Doctors at the Salisbury District Hospital announced today that Sergej Skripal's health is rapidly improving. He and his daughter Yulia will likely be well again.
It is unlikely that any targeted poisoning with a real 'military grade' nerve agent would have allowed for such an outcome. This brings us back to food poisoning as a possible cause of the Skripals' ordeal.
A friend of this blog, Tore, sent us his considerations which we publish below. He suggest that shellfish poisoning, which is caused by a neurotoxin known as Saxitoxin or STX, is the real culprit of the Skripal incident. He explains how this would fit to the observable behavior of the British government and other participants in the drama. In my view his theory has significant merit.
On Wednesday the niece of Sergej Skripal, Viktoria Skripal, received a phone call from Yulia Skripal. She was interviewed by a Russian TV station and suggested that food poisoning might have been the real cause of the calamities her relatives were in:
“Did they eat a dish that one cannot eat, or is it banned in England?
"The first signs when they were found were very similar to fish poisoning.”
Victoria intended to visit the UK and to bring Yulia back home to Moscow. The United Kingdom just rejected Victoria Skripal's visa application because she "did not comply with the immigration rules." No further explanation was given.
For those who have not read our previous posts on the issue we offer a short recap of the case. Regular readers may want to scroll down to Tore's part.
Sergej and Yulia Skripal were found on a public bench in Salisbury at about 4pm on March 4. They had collapsed, were conscienceless and were brought into emergency care at the Salisbury District Hospital. Local media wrote of a potential Fentanyl overdose.
Half an hour before the Skripal's collapsed they had eaten at Zizzi, a seafood and pizza outlet.
Over the next days the British government started to make a fuzz about the case. Sergej Skripal was a British spy who had been caught in Russia, put into jail and, in 2010, exchanged for Russian spies. The British government hinted of Russian involvement in the Salisbury incident.
But that story smelled fishy from its very beginning. To target an exchanged spy would guarantee that no further exchanges would ever happen. Sergej Skripal had links to the "dirty dossier" about Donald Trump that was created for the Hillary Clinton campaign. Russia had no good motive, others potentially had one. If there was something nefarious going on it seemed unlikely that Russia was involved.
I now believe that the British government jumped onto the case because it needed to divert attention from the seriously bad results of the Brexit negotiations in Brussels. There are local elections coming up in May and Theresa May's Tory party was lagging in the polls. (There may have been additional reasons related to a planed 'chemical weapon' surprise in the east-Ghouta campaign in Syria.)
Whatever it was - the spin-masters in Downing Street 10 saw a chance to convert the poisoning of the Skripals into something big that would help their political aims. The general push was to blame Russia. The idea to speak of the fearsome nerve-agent 'Novichok' came from a spy drama that had just run on British TV.
On March 12 the British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke in Parliament and claimed that the Skripals were 'attacked' with 'Novichok', a "military grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia". It was her "45 minutes" moment. Russia was declared guilty without any evidence. Britain and other NATO countries expelled Russian diplomats.
'Novichok' is a name for a group of chemicals that are indeed deadly. But Russia never had a 'Novichok' program. It had worked on a different class of chemicals than the ones described in Vil Mirzayanov's 'Novichok' book. Moreover, if 'Novichok' chemicals were involved than Russia was only one of many suspect. The formulas for 'Novichoks' are known, various military laboratories have made some and any decent organic chemistry laboratory can create them too. The U.S., which had produced some of the 'Novichok' agents for itself, had long told its diplomats to avoid any discussions about them.
The first serious unraveling of the dubious case came on March 18 when a doctor at the Salisbury District Hospital publicly denied that any of its patients had been hurt by a nerve agent. We wrote at that time:
Commentator Noirette had suggested here that the Skripal case was about food poisoning or a food allergy, not nerve agents. The Skripals had visited a fish restaurant one hour before they were found. The letter points into a similar direction. Food poisoning would also explain why a doctor who gave emergency help to the unconscious Yulia Skripal for over 30 minutes was not effected at all.
To my best knowledge none of the main stream media picked up on the doctor's letter.
Then a miracle happened. On March 29, just in time for the Roman Christian Easter, the doctors in Salisbury said that Yulia Skripal was no longer in a critical condition. We headline: Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection":
It seems that the 'Novichok' fairy-tale the British government plays to us provides for a happy ending - the astonishing and mysterious resurrection of the victims of a "military grade" "five to eight times more deadly than VX gas" "nerve agent" "of a type developed by" Hollywood.
