The British denial of a visitor visa to a Skripal family relative from Russia is fueling concern that the whole affair is far more sinister than what the British government and media have been claiming.
Far from the Skripal father and daughter being the alleged victims of a Russian assassination plot, it now seems increasingly apparent that they are being held against their will by Britain’s authorities. In short, hostages of the British state.
From the outset of the alleged poisoning incident in Salisbury on March 4, the official British narrative has been pocked suspiciously with inconsistencies. The lightning-fast rush to judgment by the British government – within days – to blame the Kremlin for “a brazen murder attempt” was perhaps the main giveaway that the narrative was following a script and foregone conclusion to incriminate Russia.
Last week, the saga took several significant twists raising more doubts about the official British narrative. First, British scientists at the Porton Down warfare laboratory admitted that they hadn’t in fact confirmed the alleged nerve agent used against the Skripals originated from Russia. That admission spectacularly exposed earlier British government claims as false, if not barefaced lies.
Secondly, it emerged that potentially key witness-material was destroyed by the British. Three pet animals in the Salisbury home of Sergei Skripal were declared dead and their remains incinerated. Autopsies could have shed light on the nature of the alleged nerve agent used against the Skripals. Why were the animal remains incinerated? And why did the British authorities disclose the fate of the animals only after the matter was raised by the Russian envoy to the UN Security Council on Thursday?
Thirdly, there is the strangely callous way that the British authorities have refused a visitor visa to a Skripal family relative from Russia who was intending to fly to England to be with her relatives while they are reportedly recuperating from the alleged poison attack.
Russian national Victoria Skripal revealed on Friday to Russian news media that she was refused a visa by British authorities to visit her relatives – cousin Yulia and uncle Sergei – who are reportedly confined to a hospital in Salisbury.
The day before her visa application was rejected, Victoria had a brief telephone conversation with Yulia. It appears that Victoria recorded the conversation and made it available to Russian media to broadcast. The transcript shows that Yulia’s words were guarded. She was obviously not comfortable with speaking freely. Their phone call ended abruptly. But she did manage to advise her cousin in Russia that the latter would probably not be granted a visitor visa. Why would she say such a thing?
British media quickly tried to smear the Russian cousin, Victoria. A BBC journalist said that the British authorities “suspected that Victoria was being used as a pawn by the Kremlin”. Russian’s foreign ministry hit back at that suggestion, saying it was a despicable slur.
For her part, Victoria Skripal told Russian media that she thinks the British authorities have “something to hide” by refusing to grant her a permit to Britain in order to visit her cousin and uncle. Was her visa application rejected by the British authorities because she had the “audacity” to record the phone call with her cousin and make it available to Russian media?
Far more plausible is not that Victoria is a “Kremlin pawn” but that the British fear that Victoria would not be a “London pawn”. The worst thing for the British authorities would be for an independent-minded Skripal relative coming to the Salisbury hospital and asking critical questions about the nature of why her relatives are being held there.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if several other Skripal relatives in Russia were to make similar applications for visitor visas to Britain. Surely, the British authorities could not turn them all down?
For over a month now since the March 4 incident in Salisbury, the Russian consular representatives in Britain have not been allowed access to the Skripal pair, allegedly being treated in hospital.
Fair enough, Sergei Skripal is a disgraced former Russian spy who had been living in England for nearly eight years. He was exiled there by Moscow as part of a spy-swap with Britain’s foreign intelligence MI6 whom Skripal had served as a double agent. It is believed he was given British citizenship by the London authorities.
However, his daughter, 33-year-old Yulia, is a citizen of the Russian Federation. She was visiting her father on holiday when the pair became ill – apparently from exposure to a nerve agent – while sitting in a public park in Salisbury.
Yulia and the Russian authorities are therefore entitled under international law to have consular contact. The Russian embassy in London has been repeatedly denied access by the British authorities to one of its citizens. On the face of it, that is an outrageous breach of international law by the British.
Significantly, Yulia did not express to her cousin during their phone conversation that she did not want to see the Russian consular people. That phone call was obviously initiated by Yulia. Her Russian-based cousin at one point asked her, “Is this your phone?”.
How Yulia got use of the phone is a good question. Was it a hospital staff member who felt obliged to allow her a quick call home? Evidently, the call was held in a rushed manner, and Yulia felt constrained to talk in detail about her confinement. And why would she warn her cousin in Russia that the latter would not be given a visa before the application result was known?
It is speculated in British media – most probably at the behest of briefings by shadowy state officials – that Yulia Skripal does not want to see her cousin, or the Russian consular representatives. Even though Yulia did not express that in her phone call. If Yulia didn’t want to see her cousin, why would she bother calling her, apparently out of the blue?
The speculation about Yulia’s preferences are based on the official British premise that the Russian state attempted to carry out an assassination with a toxic chemical on her father. It is therefore insinuated by the official British narrative that Yulia would not want to see the Russian authorities.
But that logic depends entirely on the plausibility of the British version of events. That is, that a Russian state operation used a Russian nerve agent to try to kill Sergei Skripal, and his daughter as collateral damage.
That British version has relied totally on assertion, innuendo and unverified claims made by politicians briefed by secret services. Claims which we are now seeing to be unfounded, as the Porton Down scientists disclosed last week.
At no point have the British produced any evidence to substantiate their high-flown allegations against Russia. Indeed, Britain refuses to give Russia access to alleged samples in order to carry out an independent chemical analysis.
The entire British case relies on a presumption of guilt and a despicable prejudice towards Russia as a malicious actor. That’s it entirely. British prejudice and contempt for due process.
However, what if the Russian government were correct? What if the British state carried out a macabre false flag operation by stealthily injuring the Skripals with some kind of chemical in order to blame it on Russia? For the plausible purpose of adding one more smear campaign in order to demonize and delegitimize Russia as an international power.
No doubt, the situation is disturbing and disorientating especially for Yulia Skripal who apparently was simply visiting her father in England for a happy family reunion.
More sinister, however, is the apparent lack of free will being afforded to Yulia Skripal. The British official position simply conflates their innuendo of a Russian plot, an innuendo which is increasingly untenable.
The denial of a visitor visa to Yulia’s family relatives from Russia points to the sinister conclusion that the British authorities are engaging in a macabre propaganda stunt. Moreover, a propaganda stunt involving the criminal assault on a Russian citizen and the ongoing illegal detention of that citizen.