1. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard Senior Member

    Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were found in a state of collapse in the English City of Salisbury on Sunday.
    Subsequent investigation has discovered the two victims, along with 21 other people had become subject to a nerve agent, possibly VX, the same chemical used in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpa airport last year.

    Investigations are still on going, with both military and civilian authorities involved, but given Skripal past, he had been convicted and imprisioned in Russia for spying for the UK (and released as part of a spy swap deal), and Russia track record in poisoning exiled spies and critics of the state, eg Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, the finger of suspicion is pointing at Moscow. Needless to say the Russians are denying involvement.

    Latest (at time of posting) reports... http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43344725

    Needless to say the consirasphere is buzzing with false flag claims, eg...
    I've not notice the Russian troll houses getting into gear on this one yet though, but we shall see what develops.
  2. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Winner Winner x 1
  3. Hevach

    Hevach Senior Member

    It's kind of a situation where they don't need to apologize. It falls into the "open secret" realm that even friendly embassies are crawling with spies, and this is the risk that foreign assets and double agents take - they're very nearly fair game to other spies, because even if MI6 were ready to go to bat for a foreign asset getting offed in a counterintelligence operation, anything public like diplomatic pressure or criminal charges would risk tipping the hand on their methods and potentially endangering other assets.

    I mean... I'm trying really hard not to sound callous here, because death is always a tragedy, and it's really messed up that countries so routinely do things like this inside other countries, and even more messed up that they generally do so with impunity, but this is the game you sign up for when you become a spy, especially when you become an asset to a foreign agency. And double plus especially when Russia is involved. Everybody involved knew that, and Russia knows everybody involved knows that, so they get to do the supervillain laugh while their adversaries can do little except pick up the pieces.

    Relevant example: The polonium poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
  4. Trailspotter

    Trailspotter Senior Member

  5. Hevach

    Hevach Senior Member

    The UK does. The BBC link in the OP says he is, "a Russian national convicted of spying for Britain."
  6. Trailspotter

    Trailspotter Senior Member

    Correct. Convicted by Russians, who keep calling him a British spy. I am not aware about any British acknowledgement of his working for them.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
  7. Hevach

    Hevach Senior Member

    In 2010, the US exchanged 10 Russian spies for Skripal and three others at an airport in Vienna. Articles from 2010 name Skripal as an MI6 informant and that he was expected to stay in Britian when the plane stopped before returning to the US.

    That's about as confirmed as these things get without risking peoples' cover.

    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2018
  8. Trailspotter

    Trailspotter Senior Member

    Thanks. This is more than I need and want to know about this person.
  9. JFDee

    JFDee Senior Member

    A revenge execution after such a deal (and indiscriminately affecting innocent people) is not generally agreed upon to be a "part of the game".

    I've not heard about Western nations' services being involved in revenge killings of exchanged spies in Russia. It would only make sense if it became very public, acting as a deterrent. Otherwise it'd be a waste of valuable resources.
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2018
  10. John85

    John85 Member

    My money's on a lone wolf attacker, as there is very little evidence so far of a conspiracy.
    • Disagree Disagree x 1
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  11. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard Senior Member

    could well be, but you can't get nerve agents like VX in your local Tesco's,
    • Agree Agree x 4
  12. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    Yes, everything I have read about this case suggests it goes against the "gentleman's agreements" that have previously characterised spycraft. If you exchange spies, you don't then go after them and try to kill them.
  13. occams rusty scissor

    occams rusty scissor Active Member

    Yup...They don't normally deploy military CBRN guys to this level for just a Hazmat response.

    What I don't get is why use a toxin that could only be used by a government agent? Seems like an overly complex and risky way to do it, really. If it's just a case of wanting to bump him off, why not just make it look like he was randomly attacked?

    Same could be said for Litvinenko though. Perhaps they want to leave a telling signature.
  14. DavidB66

    DavidB66 Member

    Going back a bit further, there was the case of Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident who was assassinated in London by a pellet containing ricin fired from an umbrella. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgi_Markov#Later_investigation_and_aftermath This might seem like a joke out of The Man From Uncle , but the result was deadly serious (sorry).
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  15. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard Senior Member

    I reckon its a message sending thing, everyone knows to JFK someone with VX or Polonium, or Ricin filled pellets and a James Bond style brolly, the perps are gonna have to be state sponsered. They, in this case the Russian secret service, know the only real response the UK can give is diplomatic sanctions and expulsion of some embassy staff, which while politically incovenient in the short term, for both sides, will not be a biggie in the grand scheme of things. After all the UK, or NATO is not going to risk military hostilities over a dead or injured ex-spy, and the message is still sent that if you betray Mother Russia, they can and will get you at some point.

    Of course the fact that around 20 civilians were caught up in the incident could have been very nasty.
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  16. JFDee

    JFDee Senior Member

    To me, the likeliest explanation is a glaring signal by the Russian government to their own citizens that no one will be ever safe after providing secret information to foreign powers.

