Austria Confirms OPCW Report On Skripal Faking by the British – Vienna Exposes Financial Times Lies and Cover-Up

Yves here. L’affaire Skripal never hung together well. And now the central claim, that the Russians used Novochik, looks to have fallen apart.

By John Helmer. Originally published at Dances with Bears

Austria officially confirmed this week that the British Government’s allegation that Novichok, a Russian chemical warfare agent, was used in England by GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, in March 2018, was a British invention.

Investigations in Vienna by four Austrian government ministries, the BVT intelligence agency, and by Austrian prosecutors have revealed that secret OPCW reports on the blood testing of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, copies of which were transferred to the Austrian government,  did not reveal a Russian-made nerve agent.

Two reports, published in Vienna this week by the OE media group and reporter Isabelle Daniel, reveal that the Financial Times publication of the cover-page of one of the OPCW reports exposed a barcode identifying the source of the leaked documents was the Austrian government. The Austrian Foreign Ministry and the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung (BVT), the domestic intelligence agency equivalent to MI5 or FBI, have corroborated the authenticity of the documents.

The Austrian disclosures also reveal that in London the Financial Times editor, Roula Khalaf, four of the newspaper’s reporters,  and the management of the Japanese-owned company have fabricated a false and misleading version of the OPCW evidence and  have covered up British government lying on the Skripal blood testing and the Novichok evidence.

On Wednesday afternoon this week, OE24, a news portal of the OE media group in Vienna, broke the first story (lead image, right) that the barcode found on the OPCW document photograph published in London had been traced to several Austrian state ministries. The next day, OE political editor Isabelle Daniel reported the Austrian Foreign, Defence and Economics Ministries had received copies of the barcoded OPCW dossier, and that the Justice Ministry and prosecutors were investigating “potential moles”.

Daniel also quoted  a Foreign Ministry source as saying its copy of the documents had been securely stored in its disarmament department safe, and that there were “no tips” the leak had come from there. Daniel also quoted a BVT spokesman as confirming the authenticity of the OPCW file had been verified. “We have checked it recently. Officially it has not come to us.”

Left: Isabelle Daniel of OE, Vienna. Right, Roula Khalaf Razzouk, editor of the Financial Times since her recent appointment by the Nikkei group, the newspaper’s owner. Her full name and concealment of her Lebanese political and business interests can be followed here.  The names of the four Financial Times reporters who have participated in the misrepresentation and cover-up are Paul Murphy, investigations editor; Dan McCrum, a reporter; Helen Warrell, NATO correspondent; and Max Seddon of the Moscow bureau.

The leak had been an “explosive secret betrayal” and a criminal investigation was under way,  OE24 reported. OE is a privately owned Austrian media group, based in Vienna. It publishes a newspaper, the news portal, radio and television.

The Financial Times report first exposing the OPCW documents appeared on July 9.  Details of how the newspaper fabricated the interpretation the OPCW had corroborated Russian involvement in the Novichok attack can be read here. For the full Skripal story, read the book.

At an OPCW Executive Council meeting on April 14, 2018, five weeks after the Skripal attack, the British Government confirmed that a few days earlier “all States parties” had received copies of the OPCW dossier. This included Austria, as the Viennese sources now acknowledge.


“The OPCW responded promptly to our request to send their experts to the United Kingdom,” declared Peter Wilson, the British representative to the OPCW on April 14, 2018. “They conducted a highly professional mission. The OPCW’s designated laboratories have also responded professionally and promptly. What the Director-General said was really important on this, and the Technical Secretariat’s presentation shows how professional that work was. The report the Technical Secretariat presented to us on 11 April was thorough and methodical. The Technical Secretariat responded quickly to our request to share that report with all States Parties. All have had the chance to see the quality of that work.”

Wilson went on to say: “As you know, on 4 March Yulia and Sergei Skripal were poisoned in Salisbury, the United Kingdom, with a chemical weapon, which United Kingdom experts established to be a Novichok. OPCW has now clearly verified those findings.”

The Austrian copy of the OPCW file now confirms this was a misrepresentation of the chemical formula and other evidence the OPCW had gathered.

