By John Brindley - Staff Author
COME on, folks, let’s hear it for Jeremy Hunt….
You may not particularly warm to the British Foreign Secretary but you’ve got to admire the way he delivered his lines over UK and USA national Paul Whelan who is currently under arrest in Russia on spying charges.
To attempt to take the moral high ground by warning Russia not to use Whelan as a ‘diplomatic pawn’ and then say ‘we don’t with individuals being used in diplomatic chess games’ took some doing.
But to achieve it without flinching or even a hint of embarrassment – some would term it ‘awareness’ was off the radar and frankly on the RADA.
You see the words literally screaming at his conscience must surely have been ‘Skripal, Skripal, what about the Skripals?’
Oh year, forgot about them, the elephants in the diplomatic room.
You may recall that on March 4 last year Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia, who was visiting him from Moscow, were poisoned in Salisbury.
Instead of treating it as a domestic case of attempted murder, then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson immediately proclaimed that it was most certainly the work of the Russians and, in particular, laid the blame at the door of President Vladimir Putin.
In other words, he did exactly what Hunt is now asking Putin not to do – he treated Sergei, a patient rather than a suspect as in the case of Whelan, as a diplomatic pawn.
The fall out from this had huge international repercussions, as we all know.
Economic sanctions were slapped on Russia as Prime Minister Theresa May stoked the fire with Britain’s allies at every possible opportunity and there were even calls to prevent Russia from hosting the summer World Cup – that being one of the most successful, enjoyable and trouble-free football competitions in history!
Whilst the Skripals were both fighting for their lives, a game of theatre was being enacted.
The only initial ‘evidence’ was that the nerve agent Novichok was used in the attack.
Novichok, we were told, was developed by the former Soviet Union, so this must have been the work of Russia, right?
It was always a good idea to ignore that Porton Down, Britain’s chemical weapons base, was only a few miles away from the incident and also failed to provide categorical assurances to Johnson to back up his claims.
Then, all of a sudden, two ‘suspects’ were announced, Alexander Petrov and Russian Boshirov. This pair of blundering assassins did manage to create one piece of magic as they were photographed walking down the same aisle at a London airport at exactly the same time even though the images were entirely separate.
Then they had a party at their hotel before creating another piece of history.
It is almost impossible reportedly not to kill someone with Novichok – it is that lethal – but these bad boys managed it.
The Skripals were found on a bench – alive – and able to be used as a part of Britain’s anti-Russian propaganda until this very day.
But the usage of Sergei Skripal as a diplomatic pawn long precede the Salisbury episode.
The fact he was in the United Kingdom at all was precisely because he was a key player in the kind of chess game Hunt now warns against
For Skripal was safely locked up in a Russian prison, sentenced to 13 years of imprisonment for high treason where Putin could have sent someone who actually knew what they were doing to deal with him any time he wished – but funnily enough never did so.
Then came the so-called Illegals Program spy swap. Skripal, along with three other Russian nationals imprisoned for spying, were freed as part of a swap for 10 Russian agents arrested in the United States.
And who was it who insisted that Skripal was part of the deal – why the UK Government!
And so the story goes on and on.
Officially the Skripals dropped off the map in or around May 2018.
Wikipedia reports that Sergei Skripal followed his daughter by being discharged from hospital on May 18.
And then they lived happily ever after?
What has happened since? Are they even alive, let alone living happily in the UK?
We are left to presume that the father and daughter are in some secret location to keep them safe from nasty Mr Putin in case he has since hired assassins worth their salt.
But that is a huge, huge assumption. We have never heard a word from Mr Skripal and only one heavily scripted statement from his daughter.
Have the Russians been given an assurance over their safety? They are, after all, Russian nationals and Julia was reportedly only in Britain on holiday.
It seems unlikely that we will ever hear about them again because they, as individuals, were never the issue.
They served and still are serving their purpose as exactly the kind of pawns that Hunt speaks of.
We all hope and trust that Whelan will be dealt with fairly and equitably as an individual.
But is there really any evidence that Britain would not make capital from his arrest were the boot on the other foot?
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