Guardian Watch, Kit, latest, Skripal case
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Skripal Case: Luke Harding’s latest work of fiction

Kit

Luke Harding likes writing books about things that he wasn’t really involved in and doesn’t really understand. Unfortunately for the rest of the world, that covers pretty much everything. His book about Snowden, for example, was beautifully taken down by Julian Assange – a person who was actually there.

He’s priming the traumatised public for another of his works, this time about Sergei Skripal. This one will probably be out by Christmas, unless he can find someone else’s work to plagiarise, in which case he might get it done sooner.

It will have a snide and not especially clever title, perhaps a sort of pun – something like “A Poison by Any Other Name: How Russian assassins contaminated the heart of rural England”. It will relate, in jarring sub-sub-le Carre prose, a story of Russian malfeasance and evil beyond imagining, whilst depicting the whole cast as bumbling caricatures, always held up for ridicule by the author and his smug readership.

There’s an extract in The Guardian today. It’s not listed as one, but trust me, it will be in the book. It’s title, as predicted above, is sort of a pun (and will probably be a chapter heading):

Planes, trains and fake names: the trail left by Skripal suspects

You see? Like that film? I don’t really get it either but until someone else comes up with something clever he can copy, Luke is left to his own rather meagre devices.

It starts off surprisingly strong, waiting three whole sentences before lurching violently into totally unsupported conjecture:

The two men were dressed inconspicuously in jeans, fleece jackets and trainers as they boarded the flight from Moscow to Gatwick. Their names, according to their Russian passports, were Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Both were around 40 years old. Neither looked suspicious.

This is, as far as we know so far, true.

The plane trundled down the icy runway. In Moscow the temperatures had fallen below -10C, not unusual for early March. In Britain it had been snowing.

…and so is this. In fact, in googling “Moscow weather March 2018” Harding has displayed an uncharacteristically thorough approach to research that was rarely (if ever) evidenced in his previous works.

They had also packed a bottle of what appeared to be the Nina Ricci perfume Premier Jour. The box it came in was prettily decorated with flowers, it listed ingredients including alcohol and it bore the words “Made in France”.

This is where truth ends and guesses take over: there is no evidence, at all, that these two men had anything to do with the “perfume bottle” allegedly found by Charlie Rowley on June 27th and allegedly containing a powerful nerve agent. There is (as far as we know) no fingerprint or DNA evidence on the bottle, nobody saw them with the bottle, and there’s no released CCTV footage of them holding or carrying the bottle. Saying “it’s in their backpack” is meaningless without any evidence to back it up.

According to the Metropolitan police, the bottle in fact contained novichok, a lethal nerve agent developed in the late Soviet Union. The bottle had been specially made to be leakproof and had a customised applicator.

Note he doesn’t feel the need to examine, question or even verify the words of the Metropolitan Police. This is a recurring theme in Harding’s works – there are people who tell the truth (US) and people who lie (RUSSIANS). Evidence is a complication you can live without.

Moscow’s notorious poisons factory run by the KGB made similar devices throughout the cold war.

Did they? Because he doesn’t show any evidence this is true. One thing you can be sure of, if there had ever been even a whisper about a “modified perfume bottle” in any Soviet archive or from any “whistleblower currently living in the United States”, it would be on the front page in big black letters.

Petrov and Boshirov were aliases, detectives believe. Both men are suspected to be career officers with the GRU, Russia’s powerful and highly secretive military intelligence service.

Note use of the word “believe”, it makes regular appearances alongside it’s buddies: “suspect” and “probably”.

And yes, they “believe” they are aliases because IF they were assassins then obviously they used aliases. There’s no evidence taken from their (currently totally theoretical) visa applications that point to forgery, nobody at the time questioned their passports. As of today, we have been given no reason to think they were aliases, except reasoning backwards from assumed guilt…which isn’t how deduction works.

In fact, there’s more than enough reason to assume they aren’t aliases – Firstly, they passed the visa check, secondly their passports were never questioned, thirdly they’ve used them before (see below), and finally…just WHY would a Russian spy-come-assassin use a fake Russian name and a fake Russian passport? That’s ridiculous.

The officers’ assignment was covert. They were coming to Britain not as tourists but as assassins.

[citation needed]

Their target was Sergei Skripal, a former GRU officer who spied for British intelligence, got caught and was freed in a spy exchange in 2010. They were heading for his home in provincial Salisbury.

Luke doesn’t feel the need to dig down into the nitty gritty here – motive is a trifle, to be added in the footnotes or made up on the spur of the moment when asked at a book signing. I’m a bit more fussy than that – I feel the need to ask “Why did they release him in 2010 and then try to kill him in 2018?” If they had wanted to kill him, why not just do it when he was in prison in Russia between 2006 and 2010? If they wanted to kill him…why do it just weeks before the World Cup? What could they possibly have to gain?

Luke doesn’t know, and neither do I.

Their Aeroflot flight SU2588 touched down at 3pm on Friday 2 March. They were recorded on CCTV going through passport control, Boshirov with dark hair and a goatee beard, Petrov unshaven and wearing a blue gingham shirt. Both were carrying satchels slung casually over the shoulder.

This is all true, and completely unnecessary. It’s what we in the industry call “filler” or “padding”. Totally meaningless and useless words that do nothing but take up space. Without it, a lot of Luke’s books would only be about 700 words long.

According to police, the pair had visited the UK before.

Way to bury the lead there, Luke.

This is actually quite important isn’t it? I mean, when did they visit the UK before? Did they visit Salisbury then too? Did they have any contact with Sergei Skripal? Were they travelling under the same names? Were these visits linked with other intelligence work? Were they just holidays? What kind of assassins would use the SAME FAKE IDS ON TWO DIFFERENT OCCASIONS?

These are all very important questions, but Luke doesn’t ask them. Because Luke is a modern journalist, and they don’t interrogate the claims of the state, just report them. To Guardian reporters a question mark is just that funny squiggle next to the shift key.

From Gatwick they caught the train to London Victoria station and then the tube to east London, where they checked in to the City Stay hotel in Bow. It was a low-profile choice of accommodation. The red-brick Victorian building is next to a branch of Barclays bank, a busy train line and a wall daubed with graffiti. Across the road is a car pound and a Texaco garage.

