by Sushi for the Saker Blog
This series of articles commenced as an investigation of a curious incident: the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury UK on March 4th, 2018. The series represents an attempt to collect and sift the available relevant evidence. Links to prior work may be found at the end of this article.
It is now believed sufficient evidence exists to elevate this curious incident to the level of “Skripalgate.”
On March 28th, the Police Service announced their theory of the case: that a toxic agent believed to be an organophosphate poison in the VX family of the type developed in the UK and militarised at Porton Down, was found in the highest concentrations on the door of the Skripal residence. The police thesis is that contact with the door handle was the means of poisoning the Skripals.
For the reasons which follow, this claim by the police provides evidence to support the assertion the curious incident of Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, is a false flag.
General Introduction to the Toxin
Vladimir Uglev was one of the Soviet researchers actively engaged in the FOLIANT program, the Soviet program for developing Next Generation Agents (NGA).
Uglev claims to have worked on these nerve agents “from 1972 until 1988.” In his March 20th, 2018 interview with The Bell he claims the Soviet research on NGA, and his own participation, ended approximately nine years prior to Russia joining the OPCW, the international body which seeks to regulate chemical warfare.
At the time the FOLIANT program ended the Soviet Union was in a state of collapse. Russia denies any involvement in a research program involving a NGA called “Novichok.” This is an accurate statement for three reasons: 1) Novichok refers to the attempt to develop binary forms of the NGA developed under the FOLIANT program not to any unique NGA; 2) Novichok may also refer to a deception operation intended to confuse the Amercians. It was this deception operation that lead to the original arrest of Vil Mirzanov; 3) The FOLIANT program was operated by the U.S.S.R. The Soviet Union underwent a complete collapse and disintegration at this time and was a very different entity from the present day Russian Federation. This point seems to be missed by a great many writers who conflate the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. The German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany are two very different entities. The same is true of Russia and the U.S.S.R.
All NGA research stocks were destroyed by incineration at the close of the program. All nerve agents, including any NGA FOLIANT agents, degrade at a rate of approximately 3% per year. This is not a linear rate of degradation. As decomposition by-products build up, degradation accelerates.
Mirzanov further said that there was probably no current stockpile of novichok to steal, because it has a limited shelf life and the preferred form would be a binary version in which two relatively benign, non-banned substances were mixed to produce novichok.
“The final product, in storage, after one year is already losing 2%, 3%. The next year more, and the next year more. In 10-15 years, it’s no longer effective.”
The poisoning of the Skripals occurred 30 years from 1988. With a linear rate of decay of 3% a year, any retained sample from 1988 would not constitute an effective toxin (30 x .03 = 90%). The clear implication is that even if any Soviet stocks had been saved from incineration the toxicity of these agents would be extremely low to negligible.
Little is known of the physical characteristics of any FOLIANT NGA program output. The researchers developed hundreds of variants of organophosphate based VX. The research involved continually tweaking the chemical formula for VX to identify new derivatives. Any discovery was then evaluated for its possible military potential. All the Soviet NGA were given a name. The naming convention consisted of an alphabetic character followed by 4 digits representing the year of discovery i.e. B-1976, C-1976, or D-1980.
Uglev also states that there exists no antidote for any of the FOLIANT NGA. If poisoned with VX the victim has from 30 seconds to 2 minutes to inject atropine as an antidote. If the victim becomes unconscious and is removed to hospital care, medical therapy consists of sedation together with the regular application of atropine until the patient makes a recovery. Uglev is claiming that not only is atropine not an effective therapy, he is stating that there exists no antidote.
Uglev asserts that all of the FOLIANT agents were in liquid form with the sole exception of D-1980 which came in the form of a powder.
Vil Mirzanov wrote a book about the FOLIANT program but he was not a member of the NGA development team. Mirzanov performed a monitoring function. He conducted ambient air surveys on the perimeter of the research facility. His work had two objectives: 1) to identify any release of toxic material which might pose a risk to persons in the immediate vicinity; 2) identify any chemical trace evidence which a foreign intelligence agency might use to determine the nature of the research being conducted.
