Ever since the Skripal poisoning, Russia has denied that its agents were involved in any way with the killing. Of course, this was not the first such poisoning of former Russian citizens in Great Britain. The Litvinenko case was so carefully researched that there could be little doubt regarding who used a radioactive agent to kill a former Russian citizen, who was cooperating with Spanish authorities. Still, Russia has engaged in an extensive and full-throated defense against these accusations. This week this defense became much more difficult.
First, the assassins spoke on Russian television, after Great Britain released footage of the two agents in Salisbury. The result was a disaster, and their story was so implausible that even many Russian citizens decided that their government lying. It’s worth reading this Washington Post article to understand how truly poor their performance was.
Perhaps even worse, the security website Bellingcat managed to obtain the passport information regarding the two men, which it published in an article titled “Skripal Poisoning Suspect’s Passport Data Shows Link to Security Services.” Bellingcat is a widely respected website that uses digital data and investigations to reveal information related to security topics, from the use of poison gas in Syria to the genocide against the Rohinga in Myanmar. The quality of the data that they managed to obtain is staggering, and shows major weaknesses in Russia’s digital security. Based on this information, there can no longer be any doubt that the killers were in fact agents of the Russian state.
What is strange then, is that a Russian dissident and activist, Verzilov, who has been associated with the protest group Pussy Riot was also just poisoned. He was taken to Germany, where is doctors stated that he seemed to have been poisoned with some form of nerve agent. The timing seems bizarre; it’s almost as if the Russian government is making no attempt to hide its acts, as its denials become increasingly difficult to believe, and is instead choosing to flaunt its actions in the most public manner possible.