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Is this the face of the assassin Russia sent to kill Sergey Skripal? A British newspaper says so….

Media reports suggest British authorities still in the dark about the Skripal case

Alexander Mercouris

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Two British newspapers – The Sunday People (which is a tabloid) and the Times of London (which is not) – have published very similar stories about a supposed breakthrough in the Skripal case.

The Times of London as usual is somewhat more measured.

Firstly it reports the interesting fact (based on a report drawn from the Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets) that Yulia Skripal’s Russian fiancé is refusing to reply to her calls, causing her deep distress

The fiancé of Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury, works at an organisation with links to the Russian security services and has gone into hiding.

Stepan Vikeev, 30, has not been seen since Yulia, 33, and her father, Sergei, 66, a former Russian military intelligence officer, were poisoned last month, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper reported.

Mr Vikeev has not answered Ms Skripal’s calls since she was discharged from hospital and deleted all his social media accounts after the attack, for which the government has blamed Russia…..

The newspaper said that Ms Skripal was “hysterical” when Mr Vikeev failed to return her telephone calls.

This is curious since the Russians by their own account have been doing all they can to contact Yulia Skripal only to be prevented from doing so by the British.  Given that this is so one would expect the Russian authorities – if they are involved – to be encouraging Stepan Vikeev to reply to Yulia Skripal’s calls, and not to turn them away.

However far more interesting than this tidbit of information is news about a supposed breakthrough in the case which is discretely tacked on to the end of the article

The reports of Mr Vikeev’s disappearance come as the police and intelligence agencies have reportedly identified key suspects for the Salisbury attack, in part by searching flight passenger lists in and out of the UK, drawing on CCTV footage in Salisbury and using car numberplate recognition cameras.

I will say at this point that in my opinion the whole Times of London article about Stepan Vikeev is a cover for the real information in the article, which is the paragraph which I have just quoted.  Frankly, it looks to me like an attempt by the British to signal to the Russians that they know – or think they know – who were the assassins who tried to kill Sergey Skripal.

For a more colourful account of what the British know or think they know about the case we have to turn to The Sunday People, whose story appeared on 22nd April 2018, the day before the article appeared in The Times of London.  Its article is written in the usual breathless style of contemporary British tabloid journalism

Counter terror police have ­identified a Russian assassin ­believed to be connected to the Salisbury poisonings.

In a sensational new development the Sunday People can disclose that officers suspect he is a 54-year-old former FSB spy – codename Gordon.

The man is thought to use the cover name Mihails Savickis as well as two other aliases.

But police fear he has already flown back to Russia and they may never get the chance to question him.

Detectives believe there was a team of six behind the novichok chemical ­attack on double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33.

Our revelation follows reports that Britain’s intelligence services have ­compiled a list of key suspects involved in last month’s attack in the Wiltshire city.

Gordon’s cover name emerged ­during nearly five hours of questioning by police in London this week of KGB defector Boris Karpichkov, 59.

Boris told the Sunday People how he and Gordon’s paths crossed in the early 1990s.

The two men knew each other when Karpichkov was a major in the FSB, the KGB’s successor, in Latvia.

Gordon was a subordinate of Boris’s.

“He was a very intelligent, educated, ambitious and ruthless person,” Boris said today.

“He was handsome and personable and was quickly able to win a stranger’s trust.”

Boris said Gordon was trained in martial arts and specialised in ju jitsu. He went to university where he gained a law degree.

Our exclusive picture of the man police want to talk to – handed to us by Boris – shows the wanted spy three decades ago.

He is 5ft 9in with no distinguishing marks, fiercely ­intelligent and with a law degree from Latvia’s State University in Riga.

Gordon has used the cover of a ­successful businessman in the security industry. He was a captain in the KGB before joining the FSB after the Cold War ended.

He is on the FSB’s Officers of Active Reserve list, a kind of spy territorial army called out for special operations including “wet jobs” as Russian spooks like to call their assassinations.

And he is known to have ­murdered at least one man when he shot an organised crime boss in Latvia during the 1990s.

Gordon’s cover name was ­revealed during nearly five hours of questioning by police on Monday of Karpichkov, who is on the same FSB hitlist as the Skripals.

The ex-spy believes that if Gordon was involved in the Skripal attack he could have been leader of the ­special ops group carrying it out because of his seniority.

