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Thread: Ex-GRU officer 'critical' after UK incident

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Ex-GRU officer 'critical' after UK incident

    A developing story after ex-GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal, 66yrs, and his daughter Yulia, in her 30s, are critically ill in hospital after being found unconscious in Salisbury, Wiltshire. He was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006, convicted of passing the identities of agents working undercover in Europe to the UK's Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. In July 2010, he was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 Russian spies arrested by the FBI as part of a swap. He was later flown to the UK.
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43303651

    There is speculation that their collapse in public was caused by an unknown substance; three emergency responders had mild symptoms.

    For a comprehensive review Shashank Joshi, of RUSI has an article and BLUF:
    Russia is happy to use assassination to satisfy political ends; Western countries have been insufficiently robust in the face of Russian provocation; If Russia poisoned Sergei Skripal, the attack represents a significant escalation
    Link:https://capx.co/russia-sees-murder-a...litical-lever/

    Mark Galeotti, a SME, has a commentary and here is a taster:
    It seems to reflect a breakdown in the old etiquette of espionage, not only foreshadowing an even more vicious "shadow war" to come, but also challenging Western states to come up with new ways to respond to and deter these kinds of outrages.
    Link:https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/former-russian-spook-incident-suggests-the-spy-rules-are-breaking-op-ed-60722?

    The main thread on Russian intelligence operations has a two posts (47 & 48) on previous allegations, notably by BuzzFeed that the UK officially was not prepared to "take on" Russia over a series of unexplained deaths.
    Link:http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...t=14375&page=3
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-06-2018 at 02:42 PM.
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    Default A disturbing pattern...

    See here from BuzzFeed:

    Now, BuzzFeed News can reveal that Puncher is among at least 14 people US intelligence officials suspect were killed in the UK by Russian mafia groups or secret services, two forces that sometimes work together, since Putin’s rise to power. Four American intelligence officials said US spies have gathered intelligence about the scientist’s death and believe that he “was assassinated”. They said they have passed MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service, information connecting Puncher’s death – and 13 others – to Russia. Yet the British police have ruled out suspicions in all those cases and shut down any further investigation.
    How can MI6 recruit agents in Russia when MI5 cannot protect defectors who become British citizens? Unfortunately, British intelligence probably has a similar reputation with disgruntled Russians as it did with disgruntled Soviets from the late 1940s to early 1960s.

    Of course, having uncovered the most nefarious Russian intelligence operation since the penetration of the Manhattan Project, spymaster Christopher Steele is the jewel in Britain's crown, and his extensive training has enabled him, his family, and his pet(s) to escape the SVR and GRU...

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    Default A Timely Message?

    After seven years.
    If a message then to whom, for what?

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Westminster wakes up: he's not the first to be attacked

    From the BBC and finally the 2017 Buzzfeed reports gain traction:
    During the urgent question in the Commons, Labour's Yvette Cooper raised reports by BuzzFeed that 14 deaths in the UK had been linked to Russia by US spy agencies.
    Ms Cooper, chairwoman of the Home Affairs select committee, asked Mr Johnson and the home secretary to order the National Crime Agency to urgently review the cases.
    Mr Johnson said there were "a number of deeply troubling cases" and he would "certainly have that discussion with the home secretary".
    Link:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43312625
    davidbfpo

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Q&a

    Citing JHR:
    Quote Originally Posted by JHR View Post
    After seven years. If a message then to whom, for what?
    I would contend some have been very patient and finally an opportunity came with the Colonel's daughter making a visit - she is normally resident in Moscow. IIRC the KGB and presumably the GRU had a stance on eliminating defectors; so has this stance remained in place? We are assuming this is not the action of unofficial persons.

    For wiser words try this comment:https://www.theguardian.com/world/20...n-spy-agencies
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-07-2018 at 10:44 AM.
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by JHR View Post
    After seven years.
    If a message then to whom, for what?
    Quite possibly to send a message to anyone within the current regime or within the country itself who may be chafing under the Putin system that dissenters / turncoats / "traitors" will not be tolerated and can be reached regardless of where they are or when. After several years these current targets must have become complacent / lacked opsec so were probably easy targets, especially if thy hung around emigre circles.

