If Russia was probably responsible for the attack on Skripal, England should not play in the World Cup

In just over 3 months the World Cup is due to kick off in Moscow with a match between Russia and Saudi Arabia. Like all big sporting competitions the World Cup will be designed to show the host country in as good a light as possible.

Meanwhile in a Salisbury hospital Sergei Skripal and his daughter are fighting for their lives, having been poisoned by a nerve agent; and a Wiltshire police officer who went to help them is also in intensive care.

If Russia is shown to have been responsible it would be grotesque for the England football team to play any part in what the Russian government no doubt hopes will be a propaganda coup. Boris Johnson at first seemed to suggest that the team should not go to Russia at all, but he then “clarified” his remarks to the absurd idea that an appropriate response might be merely for “UK officials and dignitaries” not to attend the competition. “Try to kill our people and we won’t let you have our referees” seemed to be the message.

Participating in a World Cup in Russia was always going to be a deeply uncomfortable affair.

It would mean, for example overlooking:

  • The corruption that very probably won the Russia the right to stage the competition in the first place;
  • Russia’s aggression towards its neighbours in Georgia and Ukraine and its threats towards the Baltic States;
  • Russia’s backing for President Assad in the Syrian civil war, including, as Amnesty put it in 2016, (and it is a tactic that has continued) the “deliberate and systematic targeting of hospitals,” and the use of chemical weapons on civilians in cynical breach of a fraudulent Russian devised agreement to get rid of them. More chemical weapons are being being rained down on Ghouta tonight, along with napalm and cluster bombs. War crime upon war crime, none of which will be punished.
  • The well-documented interference by Russia in the US Presidential elections and probably the Brexit Referendum and many European elections too;
  • The shameless lying and disinformation over the shooting down of the Malaysian flight MH17 by Russian, or at the very least Russian backed. forces in the Eastern Ukraine.
  • The almost routine murder inside Russia of President Putin’s opponents; people such as the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, her colleague Natalia Estemirova or her lawyer Stanislav Markelov, or the bravest and most credible of the opposition politicians Boris Nemtsov.
  • The meticulous conclusion of Mr Justice Robert Owen that Alexander Litvinenko had been murdered in London by the FSB, probably with the knowledge and approval of President Putin.

With that history, it is depressing that we should be playing football with Russia at all. Mr Putin’s crimes are not trivial peccadilloes. They illustrate the behaviour of an amoral government capable of pure evil. But (with the obvious exception of Litvinenko’s murder) most of these atrocities were not perpetrated on British soil. The attempted murders of Skripal and his daughter were.

This was the first use of chemical weapons on British soil (unless, of course, you count Litvinenko’s murder with radioactive polonium). It was – if carried out by Russia – an act of state terrorism. The closest precedent would be the 1984 shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher from the windows of the Libyan Embassy, which led to the severing of diplomatic relations with Libya for more than a decade, but even that incident, a reckless attack on anti-Gadaffi demonstrators, did not involve chemical weapons or the careful planning that the use of such weapons must require.

Of course there is no cast iron proof that Russia was responsible. Official Russian sources have denied it. Putin apologists have become adept over the last ten years or so at casting doubt and confusion whenever Putin is implicated in some new horror, and they will be at it again. Others, generously attributing to the President a sense of honour that he has done little to deserve, will find it hard to believe that he would have the desire to kill a traitor who had been pardoned and exchanged. Maybe. But we are not conducting an attempted murder trial, at any rate not yet, so we do not need to be sure beyond any doubt before deciding whether our participation in the World Cup is appropriate; we simply need to decide who is likely to have been responsible.

There are two possibilities. Either Russia is probably responsible, or it is probably not.

If, by the time the World Cup is due to start, we can honestly say that Russia probably had no responsibility then, distasteful though it may be to play in the competition, the Salisbury attack changes nothing.

But if we think Russia probably used deadly chemical weapons on the streets of Salisbury, are we really so spineless and feeble that even then we will carry on as though nothing has changed? How many Russian exiles to whom we have offered sanctuary need to be irradiated or poisoned before we say enough is enough? Is there any particular number of innocent policemen and bystanders who have to be injured or killed before we stop dancing to the tune of the organ-grinder in the Kremlin?

And although we should remain open to the possibility that Skripal was not targeted by the Russian government, at present all the evidence suggests that that is by far the most likely explanation.

First, you would have to be monumentally trusting of a proven liar, ignorant or just plain stupid to believe that the murders of so many of Putin’s opponents had nothing to do with him. He is plainly capable of ordering murder and using it without scruple as an instrument of policy.

Secondly, nerve agents, we are told by those who know about these things, cannot simply be manufactured in a gangster’s kitchen. Although the ingredients may be relatively easy to obtain, in practice they require sophisticated laboratories, suggesting the involvement of a government. Russia, obviously, has the capability to make, transport and use them. Moreover, Mr Putin’s formative years were with the KGB who notoriously used unusual poisons such as curare as murder weapons. At one time they even experimented with new poisons on prisoners in the Lubyanka. Poisoning, you might say, is in Mr Putin’s professional DNA.