This just more filler. Totally meaningless packaging material. The prose equivalent of All-Bran.

On hostile territory, Boshirov and Petrov operated in the manner of classic intelligence operatives.

In this instance “the manner of classic intelligence operatives” means, flying direct to London from Moscow, using Russian names and Russian passports (which you’ve used before), checking into a hotel with a CCTV camera on the front door, going straight to the hometown of an ex-double agent, leaving a Russian poison his front door even though he’s already gone out, dumping your unused poison in a charity bin on the high street, going back to your hotel, smearing poison around that too even though you already dumped it, and then flying directly back to Moscow without even waiting to see if the plan worked and the target is dead.

This, in Luke’s head, is ace intelligence work.

On the day of the hit, according to detectives, the pair made a similar journey, taking the 8.05am train from Waterloo to Salisbury and arriving at 11.48am.

Yes, they arrived at 11.48, making it absolutely pointless to put poison on the Skripal’s door, as they had already gone out.

The perfume bottle was probably concealed in a light grey backpack carried by Petrov.

It was “probably concealed” in that backpack because, as I said above, there’s no evidence either of those men ever knew the perfume bottle existed. You never see it in their possession.

Oh, and the backpack would have to contain TWO bottles of perfume – because the police aren’t sure the bottle Rowley found 3 months later was the same bottle, and Rowley reported it was unopened and wrapped in cellophane. Perhaps Luke should have read the details of the case instead of trolling IMDB looking for movie titles with “plane” in them or googling “insouciant” to see if he was using it right.

From Salisbury station the two men set off on foot. It was a short walk of about a mile to Skripal’s semi-detached home in Christie Miller Road.

…which doesn’t matter, because the Skripals weren’t there. They left at 9.15 and there is no evidence they ever returned.

At Skripal’s house the Russians smeared or sprayed novichok on to the front door handle, police say.

…which doesn’t matter, because the Skripals weren’t there. They left at 9.15 and there is no evidence they ever returned.

It doesn’t matter if Borishov and Petrov re-tiled the bathroom with novichok grouting or hid novichok in the battery compartment of Sergei’s TV remote or replaced all his lightbulbs with novichok bombs that explode when you use the clapper….according to everything we’ve been told so far Sergei and Julia were literally never in that house again.

Luke seems to write a lot about this case, considering he is barely acquainted with the most basic facts of it.

The moment went unobserved

True. There is not a single piece of footage, photograph or eyewitness placing these men within a hundred feet of the Skripals, or their house. The “moment went unobserved” is an incredibly dishonest way of phrasing this, “the moment is entirely theoretical” is rather fairer. Or, if you want to be honest “it’s possible none of this happened”.

At some point on their walk back they must have tossed away the bottle, which at this point was too dangerous to try to smuggle back through customs.

It’s all falling into place perfectly isn’t it?

At some point the two men, who we never see holding or carrying the bottle, must have thrown it away because three months later someone else found it.

They took it through customs once but couldn’t a second time, because reasons.

Also one of them was smiling a sort of “I just poisoned somebody” smile:

At 1.05pm the men were recorded in Fisherton Street on their way back to the station. They appeared more relaxed, Petrov grinning even.

Those evil bastards.

By the time Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury later that afternoon, the poisoners were gone.

No Luke: By the time Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury later that afternoon, the ALLEGED poisoners were gone.

Alleged is an important word for example, there is a marked difference between being an ALLEGED plagiarist, and being a plagiarist.

The visitors were captured on CCTV one more time, at Heathrow airport. It was 7.28pm and both men were going through security, Petrov first, wheeling a small black case. In his right hand was a shiny red object, his Russian passport. Police believe the passport was genuine, his name not. In other words, that it was a sophisticated espionage operation carried out by a state or state entities.

You see? Nobody thought the passport was fake, which means it was a really good fake. So the Russian state must have been in on it. This is known as an unfalsifiable hypothesis. If the passport did look fake, that would be evidence that the men were spies…and therefore the Russian state was in on it.

Harding has created a narrative where there is literally no development that could ever challenge his conclusions.

Seemingly, the GRU plan – executed two weeks before Russia’s presidential election – had worked perfectly.

This is an example of the cum hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy – two things happen at the same time, therefore they happen for the same reason. It’s a maneuver we at OffG refer to as “the Harding”, where you state two separate assertions or facts one after the other in such a way as to imply a relationship, without ever making a solid statement. I’ll give you an example:

Luke Harding was born in 1968, mere weeks before the brutal assassination of Robert Kennedy.

Harding is suggesting some sort of connection between the election and the poisoning. He can’t STATE it, because then he has to explain his reasoning – and there isn’t any. Putin, and Russia as a whole, had nothing to gain from poisoning an ex-spy they had released nearly a decade earlier, especially on the eve of a Presidential election and mere weeks before the World Cup. There’s no argument to be made, so he doesn’t attempt to make one, he just makes a snide and baseless insinuation.

In his defense, Luke might genuinely believe it, cum hoc ergo propter hoc is a favorite amongst paranoid personalities, of which Luke is definitely a prime example.

Vladimir Putin, the man whom a public inquiry found in 2016 had “probably” signed off on the operation to kill Litvinenko. The UK security services say a “body of evidence” points to the GRU.

“Probably” is also a big word. For example, there’s a marked difference between “probably being a plagiarist” and “being a plagiarist”.

It seems clear that Moscow continues to view Britain as a playground for undercover operations and is relatively insouciant about the consequences, diplomatic and political. The Skripal attack may have misfired. But the message, mingling contempt and arrogance, is there for all to see: we can smite our enemies whenever and wherever we want, and there is nothing you can do about it.

This is the second time Luke has used the word “insouciant” in two days, which means that word of the day calendar was a probably sound investment, but he forgot to flip it over this morning.

Other than that, this final paragraph is nothing but paranoia.

The Russians were TRYING to make it obvious, to send a message. But were also lazy and arrogant. And yet also left no solid evidence because they are experts at espionage. They had no motive except being mean, and couldn’t even be bothered to make sure they did it right. They want us all to know they did it, but will never admit it.

