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Post Skripal Poisoning (from Gary Moore)
Created by John Eipper on 08/16/18 10:19 AM

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Skripal Poisoning (from Gary Moore) (John Eipper, USA, 08/16/18 10:19 am)

Gary Moore writes:

Thanks to Boris Volodarsky (August 15) for alerting us to his GQ magazine appearance, recapping the Skripal nerve-agent poisoning in the UK.

The September GQ article, by Guardian writer Tom Lamont, accessibly shows the knowns in the Skripal mystery, though I wonder if Boris feels points were missed. The article mentions that Skripal (March 4) synergized in international diplomacy with the April 7 chemical weapons controversy in Syria. The Russian propaganda machine revved up in both cases, Russia being the accused party in the Skripal affair and the ally of the accused Assad regime in the April gassing in Douma (an aerial drop of a chlorine canister or canisters ostensibly from an Assad helicopter, by now pretty much proven).

The GQ article also mentions the UN's Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons as the authority on such cases, but after the shouting was over in the Syria case, questions have crept in regarding the OPCW, which was repeatedly manipulated by Russia through Russian UN membership in the agency. There was a long delay in the OPCW's "interim" report on Douma, which finally did certify chlorine but not a nerve agent. This is concerning not least because on two separate occasions unnamed US officials claimed proof that a nerve agent was involved at Douma, along with the chlorine (either the US officials or the OPCW deserve a skeptical second look). Even after its delay, the OPCW's July report on Douma was an "interim" matter because, though it did confirm the obvious, that chlorine was used (the actual chlorine canisters were found and persuasively filmed), the report waffled on how the two canisters arrived at the spots where they were found and (in one case) caused mass fatalities.

The Russia/Assad claim is that the canisters had been planted there by rebels, who allegedly killed their own people to provoke US air strikes against Assad. This was sidestepped by the OPCW. Even after Russian hamstringing of the OPCW's mission, it should have been a straightforward matter to analyze the condition of the canisters to see whether they showed impact damage from an aerial drop. But for some reason the OPCW said it would need much more time to do this--time in which the news could die farther and interested national players, on whichever side, could further minimize embarrassment. On this the OPCW has promised a "final" report--still somewhere off in the future.

The British government seems never to have replied with conclusive evidence to "outrageous" Russian claims that British intelligence was involved in staging the Douma attack. All of these puzzle pieces together, though each may be minor in its own right, suggest there could be a set of priorities that remain undefined publicly.

The GQ article claimed that in the past, British response to apparent poisonings of Russian expats had been muted because of Russian "oligarch" money filtering into Britain. That's a large charge to make without offering proof. There's also the article's mention that suspects in the Skripal attack--perhaps deep-cover Russian "illegals" embedded in Britain--have now been pinpointed by British authorities. Is there any further news on this? Will another bombshell quietly disappear? I'm hoping that Boris can deconflict some of this.

JE comments:  Undoubtedly, Putin and Co. are kicking the ball down the road, fully aware that the world's attention span is short.  This makes the work of people like Boris Volodarsky even more vital--so that we don't forget.

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  • Skripal Poisoning: True Believers and True Deniers (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/17/18 5:16 AM)
    Gary Moore (August 16th) has posted a very good comment from the US Russophobic point of view.

    Personally I cannot prove one way or another if the contemptible traitor Skripal was poisoned by the Russians.  Who wanted to break the record of civilians killed in the bombing of Tokyo on 9-10 March 1945 (100,000 to 200,000 deaths) with chlorine canisters?  Not Russia and not Assad, as far I can see.

    I can well remember 75 years of fake news and strong meddling in Italy from the Psychological Warfare Department, PSYOP, then the CIA and the US Embassy, and now also the Freedom of the Net-Freedom House and people like the dangerous Soros, without forgetting General Powell at the UN shaking a vial of anthrax.

    So, please, do not make the usual fuss about "we" the Good and "they" the Devil.  Each nation pursues its own interests.  My grandfather used to tell me that no one is more hypocritical than the one who claims to be Good.

    JE comments:  Imagine a serial killer with this argument--"My 35 murders pale in comparison to the US-sanctioned slaughter of civilians in [Vietnam, Iraq, Dresden...].  Hypocrites!" 

