I am just back from a family funeral – one of a succession – and a combination of circumstances had left me feeling pretty down lately, and not blogging much.
But I have to drag myself to the keyboard to denounce a quite extraordinary set of deliberate lies
published in the Guardian
about a Russian plot to spring Julian Assange last December.
I was closely involved with Julian and with Fidel Narvaez of the Ecuadorean Embassy at the end of last year in discussing possible future destinations for Julian.
It is not only the case that Russia did not figure in those plans, it is a fact that Julian directly ruled out the
I have no idea who the Guardian’s “anonymous sources” are, but I know 100% for certain that the entire story of a Russian plot to extract Julian from the Embassy last Christmas Eve is a complete and utter fabrication.
I strongly suspect that, as usual, MI6 tool Luke Harding’s “anonymous sources” are in fact the UK security services, and this piece is entirely black propaganda produced by MI6.
It is very serious indeed when a newspaper like the Guardian prints a tissue of deliberate lies in order to spread fake news on behalf of the security services.
I cannot find words eloquent enough to express the depth of my contempt for Harding and Katherine Viner, who have betrayed completely the values of journalism.
The aim of the piece is evidently to add a further layer to the fake news of Wikileaks’ (non-existent) relationship to Russia as part of the “Hillary didn’t really lose” narrative. I am, frankly, rather shocked.
One reason I was so stunned at the Guardian’s publication of these lies is that I had gone direct from the Ecuadorean Embassy to the Guardian building in Kings Cross to give an in-depth but off the record briefing to Euan MacAskill, perhaps their last journalist of real integrity, on the strategy for Julian.
I told Euan that Russia was ruled out. I did not mention this yesterday as I greatly respect Euan and wanted to speak to him first.
But on phoning the Guardian I find that Euan “retired” the day the lying article was published. That seems a very large coincidence.
The Metropolitan Police made one statement in the Skripal case which is plainly untrue; they claimed not to know on what kind of visa Boshirov and Petrov were travelling.
As they knew the passports they used, and had footage of them coming through the airport, that is impossible. The Border Force could tell them in 30 seconds flat.
To get a UK visa Boshirov and Petrov would have had to attend the UK Visa Application Centre in Moscow.
There not only would their photographs be taken, but their fingerprints would have been taken and, if in the last few years, their irises scanned.
The Metropolitan Police would naturally have obtained their fingerprints from the Visa Application.
One thing of which we can be certain is that their fingerprints are not on the perfume bottle or packaging found in Charlie Rowley’s home.
We can be certain of that because no charges have been brought against the two in relation to the death of Dawn Sturgess, and we know the police have their fingerprints.
The fact of there being no credible evidence, according to either the Metropolitan Police or the Crown Prosecution Service, to link them to the Amesbury poisoning, has profound implications.
Why the Metropolitan Police were so coy about telling us what kind of visa the pair held, points to a wider mystery. Why were they given the visas in the first place, and what story did they tell to get them?
It is not easy for a Russian citizen, particularly an economically active male, to get past the UK Border Agency. The visa application process is very intrusive.
They have to produce evidence of family and professional circumstances, including employment and address, evidence of funds, including at least three months of bank statements, and evidence of the purpose of the visit.
These details are then actively checked out by the Visa Department.
If they had told the story to the visa section they told to Russia Today, that they were freelance traders in fitness products wanting to visit Salisbury Cathedral, they would have been refused a visa as being candidates for overstaying.
They would have been judged not to have sufficiently stable employment in Russia to ensure they would return.
So what story did Petrov and Boshirov give on their visa application, why were they given a visa, and what kind of visa?
And why do the British authorities not want us to know the answer to these questions? Which brings us to the claims of neoconservative propaganda website Bellingcat.
They claim together with the Russian Insider website to have obtained documentary evidence that Petrov and Boshirov’s passports were of a series issued only to Russian spies, and that their applications listed GRU headquarters as their address.
There are some problems with Bellingcat’s analysis.
The first is that they also quote Russian website fontanka.ru as a source, but fontanka.ru actually say
the precise opposite of what Bellingcat claim – that the passport number series is indeed a civilian one and civilians do have passports in that series.
Fontanka also state it is not unusual for the two to have close passport numbers – it merely means they applied together.
On other points, fontanka.ru do confirm Bellingcat’s account of another suspected GRU officer having serial numbers close to those of Boshirov and Petrov.
But there is a bigger question of the authenticity of the documents themselves.
Fontanka.ru is a blind alley – they are not the source of the documents, just commenting on them, and Bellingcat are just attempting the old trick of setting up a circular “confirmation”.
Russian Insider is neither Russian nor an Insider.
Its name is a false claim and it consists of a combination of western “experts” writing on Russia, and reprints from the Russian media.
It has no track record of inside access to Russian government secrets or documents, and nor does Bellingcat.
What Bellingcat does have is a track record of shilling for the security services.
Bellingcat claims its purpose is to clear up fake news, yet has been entirely opaque about the real source of its so-called documents.
MI6 have almost 40 officers in Russia, running hundreds of agents. The CIA has a multiple of that. They pool their information.
Both the UK and US have large visa sections whose major function is the analysis of Russian passports, their types and numbers and what they tell about the individual.
We are to believe that Boshirov and Petrov were GRU agents whose identity was plainly obvious from their passports, who had no believable cover identities, but that neither the visa department nor MI6 (which two cooperate closely and all the time) knew they were giving visas to GRU agents.
Yet this information was readily available to Bellingcat?
I do not know if the two are agents or just tourists.
But the claimed evidence they were agents is, if genuine, so obvious that the two would have been under close surveillance throughout their stay in the UK.
If the official story is true, then the failures of the UK visa department and MI6 are abject and shameful.
As is the failure to take simple precautions for the Skripals’ security, like the inexplicable absence of CCTV covering the house of Sergei Skripal, an important ex-agent and defector supposedly under British protection.
A further thought. We are informed that Boshirov and Petrov left a trace of novichok in their hotel bedroom.
How likely is it, really, that, the day before the professional assassination attempt, which involved handling an agent with which any contact could kill you, Boshirov and Petrov would prepare, not by resting, but by an all night drugs and sex session
Would you really not want the steadiest possible hand the next day?
Would you really invite a prostitute into the room with the novichok perfume in it, and behave in a way that led to complaints and could have brought you to official notice?
Is it not astonishing that nobody in the corporate and state media has written that this behaviour is at all unlikely, while scores of “journalists” have written that visiting Salisbury as a tourist, and returning the next day because the visit was ruined by snow, would be highly unlikely?
To me, even more conclusively, we were informed by cold war propagandists like ex White House staffer Dan Kaszeta that the reason the Skripals were not killed is that novichok is degraded by water.
To quote Kaszeta
“Soap and water is quite good at decontaminating nerve agents”.
In which case it is extremely improbable that the agents handling the novichok, who allegedly had the novichok in their bedroom, would choose a hotel room which did not have an en suite bathroom?
If I spilt some novichok on myself I would not want to be queuing in the corridor for the shower.
The GRU may not be big on health and safety, but the idea that their agents chose not to have basic washing facilities available while handling the novichok is wildly improbable.
The only link of Boshirov and Petrov to the novichok is the trace in the hotel room.
The identification there of a microscopic trace of novichok came from a single swab, all other swabs were negative, and the test could not be repeated even on the original positive sample.
For other reasons given above, I absolutely doubt these two had novichok in that bedroom.
Who they really are, and how much the security services knew about them, remain open questions.