Wilson went on to conclude: “the identification of the nerve agent used is an essential piece of technical evidence in our investigation, neither DSTL’s [Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down] analysis, nor the OPCW’s report, identifies the country or laboratory of origin of the agent used in this attack. So let me also set out the wider picture, which leads the United Kingdom to assess that there is no plausible alternative explanation for what happened in Salisbury than Russian State responsibility. We believe that only the Russian Federation had the technical means, operational experience, and the motive to target the Skripals.”

The first qualifying sentence was the British truth; the conclusion was the British lie. The Austrian evidence now verifies there was no evidence of a Russian source in the blood and other test samples; no evidence of Novichok; and no evidence to corroborate the British allegations of a Russian chemical warfare attack.

In its report, the Financial Times displayed a partial photograph of the cover-page of one of the OPCW documents in its possession (lead image, left). A classification stamp appears to be showing through the title page, but no barcode is visible. The London newspaper appears to have cropped the published picture so as to hide the barcode. That concealment — proof of the Austrian source – allowed the newspaper reporters to claim the source of the document was unknown, probably Russian, as the headline implied: “Wirecard executive Jan Marsalek touted Russian nerve gas documents.”

A British military source was reported as claiming “the documents were ‘unlikely’ to have come from OPCW member states in western Europe or the US.”  Khalaf and her reporters added: “The OPCW, which is based in The Hague, said this week that it was investigating the matter, but declined further comment. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.” With the barcode in their possession but hidden, they knew they were publishing a combination of disinformation and lies.

The disclosure of the barcode to the Austrians appears to have followed after they had requested it from Khalaf. She checked with her superiors in the newspaper management before handing it over. They believed they were doing so in secret.

It is not known if Motohiro Matsumoto, the Nikkei executive responsible for the London publishing company,   was alerted and gave his authorization. Matsumoto, one of the five directors of Financial Times Ltd., is the general manager of Nikkei’s global business division. He takes
his running orders from Nikkei’s chairman and a long-time media executive, Tsuneo Kita. Matsumoto replaced Hirotomo Nomura at the head of the Financial Times on March 25, 2020.  When Nikkei bought the newspaper from Pearson Plc in 2015, Nikkei became its sole proprietor.

The Austrian press has yet to report how the barcode was obtained from the newspaper. Because the BVT and state prosecutors in Vienna are involved in their search for the “moles”, it is likely they contacted their counterparts at MI5 and the Home Office, and that the newspaper agreed to hand over its copy of the OPCW file to the latter. The collaboration of the journalists with the secret services to falsify evidence against Moscow in the Novichok story remains a sensitive secret.


Khalaf has refused repeated requests for comment. Max Seddon, the newspaper’s Moscow reporter, was also asked for additional information about the photograph of the cover-page. He will not answer.

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  1. Maritimer

    “…have covered up British government lying on the Skripal blood testing and the Novichok evidence.”

    From Fool Me Once, Twice University:

    “Sir Reginald, how is the Covid 19 vaccine propaganda campaign shaping up?”

    1. Plague Species

      I have a comment that was moderated in the vaccine thread that speaks to this. Some yahoo claimed that those engaged in the vaccine hype are on the up and up and have the same motivation all of us unwashed have for an effective and affordable vaccine.

      These are the people in charge and we’re to believe they are on the up and up and have our best interests at heart — that they are magnanimous people with the utmost integrity? Yeah, no, I don’t think so.

      The irony is, a vaccine gone wrong, because caveat emptor is now the rule of the day, will be the REAL Novichok writ large on the world at large.

    1. John A

      Drug overdose most probably. She was hastily cremated, just to make sure there were no subsequent autopsies.

      1. Susan the other

        So the story about the “perfume bottle” was as fictitious as it sounded? I wonder about the rumors that the Skripals were knocked out with fentanyl might be true.

    2. Olga

      It always seemed to me that Dawn S was just an afterthought. A woman, who was known to use drugs, died (unclear how) – and wouldn’t it just help our case if we linked it to Skripals’ troubles? The story of a sealed perfume bottle – which seemed to have no effect on her partner – was always something out of an Alice-in- Wonderland narrative.
      And to think that there is a whole department, somewhere in the bowels of MI6 – that is paid to come up with such nonsense.
      Lies, upon lies, upon more lies. My first reaction on seeing Helmer’s report last week was ‘et tu, FT-us?’ There simply is not a single western media outlet that can be trusted not to lie.
      And if anyone is still confused – just think about this: where are the Skripals? We’ve not seen or heard of them in about two years. Julia is a Russian citizen – who seems to have been kidnapped by another govt (UK). Imagine if Russians had done something like that.

