UPDATED with additional links. Bellingcat today released the second part of their “investigation” into the alleged real identities of Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov, the two Russians accused of attempting to murder Sergey Skripal. We offer some preliminary thoughts and open the subject up for discussion
What is going on with the Skripal poisoning narrative?
Anyone who thinks they have a definitive answer at this point had better pause and reflect. Very little of anything is clear and nothing makes much sense.
The “official” UK story (except not really official since the government has been careful to keep its distance and its wiggle room on the details) was initially, and remains, contradictory, factually implausible and bereft of corroboration on most important details.
Almost all of the initial questions and areas of puzzlement remain unanswered and unresolved at this time. We still have no explanation for any of the following:
- Why Russia would want to murder Skripal at all let alone by use of something as exotic and untested as this still poorly defined substance known as “Novichok”. And why they apparently would do so at a time that dovetailed perfectly with UK/US plans in Syria, including a possible false flag chemical attack in Douma as a justification for a full-scale NATO attack on Damascus
- How the UK authorities were able to be so certain so quickly of Russian state involvement or of the source of the alleged “Novichok” used.
- What form the alleged nerve agent was in; was it gel (on the door knob) powder/aerosol (in Skripal’s car a/c system) or liquid (in a perfume bottle)?
- How, when or where the poison was allegedly administered.
- How the allegedly super-deadly nerve agent (supposedly many times more deadly than VX) did not kill either of the primary targets, or any of the secondary targets, save for the woman who allegedly literally sprayed it on her own skin.
- Where the two Skripals and DS Bailey are and why they either can’t or won’t speak to the press or appear in public. While fear (either of their “protectors” or of Russian reprisals) may be a possible reason in the case of the Skripals, it’s hard to see why this would apply to Bailey.
- Why the timing of the alleged poisoning does not fit with the itinerary of the two alleged suspects in the case, who did not arrive in Salisbury until several hours after the nerve agent was allegedly applied to the door handle (if indeed this is the one of many versions we are supposed to assume is true).
- Why there is no released CCTV footage placing the two suspects closer than 500 yards from Skripal’s house. No footage of them even in a road adjoining or leading directly to said house.
- Why two alleged GRU agents would behave in any of the ways Boshirov and Petrov behaved, including leaving a visible trail of their visit and browsing Salisbury high street for vintage coins.
To date these questions remain outstanding. But late last month we were treated to the added bizarreness of Bellingcat’s entry into the fray, culminating in the second part of their “report” released today (we discuss part one HERE), replete with a presser outside parliament by the man himself – Eliot Higgins.
— RT UK (@RTUKnews) October 9, 2018
Bellingcat/Higgins, as we know, is a patsy; a NED-funded front for UK intel agencies, through which they siphon the information – or more often disinformation – they don’t want to be associated with directly, either because it’s too weak, corrupt or absurd, or because they want to give the info a gloss of “grassroots honesty” by putting it in the hands of a (bungling) amateur.
What Bellingcat tell us, true or false, is what the UK/NATO security forces want us to hear. And what Bellingcat is currently saying is that they “proved” Boshirov and Petrov, the two apparently hapless Russian tourists snapped wandering around Salisbury last March, are actually Chepiga and Mishkin, elite military intelligence officers.
We can wonder about Higgins’ claims of how he acquired this information. It looks pretty clear his story of “discovering” their identities is completely bogus. It involves too many unnamed sources, lucky guesses and fortuitous bits of serendipity to be plausible. Bellingcat’s clumsy MO of Googling and reverse-image searching would in all likelihood simply not be up to the task anyhow.
What looks very likely, if not glaringly obvious is that they have been handed the driver’s licence and other alleged documentation by their “anonymous sources” (whoever they are) and worked back from there to try and sell what is essentially a data-dump as a piece of investigative journalism.
But all that’s moot anyhow. A bigger question is – is the story true?
The background narrative supplied by Bellingcat and its Russian allies for these alternative IDs is contradictory. Some people in Chepiga’s home town swear Boshirov is the man. Others say no, Chepiga was bald and had a different face. The same cloudiness is true of Mishkin/Petrov. Even Bellingcat admits only one anonymous alumnus of “Mishkin’s” alleged school was prepared to say that such a person with such a name had even attended there. All the other ex-students approached by Bellingcat claimed to have no memory of him at all. There are altogether too many anonymous informants here. Too many “my friend told me his grandma had a pic of him with Putin…” type memes for anything to be solid. What it amounts to is a collection of anecdote fed by alleged documentation, some of which of looks pretty real on cursory analysis:
Some a bit more questionable:
Many potential explanations have been offered.
Are these two gormless-seeming bozos really elite military intel officers sent by Putin to off an ageing spy for reasons that seem to defy analysis?
Were they intelligence officers sent to talk to Skripal for some reason, and was Skripal poisoned to prevent the meeting taking place?
Were they there unofficially, possibly at the bidding of some rogue elements inside Russia, to poison Skripal or perform other mischief?
Were they patsies, set up to take the fall for Skripal’s intended demise?
Are they just what they say they are, a couple of tourists, and is the entire thing a collection of clumsy and not so clumsy western fakery?
Or is this, as Craig Murray’s contacts seem to suggest, all some weird shadow play by both sides? An extended game of pretend, bluff and counter bluff for reasons we can’t fathom?
Well, right now, your guess is as good as mine. We’re almost certain to be coming back to this ATL in the next days or weeks. Meantime, feel free to discuss below.
And check out this cogent summary by Neil Clark over at Sputnik.