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    This incident, now classed officially as Attempted Murder(s) is the lead item in the UK news. Amidst the media furore, with a good dose of speculation and some inspired "leaks" there are a couple of significant items. No, not the official statements by politicians.

    Irony too, amidst a commentary by an ex-Army intelligence person and lightly edited:
    It was the British in1954 who first synthesized VX.
    Link:http://greyharemedia.com/sergei-skripal-assassination/

    The impact of this will be magnified as this has now been reported by the local police, with my emphasis:
    he police officer left seriously ill after he was caught up in the Salisbury nerve agent attack was named as DS Nick Bailey as Wiltshire Police said that 21 people have now been treated as a result of the incident.
    Link:https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/mar/08/russian-spy-condition-of-police-officer-who-helped-sergei-skripal-improves?


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    Default NATO Article V, anyone?

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    The impact of this will be magnified as this has now been reported by the local police, with my emphasis: Wiltshire Police said that 21 people have now been treated as a result of the incident.
    It is an act of state terrorism and an act of war. I would be impressed if the U.K. did the following:

    • Suspended diplomatic relations with Russia
    • Recalled all British diplomats from Russia and expelled Russian diplomats from the U.K.
    • Instituted a travel warning for British nationals travelling to Russia
    • Invoked Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty
    • Placed military forces on higher alert, including perhaps its SSBN force
    • Banned Russian nationals from entering the U.K.
    • Imposed financial/economic sanctions


    But who am I kidding? The "Halifax Brigade" is in charge of the Conservative Party and Labour admires the "Axis of Revolution".

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    Default Reuters: Britain sends specialist troops to city where Russian double agent poisoned

    Selected Excerpts:

    Britain deployed specialist troops on Friday to remove potentially contaminated objects from the English city where a Russian former double agent and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent. About 180 troops including some with chemical expertise have been sent to the city to remove ambulances and other vehicles involved in the incident and other objects, Britain’s ministry of defense and police said...

    Health chiefs have said there is a low risk to the wider public from the nerve agent used against the Skripals, who police said were deliberately targeted with the rare toxin. They said experts had identified the substance, which will help determine the source, but did not name it publicly...

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Britain’s warnings of retaliation were propaganda and not serious.

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    Default Clearer now?

    Slowly the attack is getting clearer and may no longer have been a public event - rather than the Skripal pair were poisoned in their private house:
    Asked if there were any leads in the case, Lord Blair told the Today Programme on Radio 4: “There are some indications that the police officer who was injured had been to the house, whereas there was a doctor who looked after the patients in the open, who hasn’t been affected at all. So there maybe some clues floating around in here."
    Link:https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/201...olice-believe/

    Lord Blair being a former Met Police Commissioner till 2008 and one assumes he was able to network to come out with this.
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    Default Update: May calls attack "unlawful use of force"

    Breaking

    Prime Minister May:
    If Russia doesn't respond satisfactorily, then the government will consider attack "unlawful use of force" against UK.
    For context

    Defence Secretary Williamson:
    Russia's being assertive, Russia's being more aggressive, and we have to change the way that we deal with it because we can't be in a situation in these areas of conflict where we are being pushed around by another nation.
    Foreign Secretary Johnson:
    But if, and it's still a big if, it turns out this is the agency of another state attempting to kill people on UK soil then of course the UK will respond robustly.
    Home Secretary Rudd:
    There will come a time for attribution and there will be, then, consequences and there will be further information that follows...The use of a nerve agent on UK soil is a brazen and reckless act. This was attempted murder in the most cruel and public way. People are right to want to know who to hold to account. We are committed to doing all we can to bring the perpetrators to justice - whoever they are and wherever they may be.
    Member of Parliament Chris Tugendhat:
    The first duty of government is to protect the British people - I think using nerve agents on British streets really does demand a response.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-12-2018 at 09:47 PM. Reason: fix quotes

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    Default Prime Minister May's Remarks