The alleged nerve agent should have killed anyone who came even into slight contact with it. Survival did not fit to the earlier claims by the British government.
Now, just in time for the Orthodox Christian Easter, the condition of Sergej Skripal is reported to be rapidly improving. Another Resurrection! Hallelujah!
In my view all the stories we were told about 'Novichok', the 'doorknob' or a 'Russian attack' are fairy tales. They simply do not make sense.
Commentators of this blog, Noirette, TomGard and others, had discussed several theories of food poisoning. Food poisoning makes sense but none of the ones discussed here fitted the picture of the case. Last week Tore, a friend of this blog from Norway, sent me his theory which makes eminent sense to me.
Craig Murray's described the pressure on Porton Down to establish that a nerve agent was used in the alleged Skripal attack. I use 'alleged attack', because there is a fair chance that this was no attack, only a serious food poisoning from the very start.
The Skripals had a seafood risotto pesce with king prawns, mussels and squid rings at Zizzi, as reported here in the Daily Mail on March 6.
This is a dish with a well known reputation as a source of shellfish poisoning.
The Skripals were okay when they arrived, okay when they left, and passed out 40 minutes later on the bench with symptoms similar to a paralytic reaction from shellfish poisoning (PSP):
Symptoms of PSP could begin within a few minutes and up to 10 hours after consumption.
Symptoms of PSP can include: ......
Respiratory difficulty, salivation, temporary blindness, nausea and vomiting may also occur.
In extreme cases, paralysis of respiratory muscles may lead to respiratory arrest and death within two to twelve hours after consumption. Seriously affected people must be hospitalized and placed under respiratory care.
Another official PSP Fact Sheet (pdf) provides:
What is the treatment?
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for PSP toxins; however, supportive medical care can be life saving. For example, persons whose breathing muscles become paralyzed can be put on a mechanical respirator and given oxygen to help them breath, and people who develop a cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) can be given medications to stabilize their heart rhythm.
The similarity with symptoms and effect derived from a nerve agent are striking, but no surprise:
In fact the substance at work in a case of paralytic seafood poison is a neurotoxin called Saxitoxin (STX) which is among the most potent poisons found in nature. It works the same way as a nerve agent: It acts on the neurons, preventing normal cellular function and leading to paralysis and in worst case death. In fact Saxitoxin is so potent that it was weaponized by the U.S. and used as a chemical weapon - a nerve agent.
The U.S. developed Saxitoxin into a chemical weapon in the 1960s. The U.S. military designation is TZ. It was also used by the CIA for covert operations and liquidations as evidenced by the Church commission - see: Excerpts of CIA inventory 1, 2.
Serotoxin is registered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) as evidenced in the Wikipedia article Saxitoxin. The agent stays active even after boiling or steaming.
Now back to Porton Down and the pressure to come up with the 'traces of a nerve agent'. The Saxitoxin could obviously pass as a nerve agent, because it is a nerve agent - but without mention of its origin - the food poisoning.
The nerve agent claim was released by police on March 7, three days after the incident.
According to the Daily Mail article mentioned above, the hospital alarmed the police the day after, on March 5, when the staff became aware of Skripal's 'spy credentials', probably through BBC which first brought the news. This means Porton Down at the most had two days from first tests to the conclusion 'nerve agent' announced on the 7th.
This also implies that the hospital probably treated the Skripals for a food poisoning from the start, until they became aware of Skripals credentials the day after. This fits with the letter to the Timesfrom Stephen Davies, the hospital doctor.
(The timeline used above is from the Associated Press' Key moments in the case of former spy Sergei Skripal.)
The media storm had been going on for a week when Theresa May on March 12 entered parliament and announced the 'Novichok'. The blame had been on Russia from the first moment.
Now suppose the government in the meantime had become aware they had a weak case from the start - because they had rushed Porton Down to a premature conclusion?
There would be no way back for May. The die had been cast. The government had walked out on a limb from the start, now they had to continue the theater by naming the agent.
No nerve agent would suit their narrative better than 'Novichok'. Developed in USSR, a substance with some foggy features and many variants - as opposed to other more well known agents with distinct features. And most important an agent that is not listed in OPCW and which was deliberately chosen to confuse. [b adds: 'Novichok' was also known to the British and U.S. public as a 'fearsome Russian agent' through a current spy drama on TV. It increased the propaganda value.]
