The release by the British security authorities of the identity (photos and cover names on passports) of two men involved in the attempted assassination of former GRU officer Skripal’ received predictable attention from the Russian press. Today the vigorously liberal defender of human rights Novaya Gazeta, which is currently in a desperate campaign for more advertising revenue to sustain itself, outlined the facts of the Skripal’ case as known. The hardline, Putinesque, newspaper Vzglyad ru of course denied the truth of the case put forward by London, but is utterly unable to say who else would want to murder Skripal’.
But the tone of the denial is still as strident as before and totally unconvincing. Not at any point does the author of the article in Vzglyad, Petr Akopov, ever bother to mention the fact that the assassination of Russian traitors is provided for under Russian law if authorised by the President. So why is it so inherently implausible that this was not an act authorised under that law? Even without the attendant evidence of culprits identified as flying in from Moscow, with traces of the deadly poison novichok found in their hotel room, this lies at the heart of the British case. Who else would want to murder Skripal’? Only Der Spiegel, the diehard leftist German periodical, seems to find the Russian counter-arguments plausible. And what do they know?
Instead Mr Akopov dredges up all kinds of theories, including the idea that the British want to distract their allies from Brexit and mobilise everyone against Moscow at a time when the EU wants to unite against President Trump. The assumption is that somehow the Europeans will see the error of their ways and accept the offer of the Russian embrace. Well, nothing should be ruled out in international relations, but this is to say the least much more of a fairy tale than the Russians claim the British are telling.