me. For all the “revelations” of recent days, we are no further forward in knowing what happened to the Skripals – or to Dawn Sturgess, who remains the only person to have died, or to her partner, Charlie Rowley, who has now, like the Skripals and Detective Constable Nick Bailey, disappeared from the media. The two men caught on CCTV in Salisbury may indeed be GRU agents – though why the GRU would squander its brightest and best on such an apparently incompetently executed operation raises doubts. But no UK court would convict them of even attempted killing on the “evidence” that has so far been produced.

The CCTV footage from Salisbury has huge lacunae – though it is established that the cameras were working in Salisbury that day – and does not include any of the pair less than 500m from the Skripals’ house, nor any of the Skripals themselves. Why not? We still do not know where they were for most of that Sunday morning, who they might have met, or for what purpose, or precisely when the presumed attack occurred. Those are huge gaps.

Now, it is also true that Russia’s information machine has hardly covered itself in glory. Its response to at least some of the UK accusations have been weak or in dubious taste, to put it mildly. The RT interview (which was also broadcast on Russian domestic TV) seemed designed to make the Salisbury “tourists” a laughing stock. And Russia has not been as vocal as might perhaps have been expected in demanding consular access to Yulia Skripal, which might seem to cast doubt on its claims of innocence.

But the flaws in the way Russia has presented its case are not my prime concern. I am in the UK, a British citizen and a UK journalist, and I find the evidence and the explanations so far offered by our own side in what is becoming an all-out information war both deficient and scandalously short on credibility – and so, I suggest, should you.

_________________
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www.thisweek.org.uk
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www.elementary.org.uk
www.radio4all.net/index.php/contributor/2149
http://utangente.free.fr/2003/media2003.pdf
"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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