    There may be even the useful side effects of being able to test the real-world release of a new chemical weapon, or to stick it to the world that there may be more in store of that kind of stuff. It's probably also useful to observe what the civil and military emergency response is in the targeted country.

    All in all a lot to gain for, and as @Whitebeard said, very few downsides to Russia. So the question is what a "lone wolf" had to gain in comparison.
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  17. Agent K

    Agent K Active Member

    Wouldn't be the first time Russia poisoned someone in London. Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was poisoned with ricin from a Bulgarian Umbrella in 1978. Well, technically Bulgaria assassinated him with Russia's assistance.
    Since when were KGB men "reluctant to become accessories to murder"?
  18. occams rusty scissor

    occams rusty scissor Active Member

    Apparently a toxin called "Novichok":

    • Informative Informative x 1
  19. John85

    John85 Member

    That's the million dollar question though - how far does the kind of chemical weapon used determine who used it? My above comment was a joke (sorry) because this does have conspiracy stamped all over it. But is there no scope for a lone wolf? Could a dedicated scientist not have produced this substance themselves, even with no link to Russia?
  20. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    Further conspiracy theory fodder after The Times mistakenly said Skripal had died in its front-page headline (the image was only of a page proof and it was corrected before the paper went to presss).

    Source: https://twitter.com/mrmalky/status/972989352719671296


    Comparisons with Building 7 are inevitably being drawn.
  21. Hevach

    Hevach Senior Member

    The thing about the Novichok series of poisons is that they aren't known in detail. It's known there are many variants, they're mostly fluoridated organophosphates and there's been a few unconfirmed structures reported. Enough is known that we could recognize them chemically but the exact formulas and their manufacture is another matter. We don't even know for certain if they're as deadly as claimed, though we're getting a chance to study that right now.

    The one caveat is that, because they're not well known, this hypothetical lone wolf (who would need expertise in a particular part of chemical engineering that's not widely available outside creating the deadliest chemical weapons in the world) could cook up a fluoridated organophosphate and investigators wouldn't know the difference. That's some dangerous stuff to work with in these quantities, and not a kind of chemical engineering you'd encounter in most jobs or university labs.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  22. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard Senior Member

    These nerve agents are not something you can cook up in your kitchen, you need some very specialist labs and someone who knows exactly what they are doing, there is zero room for error. One slip and its the assassin thats dead, not the target.And the equipment to make,store and deploy these agents are not thing that are easy to obtain either, the idea of a mad scientist in his underground lab churning out weapons of mass destruction is the domain of certain Hollywood films of questionable quality,not something that is in the domain of reality.

    Other toxins, such as ricin and sarin, are far easier to produce and handle (although still beyond yer average man in the lab) and just as effective. Or why go for a nerve agent in the first place? Why not go or good old Hydrogen Cyanide or the like? Or why poison at all, why not go for the snipers bullet, or the bomb or the staged car crash? All far easier methods of taking someone out than using a complex nerve agent.

    Given the Russians track record of assassination, both in Russia and abroad, the method used, and the nature of the target all fingers of suspicion are pointing at Moscow on this one, probably as a message to other disidents not to make waves in the run up to Russias up coming 'elections', rather than any theoretical 'lonewolf' operative.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  23. Bill Statler

    Bill Statler Member

    The assassination attempt was not done cleanly (many people were contaminated), which suggests amateurism. But if the nerve agent is very difficult to produce, this suggests that a government made the stuff.

    So my hypothesis is that the Bad Guys were not under government direction, but they obtained the nerve agent from a government source by stealing it or by bribing/threatening someone who had access to it.
  24. Agent K

    Agent K Active Member

    "Only Moscow could conduct Salisbury attack, says Russian scientist (whistleblower) who warned world of nerve agent without cure"
    • Informative Informative x 2
  25. Hevach

    Hevach Senior Member

    Russia has a storied history of "state condoned lone wolf" attacks. The basic concept is, the Kremlin won't order somebody killed, but if somebody has made enemies in Moscow or among the oligarchs, and they die under your watch, then good things will happen. The flip side of this is that anyone who screws up is acting alone and off the books, and as such is turbo-screwed.

    This does mean that there's a lot of craziness around Russian revenge killings. There have been amateurish attempts, one target found a pool of mercury under their driver's seat after experiencing a mild case of heavy metal poisoning, and one opposition leader in Moscow has survived two attempts of assassination by poison. On the other extreme you have needlessly elaborate mob hits and shameless police executions.
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2018
  26. Agent K

    Agent K Active Member

    "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras." -Dr. Theodore Woodward

    In other news, "Putin enemy found dead in London eight days after Skripal poisoning, as counter-terror police launch investigation"
    • Informative Informative x 1
  27. JFDee

    JFDee Senior Member

    Of course it's not impossible that a loner did it - just unlikely and implausible.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  28. Whitebeard

    Whitebeard Senior Member

    And 14 other old cases of dead Russians or dead folks with Russian conections to be re-opened.
  29. Critical Thinker

    Critical Thinker Senior Member

    From the WashintonPost: Britain to expel 23 Russian diplomats in nerve agent case and will block all high-level contacts with Moscow

  30. MikeC

    MikeC Closed Account

    Or being handed it as a form of "deniable" state support...