Because the FOLIANT NGA never went into production, and the research stocks were incinerated, there exist no known samples of this toxin. Since Mirzanov made the formulae public, any state body with a reasonably well equipped chemical research capacity has the ability to duplicate the Soviet research and produce an equivalent toxin. The FOLIANT NGA was rumoured to be 8 to 10 times more toxic than VX. Since the properties of VX are reasonably well known, the following analysis is based on the known properties of VX nerve agent.
Physical Characteristic – Touch
VX is a viscous liquid with the approximate consistency of Lyles Golden Syrup for the UK readers, maple syrup for the Canucks in the audience, and IHOP syrup for the US readers. The viscosity of VX may be modified so as to better enable its application as an airborne spray. Within a normal ambient temperature range VX is found as a liquid.
Here is an experiment.
Go get the syrup of your choice and apply it to your doorknob. Note what happens. It will run off. It may take an hour or so but it will eventually form a noticeable pool beneath the area of application.
Now grasp the handle to which you applied the agent and open the door. Notice anything strange? You now have some gunk on your hand. The Skripal investigation asks you to believe that Skripal and his daughter left the house, closed the door, got something very strange on their hands, and did nothing about it. They went to lunch.
Try wiping off all the syrup you placed on your door handle. Once again use the door handle. You will still feel skin contact with something other than a bare metal surface. Contact with minute quantities of VX will give you a “buzz.” Ii is difficult to believe that two people touched an object contaminated with a viscous liquid and that neither of them noticed such contact.
Physical Characteristic – Powder
Well perhaps the agent was applied in the form of a very fine dry powder. What about that scenario?
Get some powdered mustard, or paprika, and sprinkle it on your doorknob. Once again it falls off and forms a little pool of powder on the front step. Fine powder is an excellent inhalation agent. You place the agent in a volume of air (such as a car interior) and wait for the victim to occupy the tainted air volume.
Each year some 30% of the population experience this form of poisoning as hay fever. Minute particles of pollen loft on the wind and are inhaled without notice by the victim. Powder placed inside the Skripals car is a viable mode of attack. Placing powdered agent on a doorknob is not.
Physical Characteristic – Smell
Igor Nikulin, a former chemical-weapons adviser to the UN secretary-general, stated “ . . .this substance [Novichok], unlike sarin gas, is difficult to use without detection. It has a strong and unpleasant odor. Sarin is colorless, odorless. It can be applied without detection. But this substance (Novichok) cannot be used without detection,” Nikulin said.
VX has no odour and no smell.
Physical Characteristic – Degradation
All chemical warfare agents (CWA) are subject to environmental degradation. The primary cause of this degradation is through exposure to sunlight (UV).
From 1600 on March 4th, to midnight March 28th, the Salisbury area received 163 hours of sunlight. You can verify this yourself at this online record.
By March 8th, the sunlight exposure was around 16 hours. These figures are not precise. The weather station of record is located at Boscombe Down not in the Maltings, and not immediately adjacent to the Skripal residence. Weather patterns may vary significantly even within a small region.
Physical Characteristic – Solubility
VX exhibits an unusual property. It dissolves better in cold water than it does in warm water. This is the exact opposite of most other compounds.
From 1600 on March 4th, to midnight March 28th, the Salisbury area received 196 hours of precipitation. This includes rain, sleet, snow, mixed conditions, drizzle, and fog. By the 8th, of March there had been 58 hours of precipitation.
Fog is being counted as precipitation. Rain is liquid water falling from the sky. Any area under an awning, a roof eave, or under a tree in leaf, will receive protection from falling rain. The prevailing wind also plays a role. If the wind drives the rain directly at the Skripal front door, the amount of moisture will be greater than if the wind is blowing over the house from the rear. In this case the house will create a lee and reduce the amount of moisture reaching the door handle.
Fog is different. It envelopes all surfaces, even the underside of surfaces. By March 8th, the Salisbury area was exposed to 21 hours of fog and 15 hours of rain. Both the fog and rain would have been cold and therefore would have resulted in the increased dissolution of any VX on any exposed surface.
