By Finian Cunningham | Strategic Culture
Like a Medieval inquisition bereft of any due legal process, Russia is being put on the rack over the mysterious poisoning of a former Kremlin spy exiled to Britain.
No evidence is presented, just piles of innuendo and Russophobia heaped up into a bonfire. The prosecution is based solely on pejorative accusations, and the accused – Russia – is not permitted to fairly contest the incriminating information.
This is the same playbook as seen over alleged Russian “meddling” in the US and European elections over the past two years. Western politicians, intelligence services, think-tanks and media are chock-full of allegations and innuendo of “Russian influence campaigns”. But no evidence is ever presented. Not a scrap, not a scintilla. It’s a case of presumed guilt, and a conviction verdict without any facts.
It’s the same inquisitorial echo stemming from the unsolved downing of the Malaysian airliner in July 2014 over Eastern Ukraine, killing nearly 300 people. Recall how British media were within days of that tragedy irresponsibly peddling disgraceful headlines claiming “Putin shot down passenger airliner”.
This week, British Prime Minister Theresa May’s addressed parliament accusing Moscow of responsibility for the alleged murderous attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the southern England town of Salisbury on March 4.
Skripal (66) and his adult daughter were rushed to intensive care following an incident in which it appears that the pair were exposed to a lethal nerve agent while strolling through a public park on a Sunday afternoon.
Only one week later, after sensational media speculation implicating Russian state involvement, the British authorities are claiming that they have identified the chemical weapon as “Novichok” – a Soviet-era manufactured poison. The positive analysis was reportedly carried out by Britain’s top-secret chemical weapons laboratory at Porton Down, which is only six miles away from the incident.
May stood up in the House of Commons on Monday and said: “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 [British] government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act.” She went on to describe that act as “a brazen attempt to murder innocent civilians on our soil”.
Downing Street then gave Moscow 24 hours to “explain” how a military-grade chemical weapon was deployed on British territory. If an explanation is not provided by Moscow then the British government is warning that “extensive” retaliatory measures will be taken. Britain is being backed by Washington and NATO’s command in Brussels to take tough reprisals.
British media are reporting that retaliatory measures include expelling Russia’s ambassador from Britain, and ramping up NATO military forces on Russia’s borders. The incendiary dynamic could lead to a military confrontation.
The rush to escalate the crisis conveys the suspicion of a scripted, premeditated process hatched by London and its allies to deliberately aggravate relations with Russia. Almost from the moment of the poisoning incident on March 4, the British media have abandoned all professional restraint to impugn Russia. It’s been a trial by media.
Russia’s foreign ministry has rightly likened the whole affair to a “circus show”.
For a start, like the Medieval inquisitions, the accused is not permitted a chance to contest the allegations through independent examination.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this week following the British prime minister’s disclosure about a Soviet-era chemical weapon that requests made by Moscow to assess the information were denied by London.
So, the British authorities make serious claims about a Soviet-era poison incriminating Moscow over an attempted murder of a former Kremlin spy who has been living openly and unmolested while in exile in Britain for the past eight years.
But Moscow is not allowed to examine the purported “evidence”. For all we know, was the alleged “Novichok” even used in the apparent attack on the Skripal father and daughter? The pair could have been attacked with another related organophosphate nerve agent, such as sarin or VX. And even if they were exposed to Novichok, who is to say it wasn’t administered from stockpiles owned by British state services in an attempt to frame up Russia?
This is the same contemptible lack of due process as seen with American and European allegations against Russia of “interference” in elections and other supposed cyber-attacks. Russia is harangued with endless hearsay and assertion, but is never permitted to inspect the supposed incriminating information.
It certainly seems strange, to say the least, that the British authorities were so swiftly able to identify the offending chemical weapon. Only a few days ago, Britain’s top government chemical weapons expert Dr Alistair Hay said in a media interview that it would take “weeks, possibly months” for any identification procedure to be completed. Yet, in only one week, British military intelligence have apparently concluded that the chemical weapon used on the Russian pair was the Soviet-era Novichok.
Former Russian lawmaker Igor Morozov, who is a veteran of security services, reportedly said this week that Russia halted production of Novichok years ago and destroyed its stockpiles under the auspices of the UN-affiliated Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
In any case, the British and their American and NATO allies are trying to put Russia in an impossible situation that would not stand up in a modern court of law.
Moscow is expected to provide “an explanation” about undisclosed charges which are essentially hearsay. And if “an explanation” is not provided then Britain and its allies are “justified” to take “retaliatory” action.
Just like in the Middle Ages, the prosecutors of our modern-day Russophobia fables are willing to burn people at the stake based on no evidence whatsoever.
But this is a very dangerous game. The people being burned could turn out to be whole countries in a war that Western governments are recklessly stoking.