Starichok

Well this is interesting:

A man and woman found unconscious in Wiltshire were exposed to Novichok – the same nerve agent that poisoned ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, police say.

The couple, believed to be Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, fell ill at a house in Amesbury on Saturday and remain in a critical condition.

[T]here is no evidence to suggest either visited the sites that were decontaminated following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March.

Now the British government, and many on this blog, declared that the use of Novichok in the Skripal case indisputably meant the substance came from Russia and therefore Putin’s government was behind the attack. Indeed, this is the precise accusation Theresa May levelled at Putin, who laughed it off. As readers may recall, I believe May’s actions were hasty and the Russians’ flippant response was possibly an indication it was nothing to do with them. This was poo-pooed on the grounds that only Putin could order a Novichok hit and had every reason to want Sergei Skripal dead.

So in light of these recent developments, I hope someone has a plausible reason as to why Putin – for it must surely be he – now wants two more people in Wiltshire killed with Novichok. It’s going to be somewhat embarrassing if we discover there are people other than Putin playing with Soviet-era nerve agents in the UK, isn’t it?

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19 thoughts on “Starichok

  1. I’ve no idea what’s going on here, but I doubt very much that anyone important wanted these latest two dead. By all accounts (but not the BBC’s, obviously) they were already engaged in most of the most popular means of self-destruction – an assassin could probably just have gone to the pub and waited for them to do the job themselves.

  2. Might as well re-use this from Tim Worstall’s–saves typing:

    “Once again the deadly nerve agent that acts akin to a nasty dose of the flu. Supplied by Russia –just to ensure that their World Cup participation is overshadowed by another attempt to this time randomly murder two folk with fuckall apparent connection to well—-anything whatsoever.

    “Hotspots” is the key see. Russian assassins go around spilling deadly nerve agents all over the shop for no obvious reason. Can’t be a leaky container for the carrier would then have had massive contact with the “deadly” nerve agent–unless he/she was prowling the home counties in a hazmat suit. So whoever had the stuff–whatever the stuff is–must have been dropping it at random. At least nine times says the paper –and now , by faulty to non-existent logic, obviously a tenth if these folk have fallen ill.

    I don’t know what is going on but Putin hiring amateur nerve gassers is unlikely to be it. Even the “MI5/6–CIA did it” theory is now pushing beyond the borders of sanity.

    Maybe fewer cops/ intel clowns and a team from the Fortean Times might shine a bit more light on matters.

    Or a mental health and inventory check at Portland Down would be a good idea. A nerve agent analogue of Graham Bright is not impossible”

  3. ‘ere, Joe!
    Want to earn a few quid shifting some boxes? I got a deal to clear out an old junkroom/office down Porton way…lend me a hand?
    We’ll just load it in the van and down the tip. Might be a few things worth scavenging,….

  4. I suppose the headline of “Russia declares war on Wiltshire” is possibly a little premature?

    Now, if these had been occurring in Berwick on Tweed, then I could understand it. Since Berwick on Tweed was still officially at war with Russia until 1974 or thereabouts. The declaration of war in the Crimea in 1853 specifically included Berwick on Tweed (it has been part of Scotland and England several times as the border fluctuated and the various armies declared it their property in the invasions and counter campaigns) but Berwick on Tweed was not included in the peace declaration.

    So, OK, Russia might want to have a pop at Berwick on Tweed as being its recent enemy but Wiltshire? Why Wiltshire?

  5. So lightning does strike twice. This non-lethal version of Novichock lite seems to be the go, or like Theresa May can we put it down to Mad Cow Disease?

    I read with interest last week that the British Parliament found that all those conspiracy nutters as their Secretary of State Jack Straw called them at the time that doubted the UK’s government claims that they had zero involvement in rendition, were in fact right. Just like that.

    And not all of your readers were convinced of the veracity of the UK states accusation on the Skriplas incident. Where are the Skriplas these days, hope they are enjoying Russia’s success at the World Cup.

  6. “I hope someone has a plausible reason”

    The same reason Russian propaganda peddled (still peddling?) umpteen versions of the downing of MH-17. The goal would be to confuse and suggest “possibly an indication it was nothing to do with them”. Works like a charm.

  7. Once more, next to Porton Down, Britain’s chemical and biological warfare development center. It looks like some sort of serial killer, possibly a worker at the center, is living out some sort of sick fantasy.

    The idea that the Russians poisoned the Skripals was always absurd, and this latest incident makes it impossible. Originally, a false flag operation by MI5/6 seemed likely, but now it has to be some sort of lone wolf.

    The UK has put a total ban on all reporting regarding the Skripal incident, and they are holding the Skripals incommunicado someplace. All of this cannot be walked back, and an investigation into the new attacks will be politically impossible. The lone wolf will have a free ride for sometime, and more people will be attacked because of British stupidity.

    PS. The original medical report stated that Novichok was NOT the agent used against the Skripals, and one can bet it wasn’t used in the new attack either.

  8. If the Streetwise Professor is correct, then the Russian state is not coherent in the sense that western states are*. It’s a whole set of competing actors desperately trying to max out their own interests, whilst either, trying to guess what will please Putin, or avoiding coming under his gaze at all. It’s troublesome priests all the way down. This is very similar to the way the Nazi Party operated internally whilst in government. I believe someone else may dropped a bollock by pointing this out.

    If this is true, and given the collapse of the Soviet Union and the whole chaotic Yeltsin era thing, I don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be, then “Russian propaganda peddled (still peddling?) umpteen versions of the downing of MH-17. The goal would be to confuse” doesn’t make any sense, as there would not naturally be a consistent strategy to Russian propaganda across multiple actors, and multiple stories would arise from all the internal competing interests.