The actual truth of the situation can be summed up in a few bullet points. Currently:

  • There is no evidence these men were using forged documents.
  • There is no evidence these men were travelling under aliases or assumed names.
  • There is no evidence these men ever had any contact with Sergei Skripal’s house.
  • There is no evidence these men ever had any contact with Sergei Skripal or his daughter.
  • There is no evidence these men were Russian intelligence assets or had any military training.
  • There is no evidence these men ever possessed or had any contact with the perfume bottle found by Charlie Rowley on June 27th.
  • They have visited the UK before, not on intelligence business (as far as we know).
  • Their movements don’t align with the timeline of Skripal’s illness.

The entire narrative is created around half a dozen screen caps of two (allegedly) Russian men, not behaving in any way illegally or even suspiciously. All the rest is fiction, created by a hack to service an agenda. This isn’t one of those “You couldn’t make it up” stories, it’s not that incredible. It’s just insulting and stupid.

You could make it up, and he did.


94 Comments

  1. This is brilliant work by Kit. Holding the mainstream media to account is becoming a vital service to the country.

  2. Whenever Harding heard that his idol Obama killed a bunch of Muslim kids by drone, he’d shout “Bug splat!” in unison with the console operators in Nevada. The rest of his colleagues would laugh. Today they’re collapsing with moral outrage at Trump’s twittery (big deal).

  3. Tom Hall says

    Harding’s method’s speak for themselves, which is to say, for his employers. But does anyone else find it odd that we haven’t (as far as I can determine) been given photographic evidence of the lethal perfume bottle/atomiser used against the Skripals and found by a hapless couple three months later? One would normally expect the authorities to produce the item with a triumphant flourish, especially in a case surrounded by so many doubts, denials, contradictions and unsupported assertions. Where is this vital piece of evidence? In whose custody does it reside? Why haven’t we seen it?

  4. Barb says

    How did they know that Oxfam had a donation dumpster at the back of their shop? Charley said that is where they found the perfume. Why bother to do that if they cd have just thrown it in a litter bin – what have they got against the poor volunteers in the Oxfam shop?

  5. The real question is this: now the BBC no longer commission farce, do their scriptwriters now work on contract for MI6 to make up this sort of rubbish?

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  6. Jen says

    The Fraudian’s resident plagiarist reveals his ongoing obsession with strange Russian men who always travel in pairs (never singly nor in groups of three or more) and frequent hotel rooms, this time in an article about Nikolai Glushkov who apparently was a target of an attempted assassination by two such figures back in 2013.

    https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/07/murdered-russian-exile-nikolai-glushkov-poisoning-attempt-bristol

    You’d think LDH was homophobic or something.

  7. Estaugh says

    Luke Harding prob’ly wrote out the Skripal scenario. All goes on behind the screens; then a face pops out and narrates to the audience what’s happening out of sight, and what we must think about it. And the entire narrative is poppycock and balderdash. If it was the Russians who ‘did it, we, the great unwashed would have been saturated, by now, with the gore, the nuts and bolts of the whole shebang. We got nothing but say-so. Not as tho’ there is a ‘government’, anyway. More like a Quisling governance, sock-puppets to the corporative states of EU, US, Israel, Bank of England etc,etc. Definitely NOT a British SOVEREIGN Government; at all, at all.— Skripal = Emmerdale / Coronation Street, and the like. IMO; It’s obvious that “They” want / need to bash Ivan. Ditto for Iran. For to do that a ‘Casus Belli’ is required and Ther Skripal thing, ludicrous as it is, is what they are betting on to get their said Casus Belli. Whatever else ‘they’ ARE planning to shut us up and shut us down. My question is; do we get the pre-planned financial meltdown before or after the crackdown on freedom of movement, Marshall Law, in a word. Interesting times, repeat and rinse——————After thought: I think they will need a bigger false-flag than the Skripal red-rag being waved in our faces. In my view,Traitors, evr’y last one of them. Boooo them of the stage. Rant over.

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    • Thomas Peterson says

      Yeah you know what, he probably does write the scripts for these unconvincing stories.

  8. Great post! Especially this:

    “In this instance “the manner of classic intelligence operatives” means, flying direct to London from Moscow, using Russian names and Russian passports (which you’ve used before), checking into a hotel with a CCTV camera on the front door, going straight to the hometown of an ex-double agent, leaving a Russian poison his front door even though he’s already gone out, dumping your unused poison in a charity bin on the high street, going back to your hotel, smearing poison around that too even though you already dumped it, and then flying directly back to Moscow without even waiting to see if the plan worked and the target is dead.

    This, in Luke’s head, is ace intelligence work.”

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    • mark says

      Together with scoring some drugs, getting a couple of hookers in for a good orgy, annoying all the other guests and staff, hoping nobody notices and flying straight back to Moscow. All standard KGB procedure.

  9. nondimenticare says

    As for believing “at least six impossible things before breakfast,” do they, really? Does the public, or a portion of it? Do the governments of the US,Canada, et al., when imposing sanctions for these suppositions? Do Luke Harding and his ilk? Do they all, but for different reasons? Inquiring minds want to know.

  10. Sav says

    There has to be a list in British intelligence ranking the narcissism of people in the MSM. Luke has to be in the top 5.

    US news networks exist in Russia. Have any of them been killed or stopped from making reports on what they want? I’ve even asked them on Twitter – and never get a response. Yet, this is never spoken about. Instead we get attention seeking fantasists like Harding who think they are public enemy no.1. Why exactly would the Russians bother harassing this idiot?

    As Harding inadvertently told Aaron Mate “I’m a storyteller”. That he doesn’t have any actual facts or evidence but if he constantly makes claim after claim you should start singing his tune.

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  11. Yarkob says

    I couldn’t keep away…Just a little aside regarding “novichok” and its potency;

    In the “exclusive” Sky interview with Charlie Rowley, he said, and I quote: “It was all over my hands” when describing what happened to the liquid (or was it a gel!?) after he got hold of the bottle and opened it. Really?