The two men knew each other when Karpichkov was an FSB major in Latvia – then part of the Soviet Union – and Gordon was a subordinate.

The codename Gordon was given to the spy by his FSB bosses.

It is not unusual to choose British names. Notorious double agent Kim Philby was codenamed Stanley.

Our exclusive revelation comes a day after it was reported that police and intelligence agencies have identified key suspects in the attempted assassination of Sergei and his daughter Yulia.

Counter-terrorism police are reportedly trying to build a case against “persons of interest”.

The breakthrough came after a search of flight manifests in and out of the UK yielded specific names in the hunt for the Skripals’ would-be assassins. Police have also drawn on extensive CCTV footage in Salisbury.

But officers know it is unlikely they will ever be able to bring anyone to justice.

The Sunday People article comes complete with an identikit picture of ‘Gordon’ – the reputed Russian master assassin – which is the picture used as a caption for this article.

It is quite clear that the two articles – the one in The Times of London of 23rd April 2018 and the one in The Sunday People of 22nd April 2018 – draw on the same sources, which quite obviously are the British authorities.

What is one to make of all this?

Frankly ‘Gordon’ aka ‘Mihails Savickis’ sounds just a bit too much like a Russian James Bond to be wholly believable.  Note that he is said to be “handsome, personable, very intelligent, educated, ambitious and ruthless” and that he is also an expert in ju-itsu.  The only discordant note is that at 54 he seems a little too old for the part.  The identikit picture of him is however ridiculous.

More to the point the “evidence” upon which these claims of a breakthrough are based seems incredibly tenuous.

It looks as if the British authorities have been spending the last few weeks combing through the names and photos of individuals who have come and gone from Britain and comparing them with photos of people caught on CCTV wandering around Salisbury around the time that Sergey and Yulia Skripal were poisoned.  On that basis a number of individuals – or possibly photos of individuals – have been selected as showing possible suspects.

The possibilities of error are obvious, and I would add that this procedure neither directly links the individuals so identified with the crime itself nor does it prove that they were acting on behalf of the Russian authorities.  At best the individuals concerned are – as they are described in The Sunday People article – “persons of interest” whom the police would want to interview rather than actual “suspects”.

As for ‘Gordon’ aka ‘Mihailis Savickis’, the identikit picture suggests that he is was not one of the people allegedly caught on CCTV in Salisbury and his reputed connection to the crime has been largely inferred from the evidence of former defectors like Boris Karpichkov who is named in The Sunday People article.  Probably he is a real person though the James Bond qualities he has been given suggest that a certain amount of fantasy has been at work.

These nebulous claims about possible suspects in the Skripal case come alongside two articles, by Craig Murray and by Ben Macintyre in The Times of London (the latter a writer on intelligence matters) which suggest continuing doubts in Britain about Russian state involvement in the case.

Craig Murray – whose reporting of the Skripal case has been consistently reliable as well as outstanding – sees in the latest statements by British officialdom evidence of doubts about the theory of Russian state involvement in the Skripal case

Well-placed FCO sources tell me it remains the case that senior civil servants in both the FCO and Home Office remain very sceptical of Russian guilt in the Skripal case. It remains the case that Porton Down scientists have identified the chemical as a “novichok-style” nerve agent but still cannot tie its production to Russia – there are many other possibilities. The effort to identify the actual perpetrator is making no headway, with the police having eliminated by alibi the Russian air passenger on the same flight as Julia Skripal identified as suspicious by MI5 purely on grounds of the brevity of their stay.

That senior civil servants do not regard Russian responsibility as a fact is graphically revealed in this minute from head of the civil service, Sir Jeremy Heywood, sent to officials following the attack on Syria. Note the very careful use of language:

Their work was instrumental in ensuring widespread international support for the Government’s position on Russian responsibility for the Salisbury attack

This is very deliberate use of language by Sir Jeremy. Exactly as I explained with the phrase “of a type developed by Russia” about the nerve agent, you have to parse extremely carefully what is written by the senior civil service. They do not write extra phrases for no reason.