    True, but...

    Fake news or not, I'll continue to accept the orthodox view of Russian involvement in the Skripal poisoning.  Boris Volodarsky (among others) has patiently unpacked the details.

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    • Tokyo Firebombing: A Correction (Edward Jajko, USA 08/17/18 2:14 PM)
      Chlorine canisters? Death by poison gas? (See Eugenio Battaglia, 17 August.) No, the event of 9-10 March 1945 was "firebombing."

      It was known that Japanese houses were made of wood, cloth, and paper, and it was decided to attack Tokyo with incendiary bombs. The idea was to break the resolve of the military, the government, and the people. It took two atomic bombs to do that.

      JE comments:  I'm afraid this was my editing error, a "Dogs must be carried on the escalator" moment.  Here's what was posted:  "Who wanted to break the record of civilians killed in the bombing of Tokyo on 9-10 March 1945 (100,000 to 200,000 deaths) with chlorine canisters?  Not Russia and not Assad, as far I can see."

      I didn't intend to comment on any "chlorine canister record."  Sorry about that, Ed.  And remember, if you have no dog, stay off the escalator...

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    • Skripal Poisoning: No Doubt the Russians Did It (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 08/18/18 7:21 AM)

      Having just read Eugenio Battaglia and his--how to put it mildly--naïve disagreement with obvious facts, I want to ask: Eugenio, was it North Korea, you think, or perhaps the White House who ordered the Skripal poisoning?  Or maybe Nigeria?

      I want to assure you it was Russia. And not just rogue elements there, but without doubt the Russian Intelligence Service. And defence minister Shoygu himself was not authorised to sanction such an operation, so please believe it had to be authorised at the very top, in the former Senate Palace behind the Kremlin wall. There's a special room there. I attach a photo.

      JE comments:  Boris Volodarsky also sent a longer reply to Gary Moore (forthcoming).

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    • Responsibility for Skripal Poisoning: Response to Eugenio Battaglia (Istvan Simon, USA 08/20/18 4:08 AM)
      WAISers that regularly read these pages like I do are accustomed to Eugenio Battaglia's opinions, and we know his particular biases and prejudices. To be most inclusive, let me say that I think that all of us have our own prejudices and our way of looking at and interpreting the world around us. There is certainly more than one way to do that, and so our diversity of views is ordinarily a source of strength of WAIS. Nonetheless, there ought to be limits to what is acceptable as a WAIS post. I can only offer my opinion, but I believe that Eugenio crossed that line with his post of August 17 on the Skripal case. All theories may be considered, but any theory which ignores facts must surely be discarded.

      Eugenio reveals deep prejudices in every sentence of this post.

      1. He calls Gary Moore's August 16 post excellent but terms it "Russophobic." I must object. In my opinion Gary's post was excellent and objective. Gary's post does not present a US point of view but simply one that does not ignore facts. Just in passing, I would like to state that I never ever noticed in Gary Moore's contributions to WAIS any phobia for any country. To call him "Russophobic" is false and a disservice to WAIS. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.

      2. Eugenio calls Skripal a contemptible traitor, which is his next giant display of bias. Skripal was a Russian double agent in the GRU, but double agents are common in every Intelligence service. Is every double agent in every intelligence service a "contemptible traitor," according to Eugenio? For example, are Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning "contemptible traitors"?

      3. Even if we were to accept that Skripal is a "contemptible traitor" to Russia, does that make his his attempted murder more acceptable? Skripal was let go by Russia, and was leading a quiet life in Salisbury in the UK, so why should he be murdered? Would the United States be justified in the opinion of Eugenio to attempt to poison Edward Snowden with a nerve agent?