    He said he had to crack the packaging and assemble the atomiser pump to get at it. This rather flies in the face of most of the released “evidence” that the bottle must have been abandoned after use, and that it is, indeed, 10 times more potent than VX. Being that the average punter has no idea really what VX is, let alone how strong it is, it’s a journalistic slam-dunk in the “the size is x number of London buses” tradition.

    There are so many holes in this story that either HMG is actually trolling Russia, or they just couldn’t give a monkeys that anyone with half a brain can see through the spoon-fed narrative. Every bit of “new” news about it is more bizarre than the last.

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    • bevin says

      This editorial at Strategic Culture is worth reading
      https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/09/07/britain-should-be-in-the-dock-over-skripal-saga-not-russia.html

      It is clearly Amateur Hour in Westminster: anyone with a distraction gets centre stage. And, for the Armed Forces- desperately searching for a role in the world- anything that raises tension and promotes the idea that the UK is in danger is welcome.
      God forbid that any of those starving kids should snatch a meal out of the maw of BAE !

      • Francis Lee says

        ” … for the Armed Forces- desperately searching for a role in the world- anything that raises tension and promotes the idea that the UK is in danger is welcome.”

        Agreed and at the same time a British warship, HMS Albion thought that it might be a good idea to take a cruise in the South China Sea quite near the disputed Parcel Islands. This blatant provocation was said to be an exercise in keeping shipping lanes in international waters free for navigation.

  12. Yarkob says

    Luke Harding is a fucking idiot.

    Sorry. I have nothing intelligent to add to this farce at the moment. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

    As you were.

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    • He’s not an idiot. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a conscious establishment propagandist and manipulator. We must be weary of such psychopaths.

      Harding is a graduate of the Bernays school, a misinformation enterprise codenamed “British Broadcasting Corporation”.

  13. Nothing to see says

    We need to strengthen the democratic system in the UK and bring all the criminals to trial.

    The propagandists
    Those lobbyists interfering in the functioning of the government and the opposition
    Those who are torturing Assange in solitary confinement
    Those who committed war crimes and invaded other nations
    Those committing war crimes by helping the Saudis destroying Yemen
    Those who stopped representing the average citizens and working solely for the benefits of the 1%
    Those who are turning blind eyes to the mass shootings in Palestine

    But no .. forget all these things. It is Russia’s fault!

    Anyway, there is no more sympathy left for whatever happens to the UK’s governing elites.

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  14. James O'Neill says

    Kit, this brilliant take down of that journalistic fraud has made my week.

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  15. Harding’s story follows the British government’s story adding as Kit says, copious fillers to distract from the mass of holes in it. These two men whoever they could be could be from anywhere.

    As the British are not talking to the Russians about this we can assume there is no real evidence. So as they are not presenting anything to the Russians where are the airport scans of visa and passports for example? These could show that these men passed through Gatwick airport and they were Russian. Otherwise we might assume they were mere actors.

    But of course if they are not Russians, faking the documentation for the British would be a problem. Better to just provide photos of which there are already questions about the synchronocity of the date stamps, creating an improbable and impossible coincidence? Believable? Only in Harding’s head.

    No this is a further false narrative which Harding is all too eager to spin a yarn from for cash.

    Planes, Trains and Auto mobiles was a comedy fiction.

    Harding’s, Planes, trains and fake names is too.

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    • mark says

      Mossad have a history of using forged and stolen passports (especially British ones) to carry out terrorist murders abroad.

      • Yes the Mossad connection is quite possible. In reality the information so far presented by the British leads nowhere except a new book for Harding in the shops by Christmas…

    • worldblee says

      To keep up with Harding’s preferred style of plagiarism where he copies the substance but changes the words around, he should have called it “Airplanes, rail transport, and fake names”…

  16. Antonyl says

    During his years in New Delhi Harding made most of his stories about the vast subcontinent from his cozy AC room there. All the Guardian readers got was 2nd, 3rd or 4th hand “info”. He might as well have stayed in London but the perks must have been better abroad….
    Glorified tourist posing as journo.

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  17. Deborah says

    Please read the article by Australian journalist John Helmet on his website Dances With Bears . Read the article and follow his links . One link is to the complete statement to Parliament by Teresa May, which he asks to read carefully . He also links to police evidence . Briefly what he says is March 3rd alleged by police and her to be a reconnaissance trip to Salisbury with no evidence the 2 alleged assassins whatever approached the Skripal house . Now for the major point March 4th the 2 alleged get off train at Salisbury at 11:48am then 10 minutes later police have CCTV footage at 11:58am, of the 2 men in the vicinity of the Skripal’s home , and according to T May moments before the attack on the door knob they leave and arrive back at Waterloo after 4pm. Then if you follow the police link you’ll see the sightings of Skripal car . According to Helmet and when you think of the timeline of the above the Skripals had to be in their home when the door knob was wiped with Novichok or whatever , simple as because if they weren’t how did they get poisoned by it . It’s supposed to have happened when they left and closed the door . He mentions that no one gas questioned this or that maybe Skripal may have been involved with these 2 alleged assassins. Why is everyone disappeared where no one can ask questions . Helmer says the photos of the men is advertising and public relations. Here’s the link to his article. http://johnhelmer.net/the-new-allegations-in-the-skripal-case-and-the-standard-of-proof/#more-19679

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  18. The OPCW said in its report, issued earlier in the week, that a toxic chemical of high purity was used in the attack.

    “OPCW data saying that a toxic chemical of high purity was used proves that it was not Novichok…. Novichok is a complex nerve-paralyzing substance consisting of a mixture of many different components and additives that decompose in different ways. If a pure substance was found, it could not be Novichok,” Rink said. Leonid Rink, one of the Novichok creators,

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  19. BigB says

    Come on guys: the use of military grade nerve agents in Britain is beyond reckless. The people of Salisbury are still suffering from the first attack. After six months, some of them are still suffering the after-effects. I was in Salisbury recently, an eerie calm hung over the city. The centre of the city is still in lock down, its a very strange atmosphere. We should think of the people of Salisbury and show some solidarity with them?

