The “Approved Judgement” issued yesterday by Mr Justice Williams ruling in the case of the Skripals in the High Court contains a disturbing admission of deception on the part of the May government
As Craig Murray has already observed, the wording in the Approved Judgement issued by Mr Justice May on March 22, makes it clear the UK government’s claim, first made on March 8, to have conclusively identified the alleged “nerve agent” as being an indicator of Russian state involvement, is a lie. This is what the Judgement says:
i) CC: Porton Down Chemical and Biological Analyst Blood samples from Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were analysed and the findings indicated exposure to a nerve agent or related compound. The samples tested positive for the presence of a Novichok class nerve agent or closely related agent.
Murray correctly points out that the emphasised words (his emphasis) categorically show the UK has, at best, made only a very general identification of the agent involved as being “related” to what it terms “novichok.”
This sworn Court evidence direct from Porton Down is utterly incompatible with what Boris Johnson has been saying. The truth is that Porton Down have not even positively identified this as a “Novichok”, as opposed to “a closely related agent”. Even if it were a “Novichok” that would not prove manufacture in Russia, and a “closely related agent” could be manufactured by literally scores of state and non-state actors.
This constitutes irrefutable evidence that the government have been straight out lying – to Parliament, to the EU, to NATO, to the United Nations, and above all to the people – about their degree of certainty of the origin of the attack….As the government has sought to whip up jingoistic hysteria in advance of forthcoming local elections, the scale of the lie has daily increased.
This is absolutely true, as we’ll show below.
What do the words “closely related agent” actually mean?
In theory the words “closely related agent” could mean as little as the fact they have identified an organophosphate type of nerve agent, of which the alleged “novichoks” are a – heretofore theoretical – class.
The two main organophosphate nerve agents in common use, Sarin and VX and their cousins, are what is known as the “G-series”
The presence of G-series or V-series organophosphate nerve agents in the Skripals’ bodies would have zero implications of Russian involvement. In fact, given that Russia’s “declared chemical weapon stockpiles” were certified to have been eliminated by the OPCW in 2017, they should probably be seen as one of the less likely sources for a known nerve agent, behind countries such as the United States, who, unlike Russia, still have officially recognised stocks of organophosphate nerve agents.
If the words “closely related agent” refer merely to the presence of an organophosphate nerve agent in the Skripals’ bodies this is distortion of a truly criminal nature.
The only non-dishonest usage of the words “closely related agent” in this context would mean they have isolated some form of hitherto unknown compound that has a chemical structure more similar to “novichoks” than to Sarin, VX or their close relatives. But would even this truly point exclusively to Russia in the way claimed by Boris Johnson?
Novichoks, or the “N-series” are a “new” class of organophosphate nerve agents. Unlike the G-series and V-series, they were developed by the Soviet Union in the middle 20th century. Until they were synthesised by Iran in 2016 (under OPCW observation) these so-called “N-series” poisons were known as only as a theory and widely regarded as unpromising for future research.
Let’s assume the highly non-specific wording in the High Court ruling to indicate that “N-series” (novichok) type substances have been detected in the Skripals’ bodies.
This still does in no way determine Russian involvement. Since their alleged original development in the Soviet Union last century, the theoretical structure of these “novichoks” has been freely available information, obtainable through Amazon, and it’s therefore more than possible they have been synthesised in any number of facilities around the world beside Iran.
Some undeclared “marker”?
Even if we go one step further in the benefit of the doubt and accept there is some undeclared marker that permits scientists at Porton Down, at incredibly short notice, to perfectly identify this agent as being of Russian manufacture, even that unlikely eventuality would fall short of the kind of proof of Russian state involvement that Boris Johnson and others in the UK government have been proclaiming. Before being justified in accusing a sovereign government of direct involvement one would have to rule out the possibility that such an agent had been illegally acquired by non-state agencies. This would be a lengthy process involving the OPCW and other international bodies.
As we all know, the UK made no attempt to do even this basic amount of investigation, and certainly couldn’t have conducted and concluded such an investigation in less than four days.
In short, the ruling cited above, even if read in the most improbably forgiving way possible, shows the UK government does not have the information to warrant any of the claims it has so far made about Russian state involvement in the alleged poisoning of the Skripals. It shows the UK government is currently guilty of lying to Parliament, to the British people, and to the world.
And that isn’t even taking into consideration the statement of Stephen Davies, the Salisbury Hospital consultant who claimed in a letter to the Times that “no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury.” If those words are literally true and not a result of careless writing, the lie is astronomically greater than anyone is yet suggesting