    As to why nerve agent? i can think of a number of reasons.

    1/ it is no immediately obvious what has happened - allowing the perpetrators to get away;

    2/ there is no forensic evidence lying around - this particular nerve gent was designed to be not detected by NATO testing systems, and extremely lethal in small quantities, so maybe they also hoped that the nature of the poison would never be established. there must be something used to carry it I guess, but if only minuscule amounts are required then that might be quite small and easily concealed, and the perpetrator takes it away with them;

    2a/ This nerve agent is not widely produced, so maybe even if the mechanism (nerve agent) was identified, the exact type might not be and hence any inquiry severely limited.

    3/ I think they probably thought they would only affect 1 person - an explosion has considerable collateral damage, bullets can ricochet, car accidents are unpredictable. Poison administered to 1 person is probably thought to be highly precise... we don't know how it was administered or how the daughter and policeman contacted the agent, so maybe that also speaks to a level of unfamiliarity with the agent and/or amateurism.
  31. occams rusty scissor

    occams rusty scissor Active Member

    Except there is seemingly quite a bit of forensic evidence laying about, enough to spark a hazmat response and give the UK enough reason to start chucking out diplomats.

    There are so many other ways to kill someone, either with precision or with a bit of a smoke screen and make it look like a complete random event, I.e. mugging gone wrong. But if you must persist with poison, there are also plenty of poisons to choose from which are not so specific in origin and would be far easier for Russia to shrug.

    It seems they wanted to leave a signature, why else use a weaponised nerve agent that is primarily a Russian invention? Perhaps they underestimated the blow back?
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  32. MikeC

    MikeC Closed Account

    Obviously - I was talking about motives and reasons - not results.

    there are non-weaponised nerve agents??

    I gave you some possible reasons - that is all they are - POSSIBLE reasons.... whether they weer the reasons I do not know, but your comments are actually irrelevant to my post.
  33. Efftup

    Efftup Senior Member

    Yes. I am glad my mum was in Bristol for mother;s day and hadn;t gone out for pizza.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  34. occams rusty scissor

    occams rusty scissor Active Member

    Ok...no worries. Just I took it you were saying there was no forensics where you said there were no forensics laying around..

    I don't know. There are a few non weaponised organophosphates? Not strictly deemed nerve agents I suppose.


    I'm very sorry for being irrelevant to your post.
  35. JFDee

    JFDee Senior Member

    It may as well suggest open disregard for collateral damage. Cynicism, brazeness, bragging. High visibility.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  36. Agent K

    Agent K Active Member

    The same thing happened with the polonium poisoning of Litvinenko, where the suspects, Lugovoy and Kovtun, left a radioactive trail through London. And polonium is difficult to produce. Lugovoy brought his wife and children with him to London. Kovtun was hospitalized himself with radiation poisoning a month later.

    Also, recall the assassins of Kim Jong-un's half-brother. They say they were tricked into it, smearing VX or more likely its non-lethal components on their bare hands. One of them was sick herself afterwards.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  37. occams rusty scissor

    occams rusty scissor Active Member

    Lots of risk, few too many moving parts.

    The old "unecessarily slow dipping device"
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2018
  38. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Admin Note
    This is a topic about which there is obviously going to be disinformation at the highest level, organized and well funded. There will also be disinformation and spin at the individual level, from fans of either side.

    If you want to post information then:
    • Use direct quotes.
    • Provide references (links) only to back up something you have quoted
    • Don't paraphrase.
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    Last edited: Mar 26, 2018
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  39. derwoodii

    derwoodii Senior Member

    I've been looking for arguments & evidence either way and would like to post these 2 sides

    Doubts about “Novichoks”



    'You cannot imagine the horror, it's so bad': Russian scientist who developed Novichok describes agonising convulsions caused by poison used on Sergei Skripal,, "Vil Mirzayanov"


    His "Vil Mirzayanov" book of 2008 checks out tho i not yet digested the full content only glanced at the into & reviews


    So the who why etc is very tricky to determine given the nature of the event... Its unlikely to a be a scripted global conspiracy more likely just another tic for tac KGB spy vs spy revenge or it just might be FIFA setting the psych out sledging tone for World cup in Russia this June..
  40. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    I'm not sure your point #1 is legitimate. this article I read is saying the point of OPCW is for "facility inspection" purposes. If no facility is admitting to making it, then what's the point of advertising the compounds? the article also says there are other known compounds not listed.

    • Agree Agree x 2