A little over two years ago, on 3 March 2018, two persons were found in a distressed state on a park bench in the English provincial city of Salisbury. The two were identified as Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal. Both were taken to hospital where they eventually recovered and were discharged.
Sergei telephoned his mother, and elderly lady living in Moscow, on 26 June 2019, 15 months after his hospitalisation. Apart from that sole telephone calls, he has not been publicly seen or heard from since. Yulia was interviewed at an undisclosed venue on 18 July 2018. She has not been heard from since either.
Sergei was a resident of Salisbury where he moved in 2010 as part of a prisoner swap with Russia where he had been serving a prison term for betraying his country by spying on behalf of the British. The British government has never even tried to offer an explanation as to why the Russian government would do nothing to Sergei for eight years and then suddenly decide he needed to be eliminated. Yulia was a resident of Moscow, engaged to be married, and visiting her father. She had a return flight to Moscow booked.
What followed the finding of the Skripals in a distressed and unconscious state was an extraordinary series of statements by then British prime minister Theresa May. She accused Russia of attempting to murder Sergei and made a series of other allegations. The kindest thing that could be said about her allegations and those of others speaking on behalf of the British government, is that they were made before any proper inquiry has been completed; when the two Skripals were incapacitated in hospital; and any resemblance to facts or truth was at best coincidental.
The British government was joined by a number of other western governments in expressing the outrage at what the United Kingdom government had said happened, and expelling Russian diplomats as a gesture of their strong condemnation of what the United Kingdom government had described as the “facts”.
The Australian government, although entirely unaffected by what was alleged to have occurred, joined the frenzy and expelled two Russian diplomats from the embassy in Canberra.
In a joint press conference on 27 March 2018 with then foreign minister Julie Bishop, the then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was in full rhetorical flow. Turnbull, who as a former lawyer ought to have known better, denounced what he called, inter alia, “recklessness”, “aggressive”, “brazen” and “criminal” conduct by Russia.
Turnbull went on to say that the attacks on the Skripals “reflects a pattern of recklessness and aggression by the Russian government, including the annexation of Crimea, invasion of eastern Ukraine, downing of MH 17, cyber-attacks and efforts to manipulate western nation’s elections.”
It is a measure of the appalling standards of political discourse, among other failings, that the above quotation from Turnbull contains not a single statement of truth. He, and anybody else, was unable then and are unable today to point to a single piece of evidence to support those allegations.
One expects hyperbole and rhetoric from politicians and for the most part it has few lasting consequences. In this case however, the basic allegation that Russia was responsible for what happened to the Skripals has had a lasting effect. It has, in a very real sense, lowered the standard of public debate. Perhaps even worse, it had the effect of eliminating any remaining elements of criticism that might have survived in the western media.
In this since, the failure to critically examine the manifestly flawed government allegations of what happened to the Skripals is reflected in multiple other areas of public significance. In this century alone, the western powers, including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, have invaded Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria on manifestly false grounds. Years, and in some cases decades later, those invading forces are still there, the lies supporting the invasions exposed yet with zero accountability for the perpetrators of these huge crimes.
The lies of governments in the case of the Skripals are part of the same pattern. The western mainstream media appears to have lost interest in pursuing the issue of the Skripals. This is despite the fact that what happened to them and continues to the present day, is a violation of basic principles of law the government of the United Kingdom and Australia so readily proclaim their adherence to, and equally readily ignore when it is in their geopolitical interests to do so.
Fortunately, there are at least two individuals who have not let the matter rest and continue to ask questions and point out anomalies in the official version that the mainstream media seem only too ready to ignore.
One such individual is the Australian writer John Helmer, a long-time resident of Moscow. Helmer has published a number of articles over the past two years pointing out the inconsistencies, illogicality’s and plain absurdities in the official story. He has just published a book, Skripal in Prison (2020) that brings together the fruits of his tireless investigations. It is highly recommended.
The other major writer in English on the topic is Salisbury resident and I understand a minister of religion, Rob Slane who is also highly recommended. Slane has recently published an article on his website entitled The Salisbury Poisoning Two Years On.
Slane lists 40 points where the official story that he describes as “absurd, implausible and sometimes downright impossible”. All of his 40 points are taken from the various versions of the official story that have been offered to the public over the past two years.
It is a measure of how low the mainstream media have sunk that none of them are prepared to either publish the valid criticisms and questions posed by Helmer and Slane, let alone make their own inquiries and ask the obvious questions.
As noted above, this is not an isolated example. Rather, it represents a general deterioration in the standards of mainstream media, in all its forms.
Turnbull’s list of alleged Russian misdeeds quoted above serves as a perfect metaphor of what has happened. It is not by chance that the work of the two investigators quoted above never appear in the mainstream media. They enrich us by their tireless efforts to establish what really happened.
We do not know the full truth as to what really happened. We do know that the official version tirelessly promoted by the government, notwithstanding its inherent contradictions and absurdities, and their mainstream media lapdogs is manifestly false. We are all the poorer and the more endangered by allowing this sorry state of affairs to continue.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.