    The police are putting in a superhuman effort to find out who did this, forensically trawling through a mountain of solid evidence. We should be behind the government, pushing the Russians to hand these guys over for trial. This is a really serious matter, these guys need to be brought to trial?

    After all, the OPCW provided the evidence that Novichok was used in Salisbury. We need to be solidly against the possession, spread or use of chemical weapons: and the international community needs to take affirmative action. No government can be above the law. We know this stuff has been manufactured in Russia, in clear breach of the chemical weapons convention and international law.

    Based on the OPCW findings, it’s up to Russia to give a full account of how the nerve agent was used on UK soil. We should be with the government in requesting evidence from Russia, in the interests of international peace and security. This effects everyone globally, no government can play fast and loose with the international human rights rules-based order. We need to be updated about the contact the government has had with Russia over this: they need to be held to account. We need the widest possible European and international consensus for that to maximise its impact – especially when other countries do not respect the international human rights agreements.

    The OPCW-UN now have a joint investigations mechanism, but they do not, as yet, have the capability to attribute CW attacks to specific perpetrators. We need get behind the government to overcome this impasse, so the OPCW can provide clarity and attribution as to the violators of international CW law?

    We should utterly condemn these appalling attacks, commend the police and security services for their diligence in making sure this does not happen again, and support any further action against Russia for its failure to co-operate with this investigation?

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    • Simple says

      You’re absolutely right. And furthermore, what’s wrong with All Bran, Kit?
      Cerealist.

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    • JJ139 says

      “We should be behind the government, pushing the Russians to hand these guys over for trial. This is a really serious matter, these guys need to be brought to trial?”
      The Russian government has repeatedly asked the British to provide supporting evidence in order for them to further investigate. The British government has refused to do so. Even to the point of not handing over info on these 2 alleged Russians. If the British cannot even identify them (they claim they might be using aliases) how can the Russians possible hand over anyone. Plus, before handing anyone over, it is reasonable to request what kind of reasons such accusations are based on.

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    • The OPCW said in its report, issued earlier in the week, that a toxic chemical of high purity was used in the attack.

      “OPCW data saying that a toxic chemical of high purity was used proves that it was not Novichok…. Novichok is a complex nerve-paralyzing substance consisting of a mixture of many different components and additives that decompose in different ways. If a pure substance was found, it could not be Novichok,” Rink said.

      Rink is one of the Novichok creators,

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    • Frankly Speaking says

      Of course it’s reckless, but who actually did it and why?

      Qui bono? Almost definitely not Russia, or at least not the leaders. It could feasibly be Russians attempting to destabilise their own government and country. Alternatively, it might be CIA, Mossad or even our own side who are the guilty parties.

      Also there are apparently so many inconsistencies that it just doesn’t stack up at all. If our government were more transparent on all of this we could lead to better conclusions, but they are not revealing anything, hence even more suspicion as the the motives and actors involved.

      We have a good police force I agree, but we know from previous incidents that some can be partial and corrupted too.

      We just don’t know, but the whole thing is very odd and it’s right that we raise suspicions, especially as wars can result from this kind of thing, we need to be 100% sure what really happened.

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      • Did what though? There is no evidence that “Novichok”, even from Porton Down, was ever in the Salisbury environment, and it certainly wasn’t used against the Skripals – or they would be dead before they even got to the Maltings. So we need to know what the crime is before looking for the criminals, and looking for those who used Novichok is a silly distraction. The crime is the deception of millions of Britons and Westerners and the organising of a conspiracy against Russia, and all the people who may die as a result of a war that this deception helps to facilitate.

        21
    • mark says

      “Russia’s failure to cooperate……”
      From Day One of this obvious False Flag, Russia offered its cooperation and requested information and evidence it could examine. The UK side didn’t even bother to reply. It just issued a series of demands and ultimatums that Russia immediately accept responsibility for the incident.
      We live in a post truth age. The truth is whatever somebody deems politically convenient at the time. No evidence is ever produced to support completely unsubstantiated and highly dubious allegations, which are then endlessly and uncritically parroted by the pliant MSM, until Dr. Goebbels – style, they become “true.” Like Rove creating his own reality. “The Russians” poisoned Skripal, like they shot down MH17, like they invaded Ukraine, like Assad gassed his own people……..Because some “anonymous intelligence sources” told some tame media hacks like Harding that they thought so. The politicians say so, and the MSM say so, or at least its “highly likely”, “probably.” Like Carling is the best lager in the world (probably.) But who needs evidence? Nobody, unless you’re a Kremlin stooge or a paid agent.
      These two people who entered the country needed passports and visas to do so. They also needed to supply fingerprints. If the UK establishment was acting in good faith, it would ask for information about the passports. Are they genuine or forgeries? Are the fingerprints on record in Russia? Sure, if Russia had something to hide, it might well lie. But what is lost by asking?
      The UK was behind the False Flag gas attacks in Syria – Le Mesurier, White Helmet media unit bankrolled by the UK, the whole nine yards. Having got away with them, it seems to have decided to pull the same stunt at home. All part of the propaganda war against Russia over Syria, the World Cup, Russian elections, Nordstream 2.
      This “military grade nerve agent” doesn’t seem very deadly. These GRU people, who were “definitely GRU officers” (although nobody knows their names) were more Johnny English than James Bond. If this really was a Putin plot, then old Vlad really needs to give his nerve agent lab and his spooks a good kick up the backside. Maybe he should send them back to Spy School.
      What this substance was is anybody’s guess. A Swiss lab seems to have identified it as a non lethal nerve agent produced by NATO. If it was in fact Novichok, it could have been produced in any one of a couple of dozen countries, including our very own WMD factory at Porton Down. Sarin was developed by Adolf Hitler, but nobody blames Merkel for its alleged use in Syria.
      True, no government SHOULD be above the law. But we all know the reality. Israel and the US retain huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Russia destroyed its stockpiles years ago, as the US was obligated to do – and failed to do so. The US has a long history of using chemical weapons – Agent Orange, depleted uranium, white phosphorous, amongst others. Israel has a long and documented history of using biological weapons to carry out terrorist assassinations abroad. The US regime has consistently ridiculed the whole notion of international law as “quaint.” It has a Chief Executive who is an enthusiastic advocate of torture. So much for the “human rights order.”
      So many international organisations, like the UN, IAEA, OPCW and others, have lost all credibility. They have become mere tools of US foreign policy. They can no longer be regarded as impartial professionals. They have been corrupted and politicised, and can be co opted to serve an agenda. Sad, but true.
      It all boils down to a few simple questions.
      Does this have the character of a professional operation by the GRU?
      Or is it an obvious provocation intended to smear Russia? I’m only surprised they didn’t plant an empty vodka bottle at the scene with Putin’s fingerprints on it.
      Cui Bono. What would Russia have to gain from killing an old, washed up, pensioned off, pardoned ex spy and ex traitor? If Putin was so consumed with a thirst for revenge, why not kill him when he was in jail in Russia, and save the price of a couple of plane tickets? And if he was going to kill him, why use such an outlandish and spectacular method just before the Russian elections and World Cup?
      Would anybody else have a motive to do this to smear Russia? Take your pick. You are spoiled for choice. Ukraine trying to get western arms to attack the separatists. Energy companies trying to nobble Nordstream 2 and supply LNG instead, making tens of billions. Syrian terrorist groups and their Saudi/ Qatari/ other backers, seeking revenge for Russian intervention in Syria. Or maybe our very own UK Spook organisations. They have a history of False Flags going all the way back to the Zinoviev Letter and the Gunpowder Plot. They tried to organise a military coup against the Wilson Government of the 1960s/ 70s. And they routinely carry out assassinations at home and abroad, Dr. David Kelly being a prime example. There was a botched attempt to assassinate Gaddafi in 1994. – And these are just a few on the short list.
      We have been lied to so many times. You need to retain a very healthy scepticism about “intelligence sources.” These people are professional liars – that’s what they do.

