Help keep this site going.

A brief summary:
The F.C.O's presentation purports to show Russia's practice of "state sponsored assassinations".   It fails to do so, referencing only the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko and the (assumed) attempted assassination of Sergey Skripal.  No evidential proof is provided.

And so to a full critique .....

The graphics from the presentation given by the British Ambassador to Russia to the international diplomatic community in Moscow have been leaked. Download them here(pdf).
The accompanying briefing he gave is available from the FCO download here.

I’ve been through both and I am shocked.  Shocked, I tell you.
It’s not the worst written report I’ve ever read but it is in a very tight pack leading the field.

In the UK Briefing slide presentation ....

Slide 1 is the “Timeline” from 4 March to 20 March.
okey dokey.

Slide 2  “A New Phase of Russia Aggression” is a list of bullet points.
• Military-grade Novichok nerve agent positively identified by experts ......
     What do they mean by Military-grade in respect to Novichok  ??

• Novichok is a group of agents developed only by Russia and not declared under the CWC
    How do they know this ??  And if they know this, why haven’t they alerted the OPCW before ??

• A violation of the fundamental prohibition on the use of chemical weapons (Art. 1 CWC)
    This isn’t a proper sentence in English, I blame it on her incoherence.  She’s incoherent in other ways.

• We are without doubt that Russia is responsible. No country bar Russia has combined capability, intent and motive. There is no plausible alternative explanation
    What is Russia’s capability in this ??  What is their intent and what is their motive ??
Also, there are plausible alternative explanations.  The internet is abundant in them.

• As of Sunday 18 March, we count over thirty parallel lines of Russian disinformation
    I don’t understand this.  What are “parallel lines of disinformation” ??  I’d like to see the whole list please.

Based on this capability, combined with their record of conducting state sponsored assassinations .......... the UK Government concluded it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act.
Signed  “Prime Minister Theresa May, 14 March”

“Highly likely”,  Prime Minister, is that all ??  How far is that removed from “Absolutely certain” ??

(Plus, I don’t like this style of not putting a full stop at the end of a bullet point.  You get to the end and it falls off like they’ve left something out.  Which, of course, they have.)

Slide 3  “Effects of Novichok”   is a simple physiological explanation, plus some dodgy stats.

Slide 4  “A Long Pattern of Russian Malign Activity”  is the most accessible view of the UK Govt’s trail of tears leading to their conclusion of Russian culpability.

UK Briefing Slide 4

Piece by piece .....

(i)  November 2006 Assassination of Alexander Litvinenko. 
There was no inquest into his death, for reasons of national security.  In the teeth of objections from the Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, the High Court ruled that an Inquiry could be held wherein some evidence would remain secret.

Inquiry Chairman, Sir Robert Owen, said in the introduction to his 2016 report  “....where in this Report I state that ‘I am sure’ I will have found a fact to the criminal standard.”

In the course of his report he names a number of people who’d be quite pleased to see Litvinenko dead.

In the conclusion he says “When Mr Lugovoy poisoned Mr Litvinenko, it is probable that he did so under the direction of the FSB. ............... The FSB operation to kill Mr Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin.”
i.e.  no criminal evidence of State involvement, just the opinion it was “probable”.

(ii)  May 2007 DDoS attack disables Estonia’s internet.
For those unacquainted, DDos stands for “Distributed Denial of Service”.  An attack involves flooding a website with requests for a webpage or email account until it can’t cope with the volume of traffic and seizes up.
The key word is “distributed”.  The requests come from a myriad of sources so, the originator is untraceable. 
More on internet attribution shortly.

(iii)  August 2008 Invasion of Georgia.  
This would be in response to Georgia’s military action against the separatist movement in S.Ossetia, and NATO’s overtures to Georgia. 

(iv) February 2014 Occupation of Crimea; destabilisation of Ukraine.
This is a reversal of the events and a straight lie.  The “destabilisation” of Ukraine was initiated by the EU and finalised by the USA.  There was a coup d’état and civil war in the east.

Destabilisation of Ukraine created the conditions in Crimea to encourage a plebiscite to (re)join Russia.  There was no “occupation” of Crimea and Russian presence there was by treaty from the break up of the Soviet Union.

(v) 17 July 2014  MH-17 shot down killing all 283 passengers. 
What does this have to do with “Russian Malign Activity??  This is mass murder.

The Dutch investigators, in 2016, said that the plane was brought down by a buk missile, from rebel held territory.  However, they said they would not make any statement about the involment of Russia, or Russians, in the downing of the plane.

(vi) June 2015 to November 2016 Interference in US election.
What “interference” in the US election ??   No one has ever produced a jot of evidence that there was outside interference in the US election.

The US Intelligence Community Assessment (download here pdf) examined the “Podesta emails” and the, so called,  “DNC hack”  .  Three organisations, the CIA, FBI and NSA have “high confidence” in their judgement  that Russia would have liked to sway the course of the election but no evidence that they did.
The I.C. Assessment ends with a disclaimer including “Judgements are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

(vii) May 2015 Bundestag hack.
I learned, from my time under a black hat, that everything on the internet can be spoofed.  Only the most naive hacker would be trackable.

Don’t just take my word.  John McAfee, founder of an anti-virus firm, said ....
“Any hacker capable of breaking into something is extraordinarily capable of hiding their tracks. If I were the Chinese and I wanted to make it look like the Russians did it I would use Russian language within the code. I would use Russian techniques of breaking into organisations so there is simply no way to assign a source for any attack – this is a fallacy.” 

Don’t just take his word for it.  Watch two minutes of MIT Prof and US Govt adviser, Theodore Postol 

(viii) January 2016 The ‘Lisa Case’ disinformation campaign against Germany.
This is the case of a 13yr old girl with dual German/ Russian nationality, who went missing for 30hrs and when she returned claimed to have been abducted and raped.  These claims were proved false but before they were, Russia accused Germany of a cover up and being slow in their investigation.
Germany accused Russia of exploiting the case for political advantage.  Which is par for the course.

(ix) 2015 to 2016  Danish Defence Ministry hack
See (vii) above.

(x) October 2016 Coup attempt in Montenegro.
Where ??
Montenegro has a population of approx 650,000.  It’s situated on the Adriatic Coast, part of the former Yugoslavia.
In 2015, there were divisions between the political parties over democratic representation and the enthusiasm of the ruling party to join NATO.  There were street demonstrations.
In 2016, on election day,  the Govt arrested opposition politicians and some russians accusing them of plotting a coup.
The plot and the motives become very messy, with accusations against Russia and unreliable witnesses.  Eventually, two russians were among those charged.  Russia denied involvement.

At the end of 2017, Putin sacked the head of a Govt agency that Montenegro had said was involved in the coup.   Whether that was because he’d “gone rogue” or because the plot had been discovered, or for some other reason is a matter of speculation.

(xi) June 2017  NotPetya cyber ransomware attack.
See (vii) above.

(xii)  March 2018  Attempted assassination of Sergey and Julia Skripal.
If that’s what it was.  At present, the investigating force seems clueless as to how and when the poison was administered, or by whom.

Slide 5  “UK’s Measured and Proportionate Response”  is another list of bullet points, many of which are to be found in every Tory manifesto.
• Enhanced Border Controls
• Tackling Criminality and Corruption
• New Legislation

And that’s the slideshow / PowerPoint Presentation accounted for.
Re: Slide 2  “.....their record of conducting state sponsored assassinations....”   I note a lack of “state sponsored assassinations” in the list.

As for the Ambassador’s briefing, it’s lies and obfuscation.  “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Back to Home Page