Sir Jeremy could have simply written of Russian responsibility as a fact, but he did not. His reference to “the government’s position on Russian responsibility” is very deliberate and an acknowledgement that other positions are possible. He deliberately refrains from asserting Russian responsibility as a fact. This is no accident and is tailored to the known views of responsible civil servants in the relevant departments, to whom he is writing.

(italics added)

As for Ben Macintyre, he has this to say

Russia has so far come up with more than 30 narratives for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal. It is a classic demonstration of the Stalinist disinformation technique known as maskirovka, or “little masquerade”, which is designed to sow confusion and uncertainty.

The British narrative, by contrast, remains fairly simple: Russia was behind the attack, which was carried out using high-grade, pure novichok, the Russian-made nerve agent. “Only Russia has the technical means, operational experience and motive for the attack on the Skripals . . . it is highly likely that the Russian state was responsible,” wrote Sir Mark Sedwill, Britain’s national security adviser, in a letter to Nato.

But behind the logical assertion of overall Russian guilt lie a host of possibilities and unanswered questions: who administered the poison, what was the level of Kremlin authorisation, and why now?

On March 12, a week after the poisoning, Theresa May offered just two possibilities: “Either this was a direct act by the Russian state against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.”

Between those two poles lie an array of possibilities, in which the assassins were encouraged, facilitated, prompted, armed, nudged or protected, to an as yet undetermined extent, by Russia. There are several reasons why the attempted murder does not look like a typical Russian “wet job”, or mokroe delo, a state-authorised hit. For a start, it didn’t work and was done in a way that seems remarkably sloppy. The poison was easily traceable to Russia. It took out a member of the target’s family, something Russian (and Soviet) assassins have traditionally avoided.

Macintyre then goes on to speculate at inordinate length that though the Russian authorities may not have actually ordered the attack they are covering up for whoever did.

That is of course pure speculation which is based on no fact.

Nonetheless it is interesting that a well placed and well informed British writer on intelligence matters like Ben Macintyre is expressing doubts in The Times of London about the theory of Russian state involvement in the Skripal case.

Frankly, it looks to me as if despite all the claims to the contrary the police investigation of the Skripal case has made little actual progress.  The British seem to have little more knowledge of who carried out the attack on Sergey and Yulia Skripal and why than they did when the investigation began.  Could it possibly be because they are looking in the wrong place?

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BARR: No collusion by any Americans

Trump never used his powers to interfere with Mueller, and thus had no “corrupt intent” in the matter.

Alex Christoforou

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Attorney General Barr found no one in the Trump campaign colluded with “Russia” to meddle in the 2016 US election.

A devastating blow to Democrats and their mainstream media stenographers.

Trump reacted immediately…

Via RT…

With the full report on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into claims President Donald Trump colluded with Russia about to be released, Attorney General William Barr is giving a press conference about its findings.

Barr maintains the allegation that the Russian government made efforts to interfere in the election through the Internet Research Agency, an alleged Kremlin-control “troll farm”, as well as “hacking efforts” by the Russian intelligence agency GRU.

The bottom line, Barr says, is that Mueller has found Russia tried to interfere in the election, but “no American” helped it.

Barr explained the White House’s interaction with the Mueller report, whether Trump used executive privilege to block any of its contents from release, as well as on how the Justice Department chose which bits of the 400-page paper to redact.

On the matter of obstruction of justice, Barr said he and his deputy Rod Rosenstein have reviewed Mueller’s evidence and “legal theories”, and found that there is no evidence to show Trump tried to disrupt the investigation.

He said Trump never used his powers to interfere with Mueller, and thus had no “corrupt intent” in the matter.

Most of the redactions in the report were made to protect ongoing investigations and personal information of “peripheral third parties”.

Barr said that no-one outside the Justice Department took part in the redacting process or saw the unredacted version, except for the intelligence community, which was given access to parts of it to protect sources.

Trump did not ask to make any changes to Mueller’s report, Barr said.

Trump’s personal counsel was given access to the redacted report before its release.

A number of Trump-affiliated people, as well as Russian nationals, have been indicted, charged or put on trial by Mueller over the course of the past two years, but none for election-related conspiracy. Still, Democrats in Congress as well as numerous establishment media personalities have been insisting that Barr, a Trump pick for AG office, is somehow “spinning” its findings in order to protect and exonerate Trump, and are calling to see the full report as soon as possible.

