Skripal case: UK has something to hide

Nearly two months after former Russian spy Sergie Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal  (pictured) were poisoned allegedly by a Soviet-era Novichok-class nerve agent in Salisbury in southern England, the investigation seems to have reached a dead end. British media, which had been extensively reporting the case of the Skripals, is now silent on the subject. It is as if they have suddenly lost interest in the case or they have been told to keep quiet.

Yulia is beyond the reach of the international media after she was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital. She has been moved to an undisclosed location and the only communication from her so far was a note posted on the website of Scotland Yard which said she does not need any help from the Russian embassy in London or people in Russia. Obviously, the letter seems to have been written by local authorities who want to block consular and media access to her. No health updates of Yulia’s father Skripal are coming from the Salisbury hospital except that he is recovering.

People who have been following the Skripal case from March 4, when the father and daughter were found slumped on a street bench in Salisbury, want to know the truth: if Kremlin has played a role in the poisoning of Skripals as alleged by Britain, where is the proof?

Laboratory test results of blood samples of Skripals did not confirm that Novichok poisoned them. Experts of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) did not name the chemical as Novichok. It is not OPCW’s job to trace the origin of the nerve agent.  Earlier, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had claimed he was told by experts of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down near Salisbury that the nerve agent definitely came from Russia. His lie was exposed when the experts later said they were clueless about its origins.

Britain has never answered several questions from Russia about the Salisbury poisoning case or provided solid evidence against Moscow. Instead, it tried to extract a confession from that country by using threat. When Russia refused, Britain expelled 23 diplomats sparking a series of tit-for tat expulsions and raising the threat of a revival of cold war. During the cold war, some rules were followed but in this case, western countries led by the US blindly followed Britain in expelling Russian diplomats.

Russia was looking for some evidence to prove how the West committed a big blunder by rushing into a decision. Its Foreign Minister Sergy Lavrov finally got one and announced that Swiss lab Spiez found traces of ‘BZ’ agent, used by the US and Nato forces,  in the blood samples of Skripals. Lavrov wanted to know from OPCW why the information provided by Labor Spiez was omitted in the final report. Britain had given an impression to the world that the lab tests endorsed its view that Novichok-class nerve agent was used to poison Skripals. Spiez declined to comment on ‘BZ’ agent since test results are a closely guarded secret between OPCW and the designated labs which analyse the blood samples. It said OPCW alone can answer Lavrov.

Giving credence to Lavrov’s view and discrediting Britain’s claim that Russia produced the Novichok-class nerve agent, Czech President Milos Zeman said on Thursday (March 3) that his country experimented with the nerve agent Novichok last year. But the amount of poison produced was small and it was destroyed after the experiments, he said in an interview broadcast on the Barrandov television station. Citing Zeman’s comments, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday that Britain’s leadership lied when it accused Russia of being the sole producer of the weapon.

On Friday, OPCW experts were forced to correct a statement made by its director-general Ahmet Uzumcu to New York Times that “a quarter cup to a half cup of Novichok” – enough to kill thousands – was released to poison the Skripals. Russian spokeswoman Zakharova wondered why such a powerful toxic agent failed to affect people in the neighbourhood. Even the Skripals, who were targeted, managed to survive.

If Britain has solid evidence against Russia, it should present it before the world. If there is no clear proof, London should admit that they committed a big blunder by blaming Russia over the Skripal case. Britain’s silence gives an impression that it is trying to sweep the case under the rug.