    Quite why the West seems to think it’s a good idea at this time to prod Putin with a pointy stick, and probably provoke a succession crisis, is really quite beyond me.

    Anyway, regardless of anything else, Salisbury and Amesbury are really quite close to the DSTL at Porton Down, as any fule now knows. The area has to be a magnet for any amount of foreign intelligence activity, ‘friendly’, hostile, military and commercial. Fuck knows what’s going on, but why would a retired military intelligence officer, apparently a double agent no less, pop up in this particular part of the country in 2011, this hive of scum and villainy, and get visited by his daughter, who still lives in the old country? Good grief, did no-one think this through? Or was it just down to property prices and a semi-competent mortgage broker? FFS.

    *Alternatively, it’s a version of western states dialled up to 11.

  9. I wonder if any addresses recently burgled in the area were/are the property of a Porton Down egghead?
    A few home-research samples going astray by the druggie/burglar sounds a whole lot more reassuring than a serial killer who now has the whole Establishment desperately lying themselves into a corner. How many more before they can even start looking?

    And this is now, what, the 5th non-lethal result from this stupendously lethal Novichok nerve agent? Just checkin’.

  10. Whilst a Porton Down leak/murderer isn’t impossible, I’m very surprised it has so much currency in these comments.

    It *totally* fails to explain a defining feature of the case, which is that out of the hundreds of thousands of people in the area, it *specifically* targeted the local Russian traitor. I don’t think Putin himself had anything much to do with it, but the Russian link is pretty likely, and even a UK false flag operation (which I don’t think is likely for separate reasons) would make more sense than a disgruntled scientist at Porton Down.

    As for why Skripal was in Salisbury – he was basically put there. And his daughter probably visited because, you know, he is her dad. If you were going to spy on Porton Down, you wouldn’t choose the daughter of a known turncoat spy under UK supervision to do it. You just wouldn’t.

    Yes, he was a double agent. But the UK was the second leg of that double (there’s a reason he isn’t living comfortably in a Moscow suburb) – and triple agents aren’t really a thing as you would never disclose your own secrets to a double. That’s basic.

    It seems the leading theory at the moment is some kind of cross-contamination. Which whilst it has little evidence at the moment, is quite plausible. Especially as this couple apparently had the druggy habit of picking up cigarette butts, syringes and vials etc.

  11. Oblong has a point. But it’s still a mystery why this “lethal nerve agent” has – 5 times now – been totally nonlethal. Surely,a small amount of competence in application, and a deadly-for-real agent, would be basics for a “get the traitor” assassin?
    Maybe the film should be called “Johnny Ivan”?

  12. Its inverse 4d chess where Putin is now poisoning random people to muddy the waters?

    Or someone’s found its a lot easier to get/manufacture the stuff than everyone has been saying.

    I mean, its *Russia* – its hard to believe that some lab-tech-with-a-PhD wasn’t willing to sell a vial of the stuff for a decent amount of real cash to supplement the pittance he’s getting paid working in a government chemical weapons lab.

  13. The levels of incompetence implies the Skripal assassination attempt was carried out by amateurs who may have used a pair of drug addicts to deliver the “novichok” (couple with red handbag later found with victims perhaps). Said drug addicts may have later become aware of what they had done and become inconvenient?
    As to Skripals, he was a connection of Christopher Steele and the dodgy dossier used capitals on nouns much as required by KGB formatting, perhaps he felt he was underpaid for drafting it for a friend?

  14. The German gov publically admitted stealing some Novichok from the Soviet research base, they said that’s how PD was able to identify it.
    So it wasn’t just in the one place then, and had already been stolen once. So why not again.

    Unrelated….maybe…
    Some years ago there was an outbreak of something nasty – foot’n’mouth? – whose source was eventually traced back to a field drain near a Gov research establishment – who had poured some live samples down the sink and hence into the drain!
    Now, a repeat of that fiasco would be a trifle embarrassing!

  15. Russian nerve toxin my arse. Drugs cut with strychnine or a military-grade case of botulism perhaps. The MI6 spooks fucked up when they blamed Russia and now they’re telling more and more fanciful lies to cover their backsides.

  16. Tim the Coder,

    Nerve agents can be very lethal quickly, depending on dose and administration, or they can just make you very sick indeed, or they can just give you a headache and flu-like symptoms – depends how much you’re exposed to, for how long, and how it’s getting into your body.

    Inhaling droplets – say, from artillery or aircraft spray tanks – is fastest and most lethal, contact exposure to liquid agent an order of magnitude slower & needs larger doses to kill, vapour hazard from being near something contaminated slowest & least lethal, making you sick but unlikely to kill you once you get away from it and get treated.

    Hollywood likes to portray chemical weapons as instantly melting peoples’ skin off and killing them in seconds few (e.g. the entertainingly ludicrous “The Rock”) but in fact, at low dosages it can take hours for any symptoms to show and they’ll be relatively minor (dimmed vision from miosis, excessive salivation, headache…)

    No idea what’s actually going on around Salisbury; but it’s not inconsistent with a persistent nerve agent having turned up in a few places, either tracked there by the Skripals (a credible but not proven narrative is that it was placed on the door of their house: if they were wearing gloves due to the unseasonably cold weather, it would have meant that they didn’t get immediate contact exposure, but were gradually overcome by contact and/or vapour hazard while leaving contamination in their wake) or because our latest victims found a discarded vial or other contaminated object and, again, went over from vapour hazard.

    Doesn’t mean that’s what’s actually happened, but the story so far still fits a persistent nerve agent.

  17. e.g. the entertainingly ludicrous “The Rock”

    Aw, tell me it’s not so!

  18. Jason Lynch,
    Indeed you may well be right. Paracelsus and all that.
    But 5 out of 5 ?

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