New ‘Storytelling’ in Skripal, Litvinenko Cases Meant to 'Sabotage' Effort to End Russia-UK Cold War
18:48 GMT 21.09.2021 (Updated: 16:50 GMT 17.11.2021)
© AP Photo / Frank Augstein In this Tuesday, March 6, 2018 file photo, police officers stand outside the house of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England.
© AP Photo / Frank Augstein
On Tuesday, UK police announced that a third suspect had been charged in the 2018 poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Separately, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia was responsible for the 2006 death of former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko. Moscow has dismissed the new allegations in both cases.
The claims by the UK authorities and the ECHR reiterating Western suspicions of Russia’s role in the Skripal and Litvinenko poisonings are not surprising, and seem to be part of a deliberate ploy by forces opposed to any sort of rapprochement in relations between Russia and the UK and Moscow and the West more broadly, lawmakers, politicians and authors have told Sputnik.
On Tuesday, the ECHR ruled that Russia was responsible for Litvinenko’s death, and awarded 100,000 euros (about $117,000 US) in compensation for moral damages suffered by his widow.
“Having reviewed all evidence before him, the Chairman considered that there existed a strong probability that when poisoning Mr. Litvinenko, Mr. [Andrei] Lugovoy and Mr. [Dmitri] Kovtun [the prime suspects in the crime, according to the UK authorities] were acting under the direction of the Russian security service…The [Russian] government failed to provide any other satisfactory and convincing explanation of the events,” the ruling read.
Moscow slammed the decision, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov suggesting that the ECHR does not have the authority or ability to uncover accurate information on the case, and calling the allegations “unfounded.” The Russian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, suggested that instead of an objective investigation, the court chose to echo “clearly politicized and more than questionable” conclusions made earlier by the UK’s authorities.
21 September 2021, 10:21 GMT
In a separate development, also on Tuesday, British police announced that they had authorized charges against a third suspect in the 2018 Salisbury poisoning attack on former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Police said the suspect could be charged with attempted murder and possession of an illegal chemical weapon. London confirmed that the individual had been placed on Interpol’s Wanted List, and Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed that London and its allies would “take every possible step” to detain him if he traveled abroad.
Moscow blasted London over the new Skripal allegations, accusing Britain of deliberately using the Salisbury case as an “instrument of pressure” and reiterating that the British authorities have yet to agree to a joint investigation into the case, something that Moscow proposed over three years ago. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hazarded a guess as to why the allegations were presented now, pointing to the upcoming planned meeting between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UK Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
21 September 2021, 12:34 GMT
‘Timing Not Very Surprising’
“The timing of the new developments is not very surprising,” says Guy Mettan, a Swiss politician, former director of the Geneva Press Club and author of ‘Creating Russophobia: From the Great Religious Schism to Anti-Putin Hysteria.'
“I have observed that the publication of charges and media campaigns against Russia are very often related to a specially important political event or a special economic deadline. These days, we have not only the Biden address to the UN General Assembly and the scheduled meeting between UK and Russia[n] foreign ministers, but also the elections of governors and State Duma deputies [in Russia],” Mettan points out.
The journalist believes the latest claims are part of the same “anti-Russian storytelling” seen in the Western media after the alleged ‘poisoning’ of Russian opposition vlogger Alexei Navalny, with those claims continuing to be flogged to the public in the West despite being treated with incredulity in Russia itself.
“That’s why I see the timing of the resurge of the Skripal and Litvinenko cases as a means for sabotaging any attempt to put an end to the actual cold war between the UK and Europe and Russia, as well as a means to discredit the results of the last Russian elections [as far as] European public opinion [is concerned],” Mettan says.
The author suggests that amid the failure to torpedo Nord Stream 2, and Europe’s growing tendency to ignore “boring” allegations coming out of Ukraine about the Russian boogeyman, “powerful Russophobic forces which are populating the defence, intelligence and foreign ministries in the West have to find new opportunities or to renew old horror tales in order to keep the anti-Russian narrative high.”
Alex Krainer, a writer and businessman, and author of the book ‘The Grand Deception: The Truth about Bill Browder, the Magnitsky Act, and Anti-Russian Sanctions,' echoes Mettan’s sentiments, suggesting the rulings appear to have been “very deliberately timed to prevent any possible rapprochement” between Moscow and London.
“I think it smacks of sabotage and the court cases, the way they have been decided in one day, certainly [have] not sought to be fair and impartial, but [are] driven by an agenda,” Krainer says.
The writer says he’s followed the Litvinenko case in particular “very closely” and believes that it’s “next to certain that Russian leadership wouldn’t be responsible, or at the very least…very difficult to prove that beyond any reasonable doubt.”
Both the Litvinenko and Skripal cases are “used to undermine the relationships between the East and West,” Krainer believes. “The structures of power – they want to change the regime in Russia. They want to potentially dismember Russia and eliminate it as a Eurasian power. They want to use these cases as a public relations ploy to simply demonize the current Russian leadership.”
24 Hour Trial? ‘Ridiculous’
Matthew Gordon-Banks, a former Tory lawmaker and Liberal Democrat politician and retired senior research fellow at the Defence Academy of the UK, believes that from a legal standpoint, the ECHR’s Litvinenko ruling seems politicized and rushed.
“I think the idea that the ECHR can hold a trial of such significance in just 24 hours is ridiculous. The Court can be highly political at times and they state that there is a ‘strong prima facie’ case concerning the death of Alexander Litvinenko. This has not been a proper trial, it has based its judgement primarily on British-produced evidence, and a prima facie case is not proof beyond doubt,” the former politician stresses.
“Whilst I am very sad for Mr. Litvinenko’s wife and family, there are one or two cases recently in the UK where many of the facts do not stand up to scrutiny. No one can be certain who caused the death of this renegade spy,” Gordon-Banks says.
2 November 2019, 05:58 GMT