Double agent Skripal & daughter have ‘not spoken to family in Russia since poisoning’ – niece to RT

Sergey and Yulia Skripal, the victims of a high-profile poisoning attack in Britain, have not contacted their family in Russia since the attack in March last year, the double agent’s niece told RT.

Viktoria Skripal, Sergey’s niece and Yulia’s cousin, believes that the British authorities may be covering up Sergey’s death. The official narrative is that both he and Yulia survived the poisoning attack, but unlike her, Sergey was never shown alive. Yulia showed up for a single brief carefully orchestrated interview with Reuters in May.

According to Viktoria, the family members living in Russia, including Sergey’s elderly mother, have not heard from either of them since before the attack. Viktoria believes this to be suspicious.

Sergey is a family man, very attached to family members and a responsible person. He called his 91-year-old mother every week. After what happened in March, those calls stopped.

The British authorities say the former double agent and his daughter were targeted by the Russian intelligence in a failed assassination plot – an accusation that Moscow denies.

Also on rt.com Skripal’s Salisbury home to be partly dismantled by British military...

According to a recent report in The Telegraph newspaper, the pair is trying to get their lives back together.

“Far from being cut off entirely from her former life, Yulia has remained in touch with certain close friends who refuse to divulge a shred of information about her. A few, both British and Russian, are understood to have visited her in the summer,” the newspaper said.

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Putin compares Khashoggi case to Skripal poisoning, asks why Russia condemned despite lack of proof

Russian President Vladimir Putin has contrasted the world’s response to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi with its response to the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, citing lack of proof in both cases.

Speaking at the annual Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi, Putin said that despite a lack of evidence proving Russian involvement in the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March, punitive actions were immediately taken against Moscow. In contrast, he said, that did not happen with Riyadh following Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“There’s no proof in regards to Russia, but steps are taken. Here, people say that a murder happened in Istanbul, but no steps are taken. People need to figure out a single approach to these kinds of problems,” Putin said.

Khashoggi, a journalist who wrote columns that were critical of the Saudi kingdom for the Washington Post, disappeared on October 2 when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his planned marriage to a Turkish citizen.

Despite Turkish authorities pinning the blame for Khashoggi’s alleged murder on Riyadh – claiming to have video and audio proof to back it up – the US has been reluctant to point the finger at the Saudis. US President Donald Trump even floated the theory that perhaps “rogue killers” were responsible for the journalist’s disappearance. No such alternative explanations were offered following the Skripals’ poisoning.

Asked whether Moscow would respond to the Khashoggi disappearance, Putin said Russia still did not have enough details to take any action. “Why do we need to take some steps towards the deterioration of our relations if we don’t understand what is happening? But if someone understands and someone believes that the murder occurred, then I hope that some evidence will be provided,” he said.

Trump has been accused by numerous analysts, journalists and politicians of advocating for Riyadh in order to protect the US’ financially beneficial relationship with the Gulf nation. Many have cited Trump’s business ties with Saudis dating back decades.

Trump & Saudi Business: •1991: Sold yacht to Saudi Prince •2001: Sold 45th floor of Trump World Tower to Saudis •Jun 2015: I love the Saudis...many in Trump Tower •Aug 2015: "They buy apartments from me...Spend $40M-$50M" •2017: Saudi lobbyists spent $270K at Trump DC hotel

On the day that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Riyadh to discuss the Khashoggi case, $100 million was transferred to the State Department by Saudi Arabia – part of a long-planned contribution to help stabilize newly liberated regions of Syria. The US, however, denied that the timing of the transfer had anything to do with the diplomatic incident over Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Turkish sources have leaked information to the press, including details from an alleged recording made of Khashoggi’s murder, during which Saudi forensics expert Saleh al-Tubaiqi allegedly dismembered the journalist’s body while his colleagues listened to music.

Saudi Arabia has denied claims of involvement. Trump has cast doubt over the existence of the tape, and said he plans to have a discussion with Pompeo following his fact-finding trip to Riyadh and Istanbul earlier this week.

READ MORE: ‘Sawed while still alive’? Gruesome ‘taped’ details of Khashoggi’s alleged murder cause media stir

When the Skripals were poisoned in the English town of Salisbury in March, British intelligence agencies swiftly accused the Kremlin of being responsible and sanctions were slapped on Moscow. British Prime Minister Theresa May led a chorus of international condemnation, expelling 23 Russian diplomats from the country and convincing the US and a slew of European countries to follow suit.

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UK Poisonings Leave Soviet Defector's Family In Fear

London: The family of a Soviet defector who died in Salisbury in 2001 is living in fear following the recent poisoning of a Russian ex-spy in the same English city, according to his son.