      4. Eugenio next doubts that Russia attempted to murder Skripal and his daughter, and actually succeeded in murdering a completely innocent British woman, and made very sick several other innocent bystanders. Is there no moral outrage left in Eugenio? Was Skripal's daughter also a "contemptible traitor" whose life is worthless? What about the policeman that got very sick? What about the innocent lady that died in this awful crime ordered by Putin? Boris Volodarsky correctly stated, August 18, that no one but Putin could have ordered the attempted murder of the the Skripals. In every murder and attempted murder, motivation is strongly indicative for a plausible suspect, so who other than Putin could have plausibly ordered this abominable crime? Then there is the weapon used to be considered. Novichok is not exactly something that one can get in the local supermarket, so who else but Russia could have used it? It is obvious that the two facts I just mentioned prove beyond reasonable doubt that Putin ordered the crime. Period. Eugenio's denials are basically propaganda and disinformation.

      5. Eugenio next displays a hatred of the United States when he mentions the fire-bombing of Tokyo in World War II in his post. To begin with, surely this has zero to do with the subject matter, so bringing it up in this context is simply absurd and in my opinion unacceptable. My dear friend Ed Jajko addressed it in his usual calm and authoritative way. But I would like to add a few of my own remarks.

      The first relevant observation is that awful as the fire bombing of Tokyo was, and the subsequent bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that finally ended the war with Japan, nonetheless all these terrible events happened in a savage war. To ignore the context is absurd. Furthermore, it was a war in which Japan displayed unspeakable cruelty and large-scale murder and mistreatment of non-combatants in China, in the Rape of Nanking, the comfort women of Korea, in Malaysia, Philippines--everywhere where Japan put its heavy and brutal boots in World War II. Japan killed millions of noncombatants. More than 111,000 American military were killed by Japan. We were cowardly attacked at Pearl Harbor, where thousands of Americans died, many civilians. We endured Iwo Jima, Saipan, a long island-by-island bloody fight in the Pacific, we endured Kamikaze pilots, and so on. So all these are precursors to the fire bombing of Tokyo, and to ignore this context is a disservice to history and the truth.

      6. The next pack of untruths in Eugenio's post is his "remembrance" of 75 years of "fake news" in Italy by supposedly the CIA. This is an empty accusation. He does not stop there. He mentions George Soros, a private citizen of the United States, born in Hungary, not connected with American policy or the United States government or policy in any way. I fail to grasp why George Soros is mentioned, or why he cannot do whatever he wants to do without such accusations. As far as I know George Soros committed no crime of any kind anywhere in the world, so who is Eugenio to make such aspersions? Anyone can object to George Soros's ideas, that is one thing and not a problem at all, but Eugenio displays only political bias in his mention of Soros.

      7. Finally Eugenio ends his post with the following: My grandfather used to tell me that no one is more hypocritical than the one who claims to be Good.

      I'd suggest Eugenio apply his grandfather's teachings to himself, his admiration for Mussolini, a bloody dictator, and the awful ideology of fascism.

      JE comments:  Strong words to kick off the week.  I'll post Eugenio Battaglia's reply when he sends it, but for now, a question about double agents.  Can't we universally agree that they are traitors?  The "contemptible" part depends on what side you're on.

      I read many years ago (was it Hedrick Smith's The Russians?) that the Soviet people publicly welcomed Western "defectors" to the USSR, but down deep they despised them as traitors.  The opposite scenario was different:  Cold War-era defectors from communism were viewed in the West as heroes.  I wonder if this appraisal still applies.  How, for example, is Snowden seen by the Russians?

      Next up, a further comment from Boris Volodarsky on the Skripal case.

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      • Skripal Poisoning: Cui Prodest? (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 08/21/18 4:02 AM)
        Commenting on the post of Istvan Simon (August 20th), our esteemed moderator JE stated that he will publish my answer.  I am very grateful for that.

        Frankly I do not see any need for a response to a personal attack. However, I wish to point out some facts:

        If you betray your country you may do that for ethical or political convictions and that is one thing, but if you betray for money you are a contemptible person.  It has been that way since the dawn of humanity.

        The US firebombing of Tokyo was in violation of the International Conventions. If you violated the International Conventions as your enemy has done you are equal to him and not different. Therefore if you say that you are Good and your enemy Evil, you are a hypocrite.

        Soros in 1992 for profit was deeply involved in the collapse of both the British pound and the Italian lira.  Moreover, his so-called NGOs are deeply involved in politics detrimental to countries where they want to operate.