      16
    • Gary Wilson says

      I was going to reply to this but my tongue is stuck in my cheek.

    • What a wonderful piece of satire … no, wait [reads the whole thing again] … this was meant to be serious?

      • JudyJ says

        Everyone needs to note the subtle use of question marks. That will provide you with the answer. Or BigB has sadly succumbed to the raft of ‘convincing’ evidence supplied by HMG. Or someone has stolen BigB’s identity.

      • Big B says

        As I said, the international community should continue to build further, concrete multilateral actions to send a clear message that the Russians’ actions are not acceptable. We should look to Alexei Navalny, who was barred from standing in the presidential elections earlier this year; and whose family and supporters have had to face down intimidation from the hands of the Russian state. As Alexei has made clear, the most important thing we in the UK could do to curb Vladimir Putin’s power, and punish his actions, is to hit his billionaire allies in their pockets. I believe that we should commend that Theresa May listens to his advice.

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        • mark says

          Navalny was barred from standing because of criminal convictions. Most countries, including the US, have similar requirements.
          Most of the so called “billionaire allies” are no friends of Putin – Khordokovsky, Browder, the late Berezovsky and their ilk. They are mega fraudsters and financial criminals on a gargantuan scale. They fled to Britain, where they were given sanctuary, to escape prosecution for their crimes back home. Britain has been willing to play host to the Russian Mafia (and terrorists who have the blood of hundreds of Russian children on their hands) provided they spew out hatred of Putin and Russia with sufficient enthusiasm. If these people were kicked out and the money they stole from the Russian people was confiscated, Putin would shed few tears. The Russian people would shed even fewer.

    • FS says

      Great stuff, BigB. I’m assuming that was an experiment to see how much you could write while keeping a straight face?

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    • dave mass says

      Seems you’re text is classic government prose- You, the UK gov., will not talk to Russia. you’ve said it. The holes in this expensive farce are for all to see.-Even TMay, and her motly crew. My tax and millions of others’ has been wasted on this.

    • Sav says

      BigB, it’s up to you to give a full account of why you robbed my house last week.

      • Big B says

        Well, exactly, Sav. The piece as text is an empty rhetorical device consisting entirely of logical fallacies. To name them all would produce the A-Z of logical fallacies (plus a few more). Even if it were given context, it says nothing, its entire meaning is dependent on propositions and definitions supplied by others. Why should Russia give a full account of its actions, when there is zero evidence forthcoming that they have any actions to give account for?

        My main concern was to show how facile appeals to universalism become, when concomitant with appeals and deference to a higher international authority – of the government, OPCW-UN, the pseudo-construct of international peace and security, idealisms of international norms of humanitarian and CW law …things that in themselves have been subverted to exceptionalist means and ends (in this case: principally – the attribution capacity of the OPCW which will be a power tool in the hands of the UN). The appeals to universalism thus semantically absorb the context of the exceptionalist architecture to become appeals to the universalism of international governance and the transnational status quo of power.

        The deference to these bodies amounts to obsequiousness: a volitional transference of personal autonomy and sovereignty. It is as if the subject were left with no will or responsibility of their own, to the point of intentional pre-exoneration from blame. So servile and exonerated, in fact, as to amount to undecidable inaction and empty rhetoric.

        But the failure to act is itself a decision or volition, as is the failure to say anything meaningful or to powerfully interact with the debate. That amounts to a self-deception and constitutes a bad-faith relationship with self and power (resulting in a neurotic, indecisive, and uncritical intervention into reality).

        Appeals to very similar end (namely: for the attribution capacity for the Joint Investigative Mechanism) were made, in very different ways, by Karen Pierce (UK Permanent Representative to the UN) and Nikki Haley: so this text was “on trend”. NATO and the OPCW-UN JIM are clearly being formed into a vehicle to exploit the CW agenda for regime change purposes. This has been clear since before Douma: the text in question is a servile abnegation of personal responsibility and/or critical inability to interrogate that agenda. It is a laissez-faire attitude to international terrorism. Which amounts to an encouragement.

        Returning to my first proposition – that the text says nothing on its own – can be revealed as true by reuniting the text to context. Its meaning is dictated to it by the complex agendas of others. This is the salient piece of the reply:

        ” …but, as we saw in the case of Alexander Litvinenko, Russia does not allow its citizens to be extradited to face justice in other countries. I think the phrase I used in my statement was that an extradition request would be “futile”.”