Event Sequence – Simultaneity 1
Most striking about this case is that both victims fell ill at precisely the same time. This is unusual. One was male and the other female. One was 66 and the other 33. Different sexes have different metabolisms, as do persons of different ages. If you delivered the same amount of toxic agent to both Sergei and Yulia it is expected that one of them would fall ill before the other. The one with delayed onset of symptoms would likely summon help for the other person. There were at least 5 passersby: 1) an off duty doctor; 2) an off duty nurse; 3) Freya Church the 27 year old employee of Snap Fitness Centre; 4) Jamie Paine; 5) Jamie’s girlfriend; 6) Georgia Pridham; 7) Dan Holmes, who walked past them just after 4pm; 8) Emma Pearson. It is reported that other people strolled through the area and did not attempt to intervene. Freya Church reported that the two victims appeared to be intoxicated homeless people. It was not until Sergei Skripal bent over and began to vomit that passerby intervened.
That both Skripals were stricken at the same time is strongly suggestive of them having been attacked at the same time. An alternative explanation is that someone highly familiar with the properties of the toxic agent employed carefully adjusted the dosage to ensure that both fell ill within seconds of each other. This would be difficult to achieve. It would be impossible to achieve if the mechanism of application was via contact with a tainted doorknob.
Event Sequence – Simultaneity 2
Person A goes out the door, touching a contaminated doorknob as he / she does so. This contact with the doorknob transfers toxic agent to the skin of Person A. Less toxic agent is left on the doorknob. Person B follows A out the door and uses the same doorknob. Person B should therefore receive a lesser dose of toxic agent than person A. This suggests a differential time of response between Person A and B due to the lessened degree of exposure.
In the case of the Skripals we are forced to make the assumption that the differential exposure exactly compensated for the different body mass, physical characteristics, metabolic rates, and ages of father and daughter. This is possible but statistically highly unlikely. We are left with the question: “Why did both fall ill at exactly the same time?” Why did one not succumb before the other with the unaffected one urgently summoning assistance: “Please help me, my dad! He is suddenly ill!”
Event Sequence – Simultaneity 3
The Skripals depart the residence making contact with a slimy doorknob and they do not notice this fact. Nor do they notice the fact of differential exposure to the toxic agent. They leave at 1320 and both fall seriously ill within seconds of each other at approximately 1610 an interval of exactly 3 hours.
Skin contact with VX results in the onset of symptoms within 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Incapacitation quickly follows if no atropine is injected. The FOLIANT NGA are rumoured to be 8 to 10 times more toxic than VX. Yet these two individuals make contact with this extremely toxic agent and exhibit no effects for 3 hours. Theresa May thinks this is a very plausible outcome. I think it is impossible to achieve even if you carefully administered doses adjusted to compensate for the unique characteristics of each victim. You would need to know the full details of the toxin in addition to having extremely detailed knowledge of your target.
Despite May’s claim to the use of a substance 8 to 10 times more toxic than VX, citizen responder Jamie made contact with Skripals spittle and suffered no ill effect. The passing doctor placed Yulia in the recovery position and suffered no ill effect. Yet DS Bailey ends up in the same hospital as the Skripals and is significantly poisioned. Theresa May needs to explain how these outcomes were achieved. Her assertions to the global public fail to accord with the facts, or explain the facts. May’s claims are simply not plausible.
Event Sequence – Conjecture 1
Two people use the same contaminated doorknob and both transfer some amount of toxic agent to their own skin. There is a diminished amount of toxic residue left on the doorknob.
DS Bailey departs the incident scene around 1710 after the victims are transported to hospital. Bailey travels to the Skripal residence, a 10 minute trip. He makes contact with the same slimed doorknob but, as a trained Detective Sargent, he dismisses this contact as irrelevant to his investigation, or to his own safety, and goes about the house poking at computer keyboards, touching other household items, and gaily spreading toxic agent everywhere he goes.