  2. Acacia

    So, they lied, then lied about lying, then lost track of their own lies, and then lied about that too.

    And now the story is “who are the ‘moles’ that exposed the lies about the lies?”.

    1. Susan the other

      And as usual we will only have to wait for some appropriate amount of time to pass before we get the next British rendition of the story. It’ll be a good one because it’s possible the British could be dragged into the Hague for this, isn’t it?

      1. Ramon

        Delay and delay until people say “who are the Skripals?” Already people are saying “what’s the Steele dossier?” (Just googled Steele, comes at 16th place, page two)

  3. David

    “Austria officially confirmed this week that the British Government’s allegation that Novichok, a Russian chemical warfare agent, was used in England by GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, in March 2018, was a British invention.”
    Er, OK, could we perhaps have a link to this official confirmation, or at least a summary of what the Austrian government is supposed to have said? Otherwise it’s just an assertion without any evidence.

    Helmer seems a bit confused. All the article says is that it’s been established by the bar-code that the ultimate source of the copy of the OPCW report used by the FT was the Austrians , who as a state party would routinely have received a copy of the report. Since the FT presumably wanted to protect their sources they obscured the origins. And since it’s highly unlikely the whoever leaked a copy of the report would have handed it directly to the FT (why would they?) it’s likely that it came through intermediaries. He doesn’t claim to have seen the report himself, and in the long and complicated story of his to which he links simply quotes an anonymous “expert” who hasn’t seen the report either. Bricks wthout straw …
    It was obvious at the time, and still is, that there was something weird about the Skripal affair, but this doesn’t get us any further forward, I’m afraid.

    1. Zamfir

      I am confused as well. The oe24 website doesn’t say anything about the contents of the report, and does not say that Austria wrote the report, or that Austria did their own research.

      All it says is that Marsalek had the Austrian copy of the document.

    2. Light Rue

      John Helmer seems to spend a lot of words dancing around so that he can selectively quote the the following two paragraphs:

      The OPCW’s findings confirm the United Kingdom’s analysis of the identity of the toxic chemical. It supports our finding that a military grade nerve agent of a type known as Novichok was used in Salisbury. DSTL, our laboratories at Porton Down, established the highest concentrations of the agent were found on the handle of Mr Skripal’s front door.

      But of course, while the identification of the nerve agent used is an essential piece of technical evidence in our investigation, neither DSTL’s analysis, nor the OPCW’s report, identifies the country or laboratory of origin of the agent used in this attack.So let me also set out the wider picture, which leads the United Kingdom to assess that there is no plausible alternative explanation for what happened in Salisbury than Russian State responsibility. We believe that only the Russian Federation had the technical means, operational experience, and the motive to target the Skripals.

      I.e. Everyone involved is confident Novichok was used, but they were unable to track it to a specific Russian lab. Given all the other evidence, this is hardly exculpatory, nor is it contradictory, unless there have previously been high-profile claims that the specific source of the Novichok was identified. Checking Wikipedia and sources back in 2018 finds multiple statements, including from the UK government, that they had not be able to track down the exact source of the nerve agent.

      1. Harry

        My reading of Mr Helmer’s piece is that he is claiming the Lab report did not confirm the presence of a Novichuk type chemical.

        From memory, I recall the Russian MFA claiming the Lab report actually specified BZ, another chemical from a different family of chemicals.

        It would be good if the ambiguity were removed.

        1. Susan the other

          That’s how I read it as well. The Austrians reported that they found no traces of Novichok or other nerve agent in the Skripals’ blood samples. At that point, you’d think, they would have run further tests to determine what agent was involved. The smartest poison would have been one that left no trace. So that lets out the “technical means” of the Russian state – it clearly was never needed.

          1. Zamfir

            But that’s the weird thing. Helmer says:
            “Austria officially confirmed this week that the British Government’s allegation that Novichok, a Russian chemical warfare agent, was used in England by GRU, the Russian military intelligence service, in March 2018, was a British invention.”