        Additionally I would like to add to my previous answer to Boris Volodarsky, who despite differing from my position, did so in a very kind manner. For this I thank him.

        Boris called my dissenting view on the Skripal poisoning naïve. I refer to the old Latin wisdom both for the (one or two) chlorine canister(s) of Douma and the Skripal poisoning.   Cui prodest? (Who benefits?)

        It appears that it was not in the real geopolitical interests of Syria or Russia but only in the interest of the West and their proxies.

        JE comments:  This is a good time to remind WAISers to keep things polite.  Always.  It's OK to take issue with what a colleague says, but not with the WAISer him or herself.  In today's ugly climate of trolling, bullying, and high-level nastiness, it's more important than ever for WAIS to maintain its civility.

        Returning to the Skripal case, I'm not clear on how the West was supposed to benefit from the attack.  But one thing is certain:  it hasn't.

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        • Douma and Skripal: Who Benefited? (Istvan Simon, USA 08/23/18 4:03 AM)
          Eugenio Battaglia (August 21) characterized my post of August 20 as a personal attack on him, to which he "frankly saw no reason to answer." Eugenio seems to have answered it anyway.

          My post was undoubtedly strongly critical of Eugenio, but I believe I did so fairly. I disagree that it was an impermissible personal attack.

          If my criticism of Eugenio seemed too personal to him, perhaps it is because it was based on what in my view are fundamentally moral issues. Murder and attempted murder by Novichok is for me first and foremost a moral issue. When I view something in that light, I will not give an inch.

          Eugenio makes a distinction for betraying one's country for ethical or political reasons, which he sees relatively benignly, while he deems contemptible if done for money. In most cases that I am aware of, both money and other factors are involved, so this distinction rarely seems practical. Be that as it may, I do not know if Sergei Skripal betrayed Russia because of money, for other reasons, or both, but I do know that Putin definitely betrayed Russia for money--he is grotesquely corrupt, one of the richest men in the world, and surely he did not become so from his salary as the long-term president of Russia. In contrast, certainly Sergei Skripal is a man of modest means. So, in terms of the contemptibility factor, by Eugenio's own criteria Putin is far far more contemptible. Worse still, Putin commits murder for money, which puts Putin in the group of the hyper-contemptible. Yet Eugenio is so admiring of this particular murderer.

          In any case, this situation reminds me of a story that illustrates the misogynist humor for which George Bernard Shaw was well known.

          It is said that George Bernard Shaw told a beautiful lady sitting next to him at an elegant dinner party whether she would consider bestowing her favors on him for a million pounds. The lady was receptive. He then asked, what about for 5 pounds? The lady indignantly protested, what do you take me for? George Bernard Shaw said, Madam, we already established that. We are just negotiating the price.

          Going back to Eugenio's post, he says the firebombing of Tokyo in World War II violated International Conventions. Which ones, Eugenio? Please be specific. And while we are at it, please also answer: did the bombing of Aleppo by Russia and Syria violate International Conventions?

          Regarding George Soros, Eugenio says that Soros was involved for profit in the attack on the British pound and the Italian Lira in 1992. Indeed he was, but so what? This was not against any law anywhere, so why is this relevant? And why mention it in a discussion about the poisoning of Sergei Skripal? Eugenio accuses Soros's NGOs as detrimental to the countries in which they operate. I strongly disagree. I think they are very good for the countries involved. Freedom and democracy are good for any country. George Soros's philanthropy is highly commendable, in my opinion.

          Eugenio asks who benefits regarding the Skripal poisoning, and the Douma chemical attacks. This is surely a non-sequitur, because in both cases the answer points squarely in the very opposite direction of his conclusions. Obviously neither Skripal nor the UK benefited from the attempted murder. Putin certainly did. He sent a "message" that no one is safe from his dirty murderous hands anywhere--something he surely wants the world to notice, and we all did. In the case of Douma, the answer is even more obvious. The people who were so callously murdered and maimed including hundreds of children most certainly did not benefit. Assad and Putin did. The suburb of Damascus fell into Assad's blood-stained, disgraceful hands.