Bailey finds nothing of interest and departs the residence to drive back to the Maltings. It would not be a surprise to learn that DS Bailey makes contact with his police station to determine if they have learned anything of the Skripals prior movements. Bailey is informed the Skripals charged drinks at the Bishops Mill pub and went on for a meal at Zizzi. DS Bailey proceeds to each of these locations to learn what he can of the victims, unwittingly leaving a trail of toxic agent as he goes. The he turns himself in to the hospital as he begins to feel unwell.
If Bailey arrived at the Skripal residence at 1720 and obtained a toxic dose from the same doorknob that poisoned the Skripals and, if his dosage was the same as the Skripals, then he should have found himself becoming ill 3 hours later at 2020.
DS Bailey is a key aspect of this case but the sequence of his movements is not found in any of the available MSM reporting.
Event Sequence – Conjecture 2
The police learn that Yulia is recovering. This is most unexpected. She was supposed to be dead, or on permanent life support. Her recovery presents a major problem – she may remember the attack upon her and her father. She may be able to describe the assailants. This was not the expected outcome. Both Skripals were supposed to be dead. If not dead, they were supposed to remain in a coma for the rest of their natural life. It may be near Easter but a return from the dead was not part of the original script.
If Yulia retains memory of the incident, perhaps she will describe being accosted by two men who claim to be police. These police requested assistance in the identification of a person believed to have committed a minor crime in the area. The Skripals are happy to assist. Policeman A pulls a tablet computer from his pocket, explains he will show them a series of images and afterwards ask them to point out anyone they recognize and where they may have been seen. “Look closely” he says. He flips open the tablet’s protective cover, something squirts out, and that is the last thing Yulia can remember.
The investigating officers then take great pains to explain to Yulia that what she describes is a very unlikely event, that there was no evidence of any such “police” on the hundreds of hours of CCTV recording confiscated by the investigators. Her memory is most likely a false memory, a delirium resulting from her exposure to the extremely toxic nerve agent that known Russian agents placed on the door handle of the residence as part of a plot by Vladimir Putin to kill Sergei Skripal. “And we are here to help.”
What they do not tell Yulia is that immediately after the attack at 1610 on March 4th, the two “police” travelled to the Skripal residence arriving at 1620. They let themselves in using tools and techniques known to all intelligence operatives, and then searched the residence to locate the McGuffin that connects Skripal to some nefarious activity such as the creation of the Steele Dossier. They depart 20 minutes later at 1640 after having inadvertently contaminated both the door knob, and much of the household.
DS Bailey then arrives in the driveway at 1720 and enters the residence by the same door unwittingly making contact with the toxic agent left by the other “police.” He then spreads the same contamination to the Bishops Mill pub and to Zizzi. The contamination at Zizzi is so bad they are forced to burn the table at which the Skripals were seated.
This sequence of events is just as plausible as May’s claims that a 30 year old nerve agent created by Soviet scientists during the disintegration of the U.S.S.R., a new form of chemical weapon unknown to the OPCW and to every other CWA researcher, was magically resurrected to kill a man released from a Russian jail 8 years previously.
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Prior articles in this series:
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Many persons commenting on the Saker blog, and in information sources other than the MSM, have made statement similar to the following:
While scanning for news that morning I noticed that all of the MSM had basically the same text to describe the event, but in a few cases different headlines, mainly dependent on which side of the Pond they came from. I skipped them, they seemed too coordinated.
This lack of critical coverage on the part of the MSM reduces your ability to come to your own conclusions with respect to the truth. This is a critical issue both with respect to an understanding of this Curious Incident, and to the proper functioning of any democratic polity.
The Saker does not tell me what to write. But he is generous enough, and sufficiently concerned over the current state of geo-strategic chess, that he makes these, and other articles, freely available to a global audience. I see he is presently making an appeal for donations to help defray the cost of hosting the site. I am paid nothing, but I do have an IT background and IT is not inexpensive. I ask that if you find this series informative that you support the site.
The Saker has not asked me to make this request.
Part VII presents the motives of the attacker.
In memory of David Christopher Kelly, CMG (14 May 1944 – 17 July 2003)