            But his only link is the Oe24 website, and it does not say anything like that. It only says that the Austrian government had a copy of the OPCW report, and this particular copy was leaked to Marsalek.

            The Oe24 website does not say anything about the content of that report, and it does not say that the Austria government did any research of their own.

            Perhaps Helmer has other sources, but I can’t find them. In particular, I would have expected a link to the official confirmation by the Austrian government, if there is such a thing

          2. David

            I don’t think “the Austrians” have played any role in this at all, in spite of Helmer’s confusing suggestions. As OPCW state parties they would have received a copy of the report. That’s it. The OE24 story is just that their own copy leaked in some way, which is embarrassing for the Austrian government since these reports are confidential. But there’s no suggestion that the Austrians played any other role, or even that they could have if they wanted to. (Why would they?).
            To answer your question properly, you’d need an organic chemist who was a specialist in nerve agents. Remember that “Novichok” is not a nerve agent: it just means something like “new one”, and is the generic name for at least five known nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union before the end of the Cold War. Each presumably has common characteristics but also differences, and you’d need an expert to tell you what traces they leave, how fast these traces decay, and so on. It may simply have been that, whilst the symptoms of the Skripals were consistent with the use of one or more of the agents, it couldn’t be shown clearly exactly what the agent was. Certainly the careful statements of the UK government at the time would support that interpretation.
            Don’t forget by the way that the Russians, as OPCW state parties, would have a copy of the report, and may have decided that it would suit their interests if it became public in some roundabout manner.

    3. Harry

      I asked Helmer on his own website for the same. There is one step missing from the argument – the content of the OPCW memo. Apparently Helmer in another piece quotes a chemist who appears to have seen the document and says the FT could not have had material which confirmed the British government story. But we are not in a position to judge for ourselves.

      The way the other piece reads, the memo may be on the Austrian newspapers website. But when I clicked on the link I could not find it. Quite often, sensitive links like this are moved to prevent a snowjob falling apart. So its possible Helmer might have linked to it and the link was moved. But I cannot say.

      However I have to disagree regarding whether this adds information. The FT presented their story to make it appear the document had been leaked by the Russians. They didnt obscure the source, they misrepresented it. Curiouser still is the involvement of the FT Russian correspondent.

      But I suspect this is just one installment in the story. I await Mr. Helmer’s clarification.

      1. Harry

        This is the key phrase

        “The Austrian copy of the OPCW file now confirms this was a misrepresentation of the chemical formula and other evidence the OPCW had gathered.”

        Is it possible to show us this?

    4. Kurt Sperry

      It was obvious at the time, and still is, that there was something weird about the Skripal affair, but this doesn’t get us any further forward, I’m afraid.

      Quite, my reaction as well.

    5. johnson

      Agreed. The level of reporting here fails to even clear the bar of “anonymous people close to the matter” sourcing that we would be excoriating mainstream media for: he doesn’t offer us the contents of the report, or claim to have seen it, or even provide testimony of someone who does claim to have seen it. Helmer comes off, at best, as a crank, and at worst intentionally obfuscatory. Is this typical of his work?

  4. shtove

    Strange report, dancing around the substance underlying its allegation – that the report showed no evidence of novichok.

  5. Mr. House

    Yes yes we lied about that, and that, and yes that, oh and also that, but this time we are telling the TRUTH!

    1. a different chris

      This is my favorite along those lines:

      >The leak had been an “explosive secret betrayal”

      Letting the unwashed get the truth is a “betrayal” to them. Ok, got it.

  6. jefemt

    Another Paywalled Rag….. WSJ and NYT come to mind

    Integrity in the 4th Estate. Clutch yer pearls and ponder the misinformation EVERYWHERE

  7. Hubert Horan

    FYI Dan McCrum, the FT reporter Helmer says was part of the cover up, is also the reporter who broke the recent Wirecard story

    1. Harry

      Absolutely Mr. Horan. Which makes perfect sense given the hedge fund analyst who alerted the FT to the docs was a Wirecard short.

  8. The Rev Kev

    What’s the bet that in a coupla years, that there will be a showcase trial of some Russians like they are doing in the Netherlands at the moment over the MH17 shoot down. You would think that being in the same country that they could do it through the International Criminal Court at the Hague. Only problem here is that they cannot stop the accused giving evidence in defence but they can through these show trials. To think that the OPCW had such a great reputation just a few years ago but now they have been corrupted.