          JE comments:  In response to the "who benefited?" question, Eugenio Battaglia wrote off-Forum of the "fuss, propaganda, sanctions, and bombings."  I'll leave aside "fuss" for the present, but do sanctions ever benefit anyone?  Shouldn't they be seen as an investment--meaning, an expense incurred in the hope of reaping a future benefit, such as changed behavior in the sanctionee?

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      • What Does "Russophobic" Mean? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 08/23/18 4:30 AM)

        Gary Moore writes:

        My thanks to Istvan Simon and Boris Volodarsky, respectively, for defending my questions
        on the nerve gas controversies (Skripal and Douma), and for fleshing out the background
        of the GQ article featuring Boris.

        It's notable that Eugenio Battaglia (17 August) wondered about
        "Russophobic" overtones in my presentation, since in fact I thought I was leaving the door open to
        serious questions about both sides. I specifically noted the official (but anonymous) US voices
        that have repeatedly said they had proof of nerve gas at Douma, Syria, on April 7, but then have
        mysteriously failed, over and over, to present that proof--while the media rushes off to other

        There are similar quandaries on Britain; regarding Skripal but especially on Douma.
        Britain made remarkably muted rebuttals to Russian accusations of labyrinthine British conspiracy.
        Of course, both the UK and the US may be safeguarding intelligence sources by avoiding public
        statements, but this surely seems to give victory after victory to Russian propaganda, which, by
        even non-"Russophobic" measure, strikes at the jugular of public opinion, repeatedly floating
        stories that are so easily disproved that the intent has to be (if it is not mere inefficiency in the
        propagandists) to bury and bewilder public resistance by sheer volume of contradictions--
        the "Big Lie" approach. I wonder if remarking on this is to be considered "Russophobic."
        Maybe we should reach back in time and give a new word for the use of Lord Haw-Haw
        and Ezra Pound: "Hitlerphobic."

        JE comments:  Russophobia defined the Cold War days, and now it's transformed into "Putin and His Ilk"-ophobia.  There is no doubt however that the pre-1989 phobia fueled the present one.  To what extent is anyone's guess.  Remember the happy (for the West) times of the Yeltsin Thaw, when Russia was seen as our impoverished and hard-drinking but lovable brother-in-law?

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  • Skripal Poisoning: Unanswered Questions (Boris Volodarsky, Austria 08/20/18 4:39 AM)
    I am very grateful to Gary Moore for commenting (16 August) on Tom Lamont's GQ article on the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in March this year. Although I am not the author of this piece, I shall probably be able to answer some questions raised in Gary's post.

    Naturally, I did not have any opportunity to influence the article or even read it before it was published.  And yes, I do feel quite a number of points were missed. But for the starters, I believe the idea of the magazine's publishers to commission this article from a British journalist in April with a view of publishing it only in September means that (a) they wanted to wait for any possible developments that should follow after such a comparatively long time possibly throwing some more light on the case; and (b) they wanted to explain to the American reader, GQ reader, what happened in the UK in some detail without any analysis, extra material and/or conclusions.

    It seems to me they've reached what they wanted to reach, namely, American gentlemen who read this quarterly (this is actually what GQ stand for) now know that last spring a former Russian spy, not at all James Bond, was poisoned in the middle of nowhere called Salisbury, Wiltshire, where he lived, and this was a damn complex and dangerous poison probably produced and delivered by the Russians. Those bad guys who did it must be punished, naturally, and we, American gentlemen, did it by expelling their diplomats from our towns and introducing sanctions which are aimed to demonstrated who is the major power in the world arena. Pretty clear, isn't it?

    In this simple story, however, we have a good number of points that remain unclear to most of the attentive people who follow it.

    Why was Skripal poisoned (and not shot, died of heart attack, had a car accident, fell under the train, etc)? Why has his daughter become a victim as well? How and where were they poisoned (the smeared door handle is a very poor explanation for many reasons)? Who and when exactly found out it was A-234 (that became falsely known as novichok)--I mean not when the expert tests were done by the people from Porton Down, but at hospital during the first hours when the bodies arrived? What treatment was applied, when, where and by whom? How did Nick Bailey, the local policeman, get involved? Where did Sergei and Yulia stay all this time? (I visited the Salisbury District hospital on 16 April--there's no way they could have been treated there.) Finally, why the victim was Skripal who had served part of his prison term in jail, was pardoned by the Russian president and then officially exchanged?

