On 15 March, the United Kingdom, together with allies Germany, France and the United States, issued a collective statement alleging that ex-spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned by agents of the Russian Federation.
There are precedents to these tumultuous claims by UK Prime Minister Theresa May of Russian hostility that now echo the events leading up to the First World War. Moscow has rejected her accusations as false.
For the first time, the US administration went the route of applying the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) to impose sanctions against Russian citizens and organisations.
The sanctions list was circulated on Thursday by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury and included 12 individuals who had previously been charged by special counsel Robert Mueller.
The list includes Sergey Afanasyev and Grigory Molchanov, who, according to the US government are employed by the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.
Mueller has been investigating allegations of Moscow’s alleged influence on the last election in support of Donald Trump’s campaign.
According to the New York Times, Trump is under pressure from Neocons in his administration to act since he has been quiet about it on his legendary Twitter feed. The Times noted that the US President left this matter to his aides to express public solidarity.
Under the direction of his aides, the White House released this statement:
This latest action by Russia fits into a pattern of behavior in which Russia disregards the international rules-based order, undermines the sovereignty and security of countries worldwide, and attempts to subvert and discredit Western democratic institutions and processes. The United States is working together with our allies and partners to ensure that this kind of abhorrent attack does not happen again.
A search on the whitehouse.gov site reveals that the above statement is not presently displayed. The website only presently displays the joint statement by the US and its allies.
UK intelligence now claim the nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals, was planted in the daughter’s luggage in Moscow, British media reported.
The nerve agent was allegedly used to saturate Yulia Skripal’s belongings or a gift that was opened at their Salisbury home, The Telegraph newspaper reported, quoting intelligence sources on Thursday.
British hack Piers Morgan meanwhile publicly accused President Putin of “killing journalists” on state television.
Former French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, however, warned that Theresa May “has gone too far” by accusing Russia of its involvement in the alleged poisoning of a former Russian intelligence officer and his daughter.
Jean-Pierre Raffarin, former head of the French government, told France’s LCI television channel that the Kremlin view these hysterical accusations as “a factor of the Western world’s violence and aggression against Russia”.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has described May’s accusations as a “circus show in the UK’s parliament” as the British have blatantly ignored international law regarding the matter.
Theresa May has prevented the Russians, through the OCPW, of making an “on-site challenge inspection of any facility” in Salisbury. According to the convention, “this inspection [may be] conducted anywhere without delay by an inspection team designated by the Director-General [of the OCPW]”.
An open investigation would have exposed the chemical marker for the nerve agent, providing sound evidence of the state that produced the chemical weapons. But no evidence of a marker, means no evidence of the alleged Russian source.
Lawyers say it is already impossible for the evidence collected by the police and military investigators at sites around Salisbury to be admissible in a court of law. This, they add, is because samples of the poison may have been tampered with before or after the British Prime Minister announced the government’s conclusions on March 14.
“This announcement implies that the government has now ruled out the possibility of bringing its evidence to court for a prosecution,” John Helmer noted.
The Salisbury District Hospital has since commented on the public health risks since the attack: “Salisbury Hospital is open and operating normally. We are advising patients to attend for their scheduled appointments as normal.”
Hospital officials say the Skripals remain “in a critical, but stable condition in intensive care… The police officer, who was also part of the initial response, is conscious in a serious but stable condition.”
When asked about the response being prepared by the UK, British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Russia should shut up! Russia should go away!” The Secretary was mocked by the media for his childish remarks. The Independent reported that Williamson sounded like “a school child being summoned to the Headmaster’s office to explain why he had wet himself in class”.
As one the UK’s most senior politicians, and the head of its armed forces, Williamson – a former fireplace salesman – had to read from a piece of paper struggling with most words of more than two syllables.
Williamson told his audience, “We have arrived at a profound moment in our history. We have arrived at a crossroads.”
Russia has already started working on retaliatory measures against the new US sanctions, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agency TASS on Thursday in the wake of Washington’s expansion of anti-Russian sanctions.