        Both speakers already pre-supposed and pre-determined the outcome: which was a known …Russia will not extradite its citizens (though, as others have pointed out: they might if there were any evidence, or indeed, any request to do so). The request is itself revealed as meaningless empty words.affirming a pointless consequent …thus supplying the purely fabricated non-consequence as a negative attribute of the Russians. Smearing Russia with rhetorical invention …it’s a liquid bowel piece of Cold War verbal diarrhoea.

        Only, it is not merely my fantasy, nor my own invented text. It is a parody of sorts, in that I took a source text and rewrote the key phrases with more colloquial conjunctions. Had I just said that the text represents ‘diarrhoea’ in attribution to the speaker, I myself, no doubt would have got the downvotes. How many people would have downvoted the text if I had attributed it to Jeremy Corbyn? Here is the original:

        https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2018-09-05/debates/DEBE4D29-C179-48A5-837D-BF1AA880652C/SalisburyUpdate

        Weaselly words indeed.

        [The second comment was similarly constructed from text from the 26th March: but he really did appeal to Navalny (twice)]

        10
        • Simple says

          This was an interesting sociological test, and you’re absolutely correct in asking the question about Corbyn. The polarisation is stifling.
          I watched your comment being down voted last night and was pretty shocked at the lack of comprehension. I don’t visit this site very often, but I know enough to know that this isn’t your style, and that an ‘eerie silence’ is not only not hanging over Salisbury, but that the only person who would say something like that is cut from Stella Creasy stone.
          I don’t even live in England and I know that. The people of Salisbury are probably just scratching their heads like everybody else…. and not in a Novichoccy kind of a way.
          So I wrote a facetious comment as a wink to your post and received 2 down votes. FFS.
          Kudos.

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          • FS says

            “I watched your comment being down voted last night and was pretty shocked at the lack of comprehension.”

            Hey, hang on there. I was among those downvoting the comment even though, knowing Big B to be a person of insight, it was obvious that he was parodying the absurdity of the mainstream narrative.

            An upvote representing a knowing nod in recognition of irony would have appeared a confused response.

            • JudyJ says

              FS – I agree. For the very reasons you highlight, I was tempted to ask BigB whether he would hope for an ‘up vote’ or a ‘down vote’ as an indication of support for his views. But I thought it might distract him from working on his latest masterpiece!

            • Simple says

              I see your point. But as the author him / herself points out, would there have been as many downvotes if the narrative was attributed to Corbyn ?
              You might have ‘got it’, but I wonder how many others did, or whether they accepted it at face value.
              A click-vote is a silent approval or condemnation. I prefer clear dialogue.
              .

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    • Ian Hiscoe says

      Did you actually read the article? I doubt it. Even were any of the government narrative true — and it’s not — the fact is that Harding’s story is presumptive, inconsistent, and largely illogical, And he’s quite obviously congenitally sycophantic to bourgeois authority figures to begin with. That seems to impair not only his judgement but his basic cognitive abilities too. Your citation of OPCW doesn’t really fortify the city hall narrative either. That agency has consistently misreported facts and events in Syria, and have been shown on at least one occasion to have made impossible declarations concerning “evidence” which had been wilfully destroyed before any inspection could be made. While I’m sure there is internal dissent from people of good faith within the organization, there is no shortage of bad actors in the OPCW and they mostly have the upper hand these days.

    • oldnis says

      What utter, utter drivel. You have accepted the entire evidence-free MSM narrative without question. This will not do, on this website. Go away, you clot.

  20. MichaelK says

    I’m still confused about the timeline. The assassin arrive, according to the British, in Salisbury at 11.48, they then walk… briskly, to Skripals house, getting there at 11.58, almost two hours after the Skripals vacated the premises and headed off for the centre of Salisbury. So, how on earth could the assassins smear the door handle and contaminate the Skripals with a deadly nerve agent, if they weren’t even there anymore but in the centre of Salisbury?

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    • 0use4msm says

      At 11.58 they were at the Shell petrol station on Wilton Rd, which is still 700 yards to the Skripal residence. But to get from the railway station to the petrol station in 10.5 minutes, they’d have to walk 4 mph, which is just short of running. And yet Image 5, taken at the petrol station, shows them strolling at a very leisurely pace, which means they would actually have had to run at other parts of that journey to maintain their 4 mph average. Running in a residential area, precisely the sort of inconspicuous behaviour you’d expect from trained assassins just before carrying out their stealth hit.

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    • Deborah Harris says

      Well they had to be in the house when the door knob was alleged to have been smeared , that’s all. Also how does the gel on the door knob become a spray that Dawn and Charlie had and how did the perfume box find it’s way to Ainsbury there is no evidence yet to link these 2 men to there.

    • JudyJ says

      Vasily Nebenzya (Russian UN envoy) raised this very question with the UK’s Karen Pierce at this week’s UNSC but she saw fit to completely ignore the question. Just to demonstrate further how pathetic the UK’s contentions are (I was spoilt for choice when it came to selecting an example), she scoffed at the fact that the Russians have so far given 40 different scenarios regarding what happened ‘yet they expect everyone to take seriously their pleas of innocence’. She missed the point completely that the list of 40 scenarios is a compilation facetiously put together by the Russians of the multitude of different scenarios presented by the MSM in the UK.

    • Jim Scott says

      The only smearing in Salisbury was not on a door knob. The smearing was on the many ultra nationalist knobs to raise their ire against Putin who apparently uses or allows the use of Sarin gas on civilians, who for some strange reason still overwhelmingly support Assad. Why is it that these people whose children are being poisoned and saved by white helmets still back Assad?

  21. Philpot says

    Things seem to be boiling up – rather worrying for anyone who cares about their children or the future. In a matter of days, we have the murder of Alexander V Zakharchenko, Nikki Hailey’s crystal ball prediction of Assad’s chemical outrage, McCain’s overdue funeral, May’s Brexit calamity, Iran, China torpedoing the dollar, USA’s Idlib terror pals about to be vaporised…wow. And now the Novichok lies dragged out again. Must be something big (i.e. disastrous for someone) coming. Five lying eyes are watching…

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    • One would find it important to add the unsuccessful (fortunately) assassination attempt against President Nicolas Maduro and top leaders of Venezuela via C4-armed drones.