The initial reluctance to involve the OPCW also fits into this picture: the decision to involve OPCW came after May had landed the Novichok claim in parliament on March 12.
The day before, on March 11, police found traces of a nerve agent in the Zizzi restaurant.
Did they find the mussel in the risotto? Or 'Novichok'?
More than three weeks into the investigation this is, as far as I know, the only confirmed police find of traces of the nerve agent. Zizzi fits in perfectly as the origin of the poisoning considering the 40 minutes it took before the Skripals passed out on the bench. Though I wonder how a "military grade nerve agent", destined to kill instantly on the battlefield, took that long to incapacitate the Skripals.
I am no doctor, nor a specialist in chemistry - only a retired journalist working with open sources. There are so many curiosities with this case, so many speculations, ...
Here in Norway we have an expression called blodtåke - best translated as blood fog - when all the media are rushing blindly in one direction, without asking the most elementary questions.
After I wrote this they found 'Novichok' on the door of the Skripals' home, which makes it even more unlikely, considering the time frame.
Did they have to divert attention from the restaurant as origin of the poisoning?
There are of course some holes in the above - just regard this as an idea to go along the line of food poisoning.
End of Tore's deliberations.
Tore's theory of food poisoning with Saxitoxin makes sense. It is a fitting explanation for what happened in Salisbury and for the murky tale the British government tries to sell.
Commenters noted that the theory does not immediately explain what happened to Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was also treated in the hospital but less severely effected than the Skripals. Off-Guardian noted on March 23:
It was announced today that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey – allegedly the third victim of the alleged “nerve agent” poisoning in Salisbury, UK – has been released from hospital.
Bailey did not speak to the press, and no photographs or film of him leaving the premises and going home have yet emerged. ...
Where Bailey was poisoned, and how he was poisoned is still not clear – which is puzzling of itself. Was it while attending the Skripals as a first-responder, as claimed by Theresa May (improbable on the face of it, since CID officers in Britain do not act as first-responders). Or did he, on the contrary,“have no direct contact with the Skripals”, as put out by the Daily Mail? Was he poisoned while searching the Skripals home? Or was it somewhere else entirely?
And why did he become poisoned when no one else at the scene, and indeed no one else anywhere in Salisbury fell ill, or even showed signs of contamination in their bloodwork?
If Bailey was on the scene on Sunday afternoon, it was likely not because he was on duty, but because he happened to be in the area. Did he have a private lunch? At Zizzi's? With mussels? We do not know and the government won't say.
One of these days the Skripals, Nick Bailey, the doctors at the hospital, or some of the people at Porton Down will talk and let us know the truth.
The Zizzi website says that the restaurant in Salisbury is still - four and a half weeks after the incident - "temporarily closed". If it served healthy food and the Skripals were really poisoned by touching a doorknob at their home why would that still be the case?
But do not take off your tinfoil hat just yet.
If Saxitoxin was the cause of the Skirpals' illness, the story has still potential for a decent spy drama. Was the poison in the mussels Zizzi's served of natural occurrence, or had someone at the CIA rummaged through its old inventory? Who applied the dosage?
In another message Tore notes that there is a foreign member in the British Joint Intelligence Commission which advises Downing Street:
Ever since World War II, the chief of the London station of the United States Central Intelligence Agency has attended the JIC's weekly meetings.
These connections might yet bring us back to Skripal's participation in the 'dirty dossier' about Trump which MI6 agent Chris Steele prepared for the Hillary Clinton campaign. The U.S. and the British intelligence services under Clapper and Brennan waged a war against then candidate Donald Trump. They did not want him to win the election under any circumstance. Were the Skripals late casualties of this fight?
But no. I would not trust that story any more than I trust the British government's current tale.
Another possible explanation, more likely that the election manipulation mentioned above, is a false flag incident solely created to incriminate Russia. It would be a reproduction of the 1994 Operation Hades, a highly propagandized case made up by the German spy service BND to incriminated Russia with a (faked) plutonium smuggling case.
Then again - if it looks like food poisoning, Occam's razor says, it might just be that - food poisoning.
The Skripals' beloved animals though, were admittedly killed by the British government. The Skripal's should sue the responsible persons to hell for committing this murder and for lying aboutits circumstances.
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