    Meanwhile in Oz, I see advertised on TV a three-part series coming here called “The Salisbury Poisoning.” I can hardly wait-

    1. Alex Cox

      The series is produced by the BBC and The Guardian. Craig Murray has done a thorough takedown of all three episodes on his site.

    2. stan6565

      I have seen these two strange looking persons here in Esher, south west London. I don’t know if they are he’s or she’s or them’s but sure as fek they are evil russkies with their backpacks full of nasty substances.

      Save for somewhat lighter facial and bodily complexion they are same as the beach vendors i encountered in Jamaica many years ago, who were not only offering ackee and fish but also a whole array of chemical mind altering substances as well as privileged access to all and any members of their supposed family, especially those of self declared female persuasion.

      1. Synoia

        If you want to see many strange people I suggest Public Viewing in the House of Commons. Especially at question time.

  9. km

    But but but Bellingcat, which is a totally independent organization interested only in exposing the truth said that it was proven that Russia did it it with the super duper evil novichoks!

    And if the official story doesn’t quite hang together and the Skripals don’t need to be “kept safe”, then that begs the question of where are they?

  10. TimH

    Aren’t there treaties to not develop nerve agents? So not just the question of who supplied and administered the agent, but being caught at breaking the treaty?

    1. JTMcPhee

      Rules are for little people, not “state actors.” “A fig for your treaty.” Remember, of course, the sell substantiated comment that the US (and its imperial minions and lackeys” is/are not “agreement-capable.”

      Interesting, the rigorous and gimlet-eyed analysis being applied to Helmer’s article. Too bad people who are doing that did not also apply the same rigor and skepticism to the “government” fish story…

      “We’ll know our disinformation campaign is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” Evil CIA Director William Casey, Feb. 1981.

      1. Tony Wright

        Well then, Casey must be smiling in his grave at the ” Purveyor of the Truth” currently occupying the White House – a true Casey disciple.
        And now reading Varoufakis “Adults in the Room” it would appear that the Covid19 pandemic was preceded by a Casey81 pandemic in both Europe and the US.

    2. Parker Dooley

      “Innocent pesticide and anesthesiology research. How unfortunate that one of our candidate formulas turned out to be so toxic to humans.”

    3. David

      These agents were developed before the entry into force of the CWC, and it appears that they were deliberately designed to circumvent its likely provisions. According to various published sources, some of the agents were “binaries”, ie they were agents which would be created in the field from precursors which would not themselves be subject to the Treaty. It has been suggested that they were developed hidden within a much larger agricultural pesticide programme. The old Soviet regime always drew a distinction between signing a Treaty (which was a political act) and implementing it, which was another matter. I doubt if much has changed in Moscow since then.

  11. Stephen

    just to add to what appears to be the majority of posts on this matter — I find the article from Helmer entirely unconvincing, and certainly doesn’t supply any evidence, or reasoning, that would justify the view that the Brits claim of Russian use of a Novichock type agent on the Skripals “looks to have fallen apart”
    Helmer’s article was either very badly written, or very cleverly composed to give it the “look and feel” of a well researched and well footnoted article despite an underlying disconnect between evidence provided and verdict announced.
    It’s almost impossible to refute such an article, beyond returning it to the author for a rewrite.
    I wouldn’t go to the wall defending the Brits version of events, but at this point it hangs together WAY better than Mr. Helmer’s article does

  12. CanChemist

    For those interested in better understanding the agents in question, here’s a link to a discussion at the time on a well known chemistry blog with chemistry commenters, In the Pipeline:

    “A Poisoning in England: But Which Poison?”

    Like other commenters I’m not exactly sure what is being asserted by whom here. But I would say generally, given the context of who the Skripals were and the timing with Russian signaling, not to mention the Russians having excellent chemistry capabilities, nobody I know in the chemistry community doubted it was the Russians. I’d struggle to believe they were set up. And if it were traced back conclusively to a Russian fingerprint, that would be a feature not a bug, to keep the expats in line.

    1. harry

      1) The Uk has fairly good chemistry capabilities too. And so conveniently located

      2) The timing was terrible for Russia. But excellent for the UK. Cui bono?