    The next series: we know from the director of Porton Down that there exists no antidote against this nerve agent. We know the same from its inventor, Dr Vladimir Uglev (Vil Mirzayanov is not an expert in this case although most of the official accusations are based on his statements).  We hear the same from other experts and even from Vladimir Putin. At the same time, four independent Western laboratories, including OPCW, stated that without any doubt this is novichok (that is, new Russian nerve agent A-234). And have in mind this is not an individual poison but a weapon of mass destruction. This nerve agent easily penetrates all existing NATO protective gear. It is 8 to 10 times deadlier than VX, the best-known nerve agent invented in the UK. Nevertheless, we hear that all three--Sergei, Yulia and Nick survived, and Yulia is even much better looking (and seems healthier and richer) than before. How could that be possible?

    The next series of questions: where are they? We have never seen Sergei and Nick the policeman, who never returned to his police station. He and his family disappeared. Skripal and Yulia also disappeared without any trace. Yulia was shown once on the screen looking great and making a very short statement to an unseen reporter/cameraman. But I recently watched Terminator and Mission Impossible and know that EVERYTHING is possible on screen or monitor today. Just everything. So one-and-a-half minute of Yulia should not be a big technical miracle. In the meantime, the Skripal case (not to mention the policeman) is completely forgotten by the media. Not to mention it is fully classified by the authorities.

    Now, finally, why Skripal (and not, say, Zaporozhsky or Sutyagin--the latter is also in the UK)? I do not have a simple clear-cut explanation. Skripal was almost certainly involved with Syria--it is enough to say that VX and the newest nerve agents of the Novichok series (A-230, A-232, A-234, etc) have been produced in the CERS (Syrian scientific and research centre) under the Russian supervision since 1991. I offer a full exposé of it in my latest book. All these works started and continue as a GRU (Russian military intelligence) project. There are Russian scientists commissioned by the GRU and GRU Spetsnaz guards guarding the facility. GRU officers are stationed there permanently and supervise the works.

    Skripal was only discovered as a British mole because he had been betrayed by a Russian mole at the CNI, Spanish Intelligence Centre. In 1994 they helped MI6 to recruit and run him. Skripal helped MI6 to work on Spain, Estonia and the Czech Republic, probably in other places too.

    Skripal was an ideal (and only) point of contact for possible Russian defectors with military secrets. SIS has very poor, if any, sources in Russia, most of its intelligence comes from the American NSA. Basically, they cannot boast any achievement, to say the least, in the past 10-12 years. None at all, only losses. Generally, Britain is losing terribly in Russia in all spheres, including espionage. Without Skripal the chance to obtain a high-value asset from the Russian military becomes very problematic. There are ways, of course, but they are complex, expensive and not always reliable. So by eliminating Skripal Russia was probably able to get rid of many (possible of existing) problems. And by using this very unusual poison--Novichok (thanks to the media, the word is now so well recognised as were sputnik or perestroika) that, as mentioned, is being produced in Syria today, they probably stressed his involvement and their knowledge of it. Naturally, there could have been many other reasons and explanations.

    Commenting in brief about the Douma attack and a possible British involvement, my answer is categorically no.  British intelligence has never been involved in such things. They simply do not do it.

    Regarding the last paragraph of Gary's post. I know of only one poisoning in Britain of the Russian expat--Litvinenko. The British reaction was (and remains) extremely poor. I disagree with virtually all conclusions of the Litvinenko public inquiry. On the one hand, it certainly has to do with the estimated 500 billion pounds that has flown into Britain in the past 20 years. They are still there. On the other, British economic, industrial and business interests in Russia also play(ed) its role. Regarding any possible perpetrators in the Skripal case--nothing is known. These are only rumours and wild guesses by the media, nothing else.

    JE comments:  This is spy thriller stuff, but real.  Boris, do you have any theories on the Skripals' present whereabouts?  Might they be in some sort of witness protection?

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