Nikita Pasechnik, whose scientist father Vladimir Pasechnik defected to Britain in 1989 and suffered a stroke 12 years later, said his relatives are now "scared to death".

"Every normal person would fear," Nikita Pasechnik told AFP in a recent interview in the southwest English county of Dorset where he lives, blaming the death on Russian security services.

Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury in March with the Soviet-made Novichok nerve agent. They spent weeks recovering in hospital.

Britain has blamed the attempted assassination on Moscow, which has denied involvement.

Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old English woman who also came into contact with the toxin along with her surviving partner Charlie Rowley in nearby Amesbury, died on July 8 and was cremated this week.

"Even here in the UK I don't feel safe -- that was one of their goals with Skripal," Pasechnik said.

"These two cases are different but the similarity between them is that I believe they killed my father.

"They poisoned him and they poisoned Skripal," he alleged.

Pasechnik, an IT specialist, wants his father's death 17 years ago probed.

But other relatives worry it could make them targets.

"My family don't want to be exposed. They're scared to death," the 53-year-old father said.

'Very unusual'

Vladimir Pasechnik was a senior biologist who fled the Soviet Union as the Cold War was ending and exposed its vast clandestine programme adapting germs and viruses for military use.

He defected in Paris and settled near Salisbury, working at a public health microbiological research centre at Porton Down, where the British military also has research facilities.

His family joined him in stages through the 1990s.

In November 2001, aged 64, he was hospitalised after suffering a stroke and died within weeks.

Local authorities ruled his death was from natural causes, and no inquest or criminal investigation was launched.

But Pasechnik said the doctors who treated him said they could not pinpoint its cause and the stroke was more widespread than normal.

"There were many clots simultaneously," he said. "Basically two-thirds of the brain was affected and the doctor said 'It's very unusual.... It is strange.'"

Vladimir Pasechnik had voiced concerns he would be targeted, according to his son.

He remembers his father referring to Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov, who was poisoned in London in 1978 using an umbrella.

The son's suspicions grew following the 2006 poisoning death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, also in the British capital.

The British government in March vowed to re-examine 14 Russia-related deaths on UK soil following claims of possible Kremlin or mafia involvement.

Vladimir Pasechnik's case is not among them.

- Game changer -
After defecting, Vladimir Pasechnik revealed a vast network of Soviet biological weapons laboratories.

It led the West to confront Moscow with the evidence and forced unprecedented inspections of its facilities.

"His defection was one the most important in modern history... it completely changed the game," a Western source familiar with the case told AFP.

"I was quite surprised," he said of learning of his death. "He wasn't that old, but on the other hand strokes are relatively common."

The source added: "I am sure that the Russians were extremely upset that he was the whistleblower on their illegal BW (bio-weapons) programme of course."

Both the Russian embassy in London and the foreign ministry in Moscow recently referred to Vladimir Pasechnik amid ongoing recriminations against British authorities over the Skripal case, saying he had died "mysteriously".

"The fact that his son is not satisfied with official conclusions regarding his death is an ample illustration thereof," a spokesperson for the embassy told AFP.

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Skripals poisoning ‘highly likely’ staged by British intelligence – Russian Foreign Ministry

The UK’s behavior after the Skripal incident suggests that the attack was organized by the British spy agencies or was at least beneficial for them, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.

“It was highly likely that the false-flag incident with the poisoning of the Russian citizens in Salisbury was beneficial for, or perhaps organized by, the British intelligence services in order to mar Russia and its political leadership,” Zakharova told a news conference in Moscow on Thursday, markedly using the same phrase regarding probability as London officials and their allies.

 
A destroyed street in Douma in Eastern Ghouta on April 16, 2018 © Louai Beshara

Such a false-flag operation would perfectly fit into the “general Russophobe course of the [UK] Conservative government to demonize our country,” the spokeswoman stated, adding that the UK has “frequently committed such acts in the past.”

The “National Defense Strategy of the UK and the banquet speech of PM Theresa May at the end of last year,” also contribute to such version of events, according to Zakharova. The document and May’s speech have clearly envisioned “countering Russia” as one of the main priorities for the UK.

London’s actions in the aftermath of the attack on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 in the town of Sailsbury have raised many questions in Moscow. Russia says the UK did everything possible to disrupt the investigation and conceal facts, while squarely pinning the blame on Moscow. Russia has vehemently denied the allegations and repeatedly urged the UK to show some proof, or at least make information on the incident publicly available.

“The firm refusal to cooperate with Russia on the Salisbury poisoning investigation, London’s violations of the consular convention, reluctance to cooperate with the OPCW and concealment of the basic data to conduct a transparent investigation are the shining proofs of that,” Zakharova concluded.

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