  22. The U.K. is in the grip of a collective nervous breakdown. If we’re not frothing at our mouths over “Russian Assassins” or “Anti-Semites” we’re busy getting hot under the collar about whatever Brexit outcome we really aren’t prepared to contemplate.

    Lunatic asylums know that this sort of fever overcomes inmates on a cyclical basis. There’s nothing that can be done other than accept their pathetic, strutting grandiosity and acting out. Exhaustion sets in eventually – sanity hardly ever.

    27
    • Frankly Speaking says

      Collective lunacy is an apt description. Borne of collective paranoia and delusion.

  23. A Benge says

    As long as everyone is having a theory, I’ll mention mine.

    They came to Salisbury initially to deliver some nerve agent to the
    chap we aren’t allowed to speak of who recruited Skripal.
    So the ‘perfume’ is already there to be smeared on the door.
    But not by the Russians who are the fall guys.
    They are asked to return with something else for the mysterious neighbour,
    (who mustn’t be mentioned) to provide evidence for the future,
    that there were a couple of dodgy looking Russians
    hanging about on the very day the Skripals got poisoned.

    Or maybe not.

  24. JJ139 says

    According to Luke the Intrepid plagiarist, the Metropolitan Police say “The bottle had been specially made to be leakproof and had a customised applicator”.
    If that were the case, how did traces of novichok find their way into the hotel bedroom? The timeline would suggest the two evil assassins never returned to the hotel on Sunday afternoon to collect left baggage, so any leakage must have happened on Friday evening, Saturday or at latest Sunday morning. Two guys, clearly without hazmat suits or even gloves, decide to test to check the customised applicator works in the hotel room before setting off ‘just in case’?

    26
    • oDon’t be ridiculous, who in their right mind would want to be certain that the deadly nerve gas they were carrying might not accidently poison them? Oh wait a minute…

    • Thomas Peterson says

      Russians always splash polonium or novichok around their hotel rooms, everyone knows that

      25
      • mark says

        They have to leave a big trail back to Moscow. That is now de rigueur in all these operations. So much better than just shoving somebody under a bus or using one of a thousand poisons which leave no trace.

    • EarlofSuave says

      Obviously, you’re not a secret service agent. You gotta take a swig from the bottle, just to make sure it is the genuine stuff. If they just sprayed some perfume on the Skripal’s doorhandle, they’d be the laughing stock of Moscow!

  25. MichaelK says

    Are you sure that the two GRU assassins arrived in Salisbury a couple of hours after the Skripals left the house? If this is accurate, how on earth could they possibly poison the door handle and contaminate the Skripals? Also this would mean they did it in broad daylight, which seems an incredibly risky undertaking.

      • MichaelK says

        Yes. But the article quotes Harding as saying they left before that, doesn’t it? So the deadly assassins smeared the door handle after the Skripals left for the centre of Salisbury and never returned because they collapsed on the park bench. I’m a bit confused here. Surely, even Harding, couldn’t ignore this bizarre timeline?

    • JudyJ says

      The Russian envoy to the UN asked that very question at today’s UNSC but Pierce for the UK explicitly avoided coming up with any explanation, still maintaining in her sanctimonious way that the two men were the perpetrators.

  26. MichaelK says

    I wonder, why did they pop into England and pop out again, just to visit Salisbury? It seems a rather expensive thing to do, just to visit Salisbury. Surely there must be more cctv of them wandering around Salisbury?

    Harding is just a tool, in both senses of the word. A useful tool. The security services recognise him as a not too intelligent and very ambitious journalist, with a paranoid and anti-Russian streak; so spoon-feeding him information which he then turns into articles in the UK’s leading ‘leftist’ publication, is an easy task. His credulity is extraordinary and he’s worth his weight in gold to the British state, who, if they didn’t ‘invent’ him, are playing him like a violin.

    22
    • Thomas Peterson says

      They wanted to buy coins but the shop was closed

  27. Michael Cromer says

    This story is just that – Vladimir Putin is described as the leader of a regime – where have we heard this rhetoric before I wonder? – a well used tactic that has been used for hundreds of years but is running out of believers in 2018.

    22
  28. Josh says

    I guess Salisbury must be an extremely popular holiday destination in Russia, imagine coming to the UK for only a couple of days and spending them going on a couple of trips to Salisbury! Maybe the Russian Lonely Planet even mentions how good the outskirts of Salisbury, especially around the Montgomery Gardens are!

    6
    4
    • Thomas Peterson says

      I guess they were enjoying the scenery indeed, because one thing they definitely weren’t doing was poisoning the Skripals via their door knob at lunch time on Sunday.

      10
      • mark says

        My theory is that they were visiting Stonehenge or searching for Ley Lines.

    • rilme says

      83.092647143% of Russian visitors to Salisbury make the pilgrimage to Porton Down.

  29. bill says

    a Robin Cook could trample the Mays twaddle underfoot as this article does…..one of the saddest aspects of this whole charade is that Labour buys into the demonisation of Russia and even invited Magnitsky laws in the UK and is accordingly impotent….

    40
  30. Frankly Speaking says

    I’ve had my comments deleted by this idiotic clown several times, starting with his Ukrainian works of fiction. This alleged MI6 agent is as unsubtle and unslkilled as they come. It’s a complete waste of time analysing or discussing his crap…yet here we all are again!

    17
    • mail says

      I’m convinced that Harding is correct when he claims the FSB broke into his flat in Russia and turned off his central heating and tampered with his alarm clock. This sounds to me very much like a KGB poltergeist. When Putin was in the KGB, he set up a project to recruit all the poltergeists in Russia and train them in intelligence work. He also developed the Mark II Killer Door Knob used in the Skripal case. This is standard issue now in the Leningrad KGB.

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  31. As the senior Russian international security chap said on Radio 4’s Today Prog – the Russians really aren’t stupid.
    Why does the British press and Teresa May think we are?

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