Why Did Russian Operatives Poison Sergei Skripal?

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Sergei Skripal is officially released from the hospital today.

Sergei Skripal was a double agent working for both Russian intelligence and the British agency MI6. During the spy swap scandal between the United States in Russia, Britain asked the Obama administration to include Sergei Skripal to be included in the swap as he was in a Russian prison at the time. The request was granted. Skripal continued his work on behalf of MI6 after his release. He is contracting for MI6 advising Eastern European countries, including Estonia on how to deal with Russian aggression due to the annexing and militant operations of Crimea and Ukraine.

Further, it is written that Skripal had a relationship with a British intelligence officer who wrote the Trump Russian dossier. That British intelligence officer worked for Orbis of Christopher Steele fame, hired by Fusion GPS.

A Russian former construction mogul claimed Skripal was still working with Russia’s intelligence apparatus, although it remains unclear what connection, if any, Skripal had with the security consultant.

“If you have a military intelligence officer working in the Russian diplomatic service, living after retirement in the U.K., working in cybersecurity and every month going to the embassy to meet military intelligence officers—for me, being a political refugee, it is either a certain danger or, frankly speaking, I thought that this contact might not be very good for me because it can bring some questions from British officials,” Valery Morozov told British TV outlet Channel 4.

Steele has found himself under intense scrutiny ever since his 35-page dossier, which details Trump’s links to Russia and accusations of possible collusion to win the White House in 2016, was disclosed. The dossier has yet to be completely verified but has dogged Trump and only intensified accusations of deeper ties to Russia, which the president has not explained.

Steele reportedly wrote another, different memo, which has not reached the public. It details how Russia believed it was able to stop Trump from naming former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney—a noted hawk on Russia—as secretary of state in favor of a more pro-Russia representative. Trump eventually went with former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson, who has a long-running relationship with Putin. More here.

Russia continues to deny the operation of poison against Sergei Skripal and his daughter and denies it ever had the nerve agent known as Novichok. Well, German intelligence has proof otherwise and collaborated with British intelligence on the investigation.

Some North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states obtained access to the Soviet Union’s so-called ‘Novichok’ nerve agents in the 1990s, through an informant recruited by German intelligence, according to reports. NATO countries refer to ‘Novichok-class’ nerve agents to describe a series of weaponized substances that were developed by the Soviet Union and post-Soviet Russia from the early 1970s to at least 1993. They are believed to be the deadliest nerve agents ever produced, but Moscow denies their very existence. A type of Novichok agent, described by British scientists as A234, is said to have been used in March of this year by the person or persons who tried to kill Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England. Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer who spied for Britain in the early 2000s and has been living in England ever since he was released from a Russian prison in 2010.

On Thursday, two German newspapers, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit, and two regional public radio broadcasters, WDR and NDR, said that the NATO alliance has had access to the chemical composition of Novichok nerve agents since the period immediately following the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Specifically, the reports claimed that the access was gained through a Russian scientist who became an informant for the German Federal Intelligence Service, known as the BND. The scientist struck a deal with the BND: he provided the spy agency with technical information about the Novichok agents in exchange for safe passage to the West for him and his immediate family. Initially, the German government was reluctant to get its hands on material that was —and remains— classified as a weapon of mass destruction by international agencies. But eventually it asked for the chemical composition of the Novichok nerve agents and even acquired samples from the Russian informant.

According to media reports, the BND proceeded to share information about the chemical composition of the Novichok nerve agents with key NATO allies, including Sweden, France, Britain and the United States. The sharing of such a sensitive substance was approved by the then German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, said the reports. In the following years, a handful of NATO countries proceeded to produce what media reports described as “limited quantities” of Novichok agents, reportedly in order to experiment with various defense measures against them and to produce antidotes. Russia has denied accusations that it was implicated in Skripal’s poisoning and has argued that other countries, some of them NATO members, have the capacity to produce Novichok agents. Hat-tip.

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