      3) This article suggests that the chemical in question was not what was reported in the media. Its interesting that this material is not public domain. The Russians announced the confidential Lab analysis result was BZ. They were ignored. Naturally

      4) The Skripals fed ducks by hand after leaving home. They gave bread to local children to feed the ducks. Neither the kids nor the ducks suffered any ill effects.

      5) UK government timeline makes no sense

      6) Dawn Sturgess’ partner is adamant that the “perfume” he gave her was still in its cellophane wrap. There is no explanation for how it was there given the charity bin he took it from had been emptied several times.

      7) A doctor at the local hospital wrote a letter to the Times disputing the notion of any poisoning in the area.

      This list of inconsistencies is not complete. There are many others. Which is not to say i know what happened. Just that the story the UK told approximates impossible.

      1. CanChemist

        I’ll throw out a few points ;)

        1. The UK is certainly capable. However these aren’t synthetically difficult, the hard part is not killing yourself in the process.

        2. I think it fits with Putin’s messaging, and maybe they expected to pull this off like a heart attack or drug OD and the agent screwed up. Historically some of their foreign assassinations were designed to be written off as accidents or suicides.

        3. Chemistry reporting is generally terrible so yes. And there are tons of things, not just chemical warfare but even mundane things like cosmetic formulations, that are not in the public domain. As a chemist I wouldn’t believe what Russia said unless I’d heard it confirmed through the gravevine. In any case we certainly know it’s a nerve agent, and therefore deliberate.

        4. Agree that the delivery method isn’t clear, but I don’t find it hard to believe they came into contact with a sophisticated poison and that once that happened, we saw the result. There are a lot of ways to deliver a poison… e.g. remember the ricin umbrella incident. I don’t think the UK correctly figured it out.

        5,6. I agree, and it’s related to 4.

        7. Honestly doctors are so generally underinformed that when chemists manage to poison themselves at work, someone else from the lab has to go with them to help the hospital understand how to treat. So I don’t put any weight on this.

        I think it’s possible to agree that the UK story has issues, probably due to not having proper investigation by actual experts, without that eliminating the possibility of the Russian angle. The Russians have a long and storied history of poisoning dissidents in pretty dramatic ways in foreign countries… this matches their pattern. Remember the polonium incident? That was messy and they didn’t care. And if the UK was doing it ‘in house’ there would be a lot more pressure not to have collateral damage on a setup like this. Given that history, I think that invoking a setup takes a lot more evidence, when it’s already credible that the Russians did it again given who Skripal was.

        1. urblintz

          see comment below…

          btw, is your last name Clapper? Maybe Murray?

          “If you put that in context with everything else we knew the Russians were doing to interfere with the election,” he said. “And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, are almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique. So, we were concerned.”

          1. CanChemist

            I’ll clarify my statements and say that they are specific to the Russian government. I have personally had long working relationships with Russian scientists, and they are excellent scientists and people who are deservedly part of the international scientific community. Russian chemistry and physics are first rate.

            And now here’s two links I quickly pulled,



            If you don’t like these links, a Google search will show you there are a lot more than just a few people. The Russian government certainly has a track record with this, and I think it’s fair to state this criticism publicly.

  13. urblintz

    “The Russians have a long and storied history of poisoning dissidents in pretty dramatic ways in foreign countries”

    links please… and I’ll need more than one about Litvinenko or the familiar Russo-phobic screed from a deranged British anti-communist still living in the ’50’s.

  14. Alex

    No one has explained how the Scripals could have pure novichok on their hands for appox. 4hours feeling fine drinking in the Mill pub and then going for a meal in a Zizzi restaurant and then both very suddenly, a man twice the weight and age of his
    daughter, together become. very ill at exactly the same moment

    Oh and hey those professional Russian assasins stroll out of Salisbury station undesguised at about 11.30am knowing full well that CCT will catch them out and walk up to the Scripal M16 funded house on a Sunday lunchtime with the Scripals in at the time!