    It is now clear that Mr. Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia...The government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal...Should there be no credible response, we will conclude that this action amounts to an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom, and I will come back to this House and set out the full range of measures we will take in response...We shall not tolerate such a brazen act to murder innocent civilians on our soil.
    Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/12/w...poisoning.html
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-12-2018 at 09:44 PM. Reason: fix quote

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    Default Some context

    Dan Lomas, a UK academic, adds some context to the allegations and attempted murders. He makes two points near the end:
    Like Mossad’s suspected attacks on nuclear scientists, Litvinenko’s murder and the horrific attacks on other Russian dissidents are designed with one purpose: to instil fear in dissidents, opposition leaders and (like Skripal) former spies – and indeed, anyone potentially inspired by their behaviour. The message is clear: “Desist, or else.”
    Whether Russia is involved in this latest incident or not, it should surprise no one that countries regularly use killing as a way to intimidate and pursue foreign policy goals. What remains to be seen in this case is how the British government will respond.
    Link:https://theconversation.com/sergei-skripal-and-the-long-history-of-assassination-attempts-abroad-93021?


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    Default More of the jigsaw

    Amidst all the media clamour there are critics of the response to date, notably teh advice given to those who visited a restaurant in Salisbury:
    To see people wearing tremendous protective clothing and then [Public Health England] saying to the rest of us: you’re fine, wash your clothes, use baby wipes is just extraordinary. It doesn’t make sense when I’m looking at a newspaper photograph of five men in space suits and we’re just walking around in ordinary clothes. There should at least be a hotline for people to ring.
    The military response with trained troops in CBRN suits led to something I had missed; the specialist joint service CBRN regiment was disbanded in 2011, as part of defence spending cuts.

    It is worth checking 'Timeline: the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal'.
    Link:https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/...om-nerve-agent
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    Default To davidbfpo RE: Lomas

    David,

    I have to respectfully disagree with Lomas’ conclusions.

    Firstly, although Lomas is correct that various states carry out assassinations or targeted killings abroad, in most cases plausible deniability is sought. Notable exceptions include state actions against organized non-state actors such as insurgent or terrorist groups. Although the Soviet Union did not disclaim the attempted and successful assassinations of Trotsky in 1939-1940, despite a pro-Trotsky organization being a phantom, the Soviets were much more careful to have Bandera and Rebet appear to have died from natural causes (1957 and 1959). With regard to both Litvinenko and Skripal, the method of assassination renders deniability implausible, as the poisons are both traceable to Russia.

    Secondly, even the death of a former agent from natural causes or criminal activity can arouse suspicion. Had Litvinenko and Skripal been stabbed, shot, or bludgeoned to death during a robbery, struck by a vehicle, or fallen from a height, their deaths alone would have had a chilling effect on British intelligence asset development in Russia. Was using radiological and biological weaponry truly necessary to deter treason? After all, media reports probably credit too many deaths to Russian state assassins, when organized crime and natural causes are also involved.

    Unfortunately, Lomas provides no insight as to why Russia would attack a NATO member with traceable weapons of mass destruction in an indiscriminate manner twice, risking an Article IV or V response from the North Atlantic Council, when a bullet would do.
    Last edited by Azor; 03-13-2018 at 07:37 PM.

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    Two items, each very different.

    The first is by Lawrence Freedman, emeritus professor of war studies at King’s College London; which is broad strategic overview entitled:
    Putin’s new Cold War; Assassination attempts, cyber-attacks, military interventions – Russia is once again playing a deadly game with the West. Yet beneath the bravado is a nation riddled with insecurities.
    Link:https://www.newstatesman.com/politic...s-new-cold-war

    The second is an alternative view on the nerve agent used and in summary:
    There are reasons to doubt that these compounds are military grade nerve agents or that a Russian “Novichok” programme ever existed. If they were potentially usable as chemical weapons, people on the OPCW Scientific Advisory Board who were in a position to know the properties of these compounds would have recommended that they be added to the list of Scheduled Chemicals. They have never been added.
    2) Synthesis at bench scale of organic chemicals such as the purported “Novichoks” is within the capability of a modern chemistry laboratory. Porton Down itself must have been able to synthesize these compounds in order to develop tests for them. The detection of such a compound does not establish Russian origin.
    Link:https://timhayward.wordpress.com/201...ing-novichoks/
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    Default Novichok: the deadly story behind the nerve agent in Sergei Skripal spy attack