They have equally condemned Barr’s decision to hold a news conference before the report is release, claiming he is trying to shape the public perception in Trump’s favor.

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Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Important events have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks that underline how the overall political reconfiguration of the region is in full swing. The Shia axis continues its diplomatic relations and, following Rouhani’s meeting in Baghdad, it was the turn of Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be received in Tehran by the highest government and religious authorities. Among the many statements released, two in particular reveal the high level of cooperation between the two countries, as well as demonstrating how the Shia axis is in full bloom, carrying significant prospects for the region. Abdul-Mahdi also reiterated that Iraq will not allow itself to be used as a platform from which to attack Iran: “Iraqi soil will not be allowed to be used by foreign troops to launch any attacks against Iran. The plan is to export electricity and gas for other countries in the region.”

Considering that these two countries were mortal enemies during Saddam Hussein’s time, their rapprochement is quite a (geo)political miracle, owing much of its success to Russia’s involvement in the region. The 4+1 coalition (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria plus Hezbollah) and the anti-terrorism center in Baghdad came about as a result of Russia’s desire to coordinate all the allied parties in a single front. Russia’s military support of Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah (together with China’s economic support) has allowed Iran to begin to transform the region such that the Shia axis can effectively counteract the destabilizing chaos unleashed by the trio of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

One of the gaps to be filled in the Shia axis lies in Lebanon, which has long experienced an internal conflict between the many religious and political currents in the country. The decision by Washington to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel pushed the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, to make an important symbolic visit to Moscow to meet with President Putin.

Once again, the destabilizing efforts of the Saudis, Israelis and Americans are having the unintended effect of strengthening the Shia axis. It seems that this trio fails to understood how such acts as murdering Khashoggi, using civilian planes to hide behind in order to conduct bombing runs in Syria, recognizing the occupied territories like the Golan Heights – how these produce the opposite effects to the ones desired.

The supply of S-300 systems to Syria after the downing of the Russian reconnaissance plane took place as a result of Tel Aviv failing to think ahead and anticipate how Russia may respond.

What is surprising in Moscow’s actions is the versatility of its diplomacy, from the deployment of the S-300s in Syria, or the bombers in Iran, to the prompt meetings with Netanyahu in Moscow and Mohammad bin Salman at the G20. The ability of the Russian Federation to mediate and be present in almost every conflict on the globe restores to the country the international stature that is indispensable in counterbalancing the belligerence of the United States.

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange. Another military and economic example can be found in a third axis; not the Shia or Saudi-Israeli-US one but the Turkish-Qatari one. In Syria, Erdogan started from positions that were exactly opposite to those of Putin and Assad. But with decisive military action and skilled diplomacy, the creation of the Astana format between Iran, Turkey and Russia made Turkey and Qatar publicly take the defense of Islamist takfiris and criminals in Idlib. Qatar for its part has a two-way connection with Turkey, but it is also in open conflict with the Saudi-Israeli axis, with the prospect of abandoning OPEC within a few weeks. This situation has allowed Moscow to open a series of negotiations with Doha on the topic of LNG, with these two players controlling most of the LNG on the planet. It is evident that also the Turkish-Qatari axis is strongly conditioned by Moscow and by the potential military agreements between Turkey and Russia (sale of S-400) and economic and energy agreements between Moscow and Doha.

America’s actions in the region risks combining the Qatari-Turkish front with the Shia axis, again thanks to Moscow’s skilful diplomatic work. The recent sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, together with the withdrawal from the JCPOA (the Iranian nuclear agreement), has created concern and bewilderment in the region and among Washington’s allies. The act of recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as belonging to Israel has brought together the Arab world as few events have done in recent times. Added to this, Trump’s open complaints about OPEC’s high pricing of oil has forced Riyadh to start wondering out aloud whether to start selling oil in a currency other than the dollar. This rumination was quickly denied, but it had already been aired. Such a decision would have grave implications for the petrodollar and most of the financial and economic power of the United States.

If the Shia axis, with Russian protection, is strengthened throughout the Middle East, the Saudi-Israel-American triad loses momentum and falls apart, as seen in Libya, with Haftar now one step closer in unifying the country thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russia, with Fayez al-Sarraj now abandoned by the Italians and Americans awaiting his final defeat.