  15. mauisurfer

    How likely is it that the first person to come to the aid of the Skripals just happened to be
    Colonel Alison McCourt, chief nursing officer in the British Army. This fact was kept secret for months afterwards, and only came to be known through happenstance.
    McCourt joined the Army in 1988 and became Chief Nursing Officer for the Army on February 1, 2018, just a month before the Skriprals’ poisoning. She received the OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) honour from the Queen in 2015. The biography, which includes a posed photo of McCourt outside the prime minister’s residence 10 Downing Street, notes, “Alison has deployed to Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Sierra Leone.” Subsequent assignments include Officer Instructor at the Defence Medical Services Training Centre and a deployment to Kosovo as the Senior Nursing Officer for 33 Field Hospital in 2001. During that operational tour she was the in-theatre lead for the establishment of the joint UK/US hospital facility at Camp Bondsteel.”

  16. Sound of the Suburbs

    I read the FT.
    It’s a neoliberal joke.
    I enjoy making comments, giving an alternative explanation of events.

    The funniest bit.
    The curse of FT.
    They always promote neoliberals and are convinced neoliberal leaders will bring success to a country.
    It always turns into a disaster.

    1. Sound of the Suburbs

      Another amusing aspect is when they give the game away accidently.
      The FT had graphs of growth over the years.
      A quick glance revealed that growth was much higher in the Keynesian era, even in the 1970s.

      The FT did a timeline of financial crises with each one marked by a vertical bar.
      There were lots before the Keynesian era, and lots after the Keynesian era, but hardly any during the Keynesian era.
      Surprisingly the FT journalist missed the obvious.
      If they had realised they wouldn’t have put the timeline in.

  17. David

    Well, we seem to have arrived at a consensus that Helmer has published a story with a click-bait title and introduction making accusations which he doesn’t even try to substantiate. Either he’s completely confused, or he’s just publishing propaganda. Whichever, I won’t take him seriously as a journalist any more: a pity, because some of the things he’s written in the past have been quite informative.

      1. John A

        I also disagree strongly.
        ‘We seem to have arrived at a consensus..’ ‘We’ is doing an awful lot of heavy lifting in your claim.

        1. David

          Well, all those who commented on Helmer’s story found it unconvincing . That could be mistaken for a consensus it seems to me.

    1. Basil Pesto

      I wouldn’t want to claim a consensus but I’m grateful for the commenters who know more about this subject than I do who have pushed back on this story. I’m inclined to agree with David when he says there’s something weird about the Skripal affair but this post doesn’t illuminate it. Helmer is also of course right to question where the heck the Skripals are and why it’s so difficult/impossible for journalists to communicate with them.

      I check in on Helmer’s blog from time to time, especially if I want to research about Russia’s political climate or oligarchy, but there have been occasions when he’s written on subject matter that I am slightly more knowledgeable of where I find his writing questionable. He seems to lean heavily on innuendo and pseudo-rigour. Sy Hersh he ain’t. I don’t trust him unequivocally as a source.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        I’d agree on this. I don’t know enough about Russian politics or society to be able to critically assess the details of a writer like Helmer. I’ve found his writings on the Skripal affair to be very useful, but he does often leap from 2+2=5 too often. Maybe he simply doesn’t explain all he knows, but I suspect he also rushes in too quickly to confirm his (and his readers) priors. As you say, he is no Sy Hersh.

        There is no question in my mind but that we’ve been fed a mountain of lies about the Skrpals by British Intelligence and their pet journalists, but I don’t think Helmer is any closer than anyone else in getting to the bottom of the real story.

        It also worries me that the Intelligence services find people like Helmer quite useful, as their writings tend to obscure as much as illuminate, and so create the cloud of suspicion and confusion that allows them to just dismiss those who don’t buy into the narrative as mere conspiracy theorists. We so desperately need investigative journalists with persistence and intellectual consistency to cut through the fog. They are in very short supply these days.

        1. Harry

          On things where I had some knowledge I have found Helmer to be pretty good. Problem with Russia is there is often a Matryoshka doll of complexity doll to political stories. So one can never tell if the additional level of detail is functionally useful.

          I posted this above but I thought it more persuasive than many stories regarding what happened here.

          But it remains mostly speculation.

  18. aepxc

    Shouldn’t the heading be:

    “Anonymous Austrian government sources quoted by an Austrian tabloid claim that there is evidence of OPCW report on Skripal faking by the British”

    rather than:

    “Austria Confirms OPCW Report On Skripal Faking by the British – Vienna Exposes Financial Times Lies and Cover-Up”

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