    I am familiar with the views of Alastair Hay, Professor (Emeritus) of Environmental Toxicology, University of Leeds; whose slim bio states:
    He is a member of the Advisory Board on Education and Outreach of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Chairman of the UK Chemical Weapons Convention Advisory Committee.
    His commentary ends with:
    Nerve agents are grotesque weapons and their use against civilians is a deeply disturbing trend. But in the weeks to come, there will have to be a dispassionate review of the evidence. And as the spat between Russia, and the UK and its allies worsens, cool heads will be needed. Amid all this frenetic activity, however, we must not forget the three victims – and wish them a swift recovery. After all, they are the ones paying the heaviest price.
    Link:https://theconversation.com/novichok-the-deadly-story-behind-the-nerve-agent-in-sergei-skripal-spy-attack-93562?

    Meantime the incident has retreated from the media foreground here, I leave aside the political fracas over whether Jeremy Corbyn is 'fit and proper' person to possibly become Prime Minister. We have the OPCW involved, some odd political statements that there is evidence aplenty it is the Russian state's responsibility and a criminal investigation.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 03-23-2018 at 09:03 PM. Reason: 1850v
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    Default The UK and Russia: What is to be Done?

    An unusual commentary via RUSI, by:
    The author is a senior former British intelligence official who has chosen to write this article anonymously to articulate unhindered views.
    Link:https://rusi.org/commentary/uk-and-russia-what-be-done

    It opens with:
    As Lenin once quipped at a key turning moment in his revolution, chto delat? (What is to be done?). That is precisely the question facing the UK after the attempted assassination in Salisbury of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia
    The last paragraph:
    The actions proposed here against the Russian intelligence presence may not be the most dramatic suggestions. But the UK’s response must acknowledge that British–Russian relations are not just some degrees worse than hitherto. For Russia under Putin has become not just a disappointing partner or a part-nuisance; it is now hostile, and Whitehall needs to adopt a policy to accept that.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-03-2018 at 07:55 PM. Reason: 3,841v today
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    Default Doubts about the Salisbury nerve agent attack

    Today there has been a flurry of reports, all of which appear to cast doubt on the official version. In part as ministers and others referred to 'evidence' when it would have been wiser to say 'assessment' or 'intelligence'.

    This via the NYT on March 29th via Twitter and not in the UK media:
    Sergei Skripal's door is being removed from his Salisbury home, hours after police say he was exposed to nerve agent there....(From Shashank Joshi, of RUSI) 25 days after the poisoning.
    Here is a headline today from the conservative Daily Telegraph:
    Salisbury nerve agent 'probably state made' but Porton Down scientists unable to say it came from Russia
    Gary Aitkenhead, the chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, said that:
    We were able to identify it as novichok, to identify that it was a military-grade nerve agent. We have not verified the precise source, but we provided the scientific information to the government who have then used a number of other sources to piece together the conclusions that they have come to. It is our job to provide the scientific evidence that identifies what the particular nerve agent is, we identified that it was from this family and that it is a military grade nerve agent, but it is not our job to then say where that actually was manufactured.
    Link:https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics...e-nerve-agent/

    A dissident voice on Open Democracy (which leans to the left IMHO):
    It is difficult to obtain 100% proof in cases such as the Sergey Skripal poisoning. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't demand as much evidence — from our politicians and law enforcement — as possible.
    Link:https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-rus...se-is-lacking?

    A more detailed analysis comes from a group of academics who watch propaganda and the media; one - not one of the three authors - of whom I have heard in person who would never be sympathetic to a Conservative government here. A key point made:
    The UK government’s declared case therefore rests only on subjective judgements of “intent and motive”, which are open to question.
    Link:http://syriapropagandamedia.org/working-papers/update-to-briefing-note-doubts-about-novichoks







    Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-05-2018 at 09:49 AM. Reason: 4,270v today
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    Default

    Shashank Joshi, of RUSI, replies to the criticism (via the Australian Lowy Institute):https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-in...eight-evidence
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