While the globe continues its multipolar transformation, the delicate balancing role played by Russia in the Middle East and North Africa is emphasized. The Venezuelan foreign minister’s recent visit to Syria shows how the front opposed to US imperialist bullying is not confined to the Middle East, with countries in direct or indirect conflict with Washington gathering together under the same protective Sino-Russian umbrella.

Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with the conviction of American exceptionalism, is driving international relations towards two poles rather than multipolar ones, pushing China, Russia and all other countries opposed to the US to unite in order to collectively resist US diktats.

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Nigel Farage stuns political elite, as Brexit Party and UKIP surge in polls (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 144.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a look at Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party’s stunning rise in the latest UK polls, which show Tory support splintering and collapsing to new lows. Theresa May’s Brexit debacle has all but destroyed the Conservative party, which is now seeing voters turn to UKIP and The Brexit Party.

Corbyn’s Labour Party is not finding much favor from UK voters either, as anger over how Britain’s two main parties conspired to sell out the country to EU globalists, is now being voiced in various polling data ahead of EU Parliament elections.

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Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk:


The Guardian reports Tories Hit by New Defections and Slump in Opinion Polls as Party Divide Widens.

The bitter fallout from Brexit is threatening to break the Tory party apart, as a Europhile former cabinet minister Stephen Dorrell on Sunday announces he is defecting to the independent MPs’ group Change UK, and a new opinion poll shows Conservative support plummeting to a five-year low as anti-EU parties surge.

The latest defections come as a new Opinium poll for the Observer shows a dramatic fall in Tory support in the past two weeks and a surge for anti-EU parties. The Conservatives have fallen by six percentage points to 29% compared to a fortnight ago. It is their worst position since December 2014. Labour is up one point on 36% while Ukip is up two points on 11%.

Even more alarmingly for the Tories, their prospects for the European elections appear dire. Only 17% of those certain to vote said they would choose the Conservatives in the European poll, while 29% would back Labour, and 25% either Ukip (13%) or Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party (12%).

YouGov Poll

A more recent YouGov Poll looks even worse for the Tories

In the YouGov poll, UKIP and BREX total 29%.

Polls Volatile

Eurointellingence has these thoughts on the polls.

We have noted before that classic opinion polls at a time like this are next to useless. But we found an interesting constituency-level poll, by Electoral Calculus, showing for the first time that Labour would get enough constituency MPs to form a minority government with the support of the SNP. This is a shift from previous such exercises, which predicted a continuation of the status quo with the Tories still in command.

This latest poll, too, is subject to our observation of massively intruding volatility. It says that some of the Tory’s most prominent MPs would be at risk, including Amber Rudd and Iain Duncan-Smith. And we agree with the bottom-line analysis of John Curtice, the pollster, who said the abrupt fall in support for Tories is due entirely to their failure to have delivered Brexit on time.

The Tories are facing two electoral tests in May – local elections on May 2 and European elections on May 23. Early polls are show Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party shooting up, taking votes away from the Tories. If European elections were held, we would expect the Brexit party to come ahead of the Tories. Labour is rock-solid in the polls, but Labour unity is at risk as the pro-referendum supporters want Jeremy Corbyn to put the second referendum on the party’s manifesto.

Tory Labour Talks

The Tory/Labour talks on a compromise have stalled, but are set to continue next week with three working groups: on security, on environmental protection, and on workers’ rights. A separate meeting is scheduled between Philip Hammond and John McDonnell, the chancellor and shadow chancellor. The big outstanding issue is the customs union. Theresa May has not yet moved on this one. We noted David Liddington, the effective deputy prime minister, saying that the minimum outcome of the talks would be an agreed and binding decision-making procedure to flush out all options but one in a series of parliamentary votes.

May’s task is to get at least half of her party on board for a compromise. What makes a deal attractive to the Tories is that May would resign soon afterwards, giving enough time for the Tory conference in October to select a successor before possible elections in early 2020.

This relative alignment of interests is why we would not rule out a deal – either on an agreed joint future relationship, or at least on a method to deliver an outcome.

Customs Union

A customs union, depending on how it is structured, would likely be worse than remaining. The UK would have to abide by all the EU rules and regulations without having any say.

Effectively, it will not be delivering Brexit.

Perhaps May’s deal has a resurrection.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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