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  • March 16th, 2018

What evidence does the UK actually have that Russia is behind the nerve agent attack?

OPCW flag

Is it happening all over again?  Are technical experts being coerced by politicians to sign on to what are, at best, misleading statements?

Here is a summary of the official story right off of the BBC website:

The British government is expelling 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a nerve agent was used against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia in Salisbury on Sunday 4 March. Prime Minister Theresa May said the chemical used in the attack had been identified as being part of a group of nerve agents developed by Russia known as Novichok.”

In other words, there is strong circumstantial evidence of a link between the nerve agent that was used and Russia.  This has then been taken as proof of Russian government involvement at the highest levels.

“We do hold Russia culpable for this brazen, brazen act and despicable act,” Prime Minister Theresa May said during a visit to the site of the attack in Wiltshire.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, writing in the Guardian on Thursday 15 March, urged the UK government to take a “calm, measured” approach – and warned against the drift towards a “new cold war” with Russia:

“To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security.”

Those words of caution turn out to be very prescient in light of disturbing revelations in today’s commentary by former UK diplomat, Craig Murray.  His analysis casts doubt on the strength of the evidence behind UK assertions of Russian culpability. Worse still, the semantic games he exposes hearken back uncomfortably to the dark days in the lead up to the disastrous Iraq invasion when intelligence was cherry-picked and manipulated in support of false allegations of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Craig Murray writes:

I have now received confirmation from a well placed FCO [Foreign office] source that Porton Down scientists are not able to identify the nerve gas as being of Russian manufacture, and have been resentful of the pressure being placed on them to do so.”

As well as outlining in detail the word games being played to create the impression of evidence where little exists, Murray also includes “some interesting facts” which provide further background to this troubling story:

Returning again to the careful use of language to mislead the public, Murray writes:

“The government has never said the nerve agent was made in Russia, or that it can only be made in Russia. The exact formulation [is] “of a type developed by Russia….Note developed, not made, produced or manufactured.”

Premature judgments of Russian guilt risk further undermining the credibility of experts, multilateral organizations and the very fabric of international relations.

For the full blog, click: Of A Type Developed by Liars (Craig Murray, 16 March 2018).

See also: No evidence Vladimir Putin was behind the U.K. assassination (Thomas Walkom, Toronto Star, 16 March 2018.)

Photo credit: Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)

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