Thirdly, there is an obvious motive for the murder of Skripal: he was regarded as a traitor. His death, the more lingering, painful and horrifying the better, would send out a stark message to any other agent tempted by idealism or money to reveal Putin’s secrets. The simultaneous attempt to murder his daughter serves only to emphasise such a message. Putin’s widely reported remarks yesterday, while visiting a cake factory of all places, that “those who serve us with poison will eventually swallow it and poison themselves,” may have been just a general warning, but they also make literal sense. Perhaps we should take them at face value. Occasionally even Putin may mean what he says.

Fourthly, state sanctioned murders overseas are explicitly permitted by Russian law (not that illegality would ever be much of an impediment). Under a 2006 law, the Russian President is permitted to order the killing of “terrorists and extremists,” a term which includes, for example, “those slandering the individual occupying the post of president of the Russian Federation.”

There will be many, and not just football fans, who will say that the English football team should play. They will say that we have played sport with nastier regimes. It is true that if we are over-choosy about whom we play with we would soon run out of opponents. But we have never yet played games with a hostile foreign power that has repeatedly sought to carry out murder with chemical weapons in our own streets. It is a precedent best avoided.

The Government itself can do no more than cajole and discourage. It cannot legally stop individuals from travelling to Russia if they want to do so. So it must be the footballers themselves, or the FA on their behalf, who stop the national team from participating.

Some will say it is unfair to expect footballers to make a gesture that will, in itself, achieve very little. It is certainly true that in itself a boycott by the England will not achieve very much, and of course there are other measures that ought be taken: sanctions could be extended, and consideration could, for example, be given to tightening aspects of the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill currently going through Parliament, as suggested by Richard Benyon MP.

Yet the fact that a World Cup boycott would achieve little is beside the point: going to the World Cup is also a gesture, and, if we accept Russia’s probable guilt, it is a gesture that will achieve a great deal. It will demonstrate our pitiful weakness and cowardice. It will demonstrate to Mr Putin that there is virtually no behaviour of his, no crime, not even serial killing with chemicals on British soil, that we are not prepared to forgive and forget in the interests of one of our national football teams. It would be hard to come up with a more embarrassing act of national humiliation.

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Author: Matthew

I have been a barrister for over 25 years, specialising in crime. You may also have come across some of my articles I have written on legal issues for The Times, Standpoint, Daily Telegraph or Criminal Law & Justice Weekly

37 thoughts on “If Russia was probably responsible for the attack on Skripal, England should not play in the World Cup”

  1. I hope you haven’t been infected with this red scare menace too? Russia? It may have been some Russian agent, but not the entire country. We won’t know until the police have carried out a thorough investigation and then only maybe, so let’s not make any rash decisions yet.

      1. The more I learn of your nonsense, the more ridiculous you appear. You are supposed to be a legal professional ? My advice to you : Do not believe everything you read in ze papers.

  2. Not only are Russians guilty until proven innocent, they’re subject to a completely different standard of proof; ‘probably’ is the new ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’! Not even The Times of all newspapers still blames the Kremlin for Nemtsov’s murder; an editorial on 24 February this year included: “There is no suggestion any of Mr Putin’s associates were involved in the murder.” Similarly, Anna Politkovskaya devoted much of her professional life to reporting on Chechnya, whose separatists have repeatedly shown themselves at least as dangerous to friends as to enemies (see for example the beheading of four kidnapped British engineers in 1998 who’d gone to Chechnya to help the country https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1998_abduction_of_foreign_engineers_in_Chechnya). I could go on in a similar vein – but the other really important consideration is Litvinenko. I read your blog, so just in case you have a few minutes, here’s mine (for the full treatment, after ‘All Berezovsky Got Was This Lousy T-shirt’ go to ‘older post’): http://only9sixty.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/all-berezovsky-got-was-this-lousy-t.html. And here’s an outstanding article by Mary Dejevsky in The Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/sergei-skripal-litvinenko-poisoning-russia-spy-salisbury-kgb-mi6-informant-swap-a8244356.html

    1. In most decisions in life, as in law, the standard of proof we apply is the balance of probability. We only apply the criminal standard of proof to proof of criminal offences in court. We have to decide here, which is more likely, that Putin attempted to murder two people in Salisbury, or that he didn’t. At present it seems far more likely to me that he did.
      The next question is what we should do about it. There are lots of possibilities, but to me the absolute bottom line is that we don’t shrug our shoulders & go & participate in a game with him.
      Of course, if you think It’s more likely that he’s innocent, then by all means go & play. You can’t fudge it, I’m afraid, by demanding absolute cast iron proof because you’re not going to get it. You have to make a decision on the evidence you’ve got.

      1. I fear this is just another manifestation of the Little Englander mentality – obviously afflicting remainers as well as Brexiteers. I’ve shown you that the Litvinenko evidence was elaborately concocted; this latest case relies on your unthinking adherence to the ‘Laurel and Hardy’ thesis – assassins inept enough to contaminate themselves with radioactivity and then leave a glow-in-the-dark trail for the police to follow. Another embarrassing thing here is that you seem to think Russians or anyone else (apart from some young England fans who’d already bought tickets) would shed tears over the absence of the England team. Mark my words – it’d just be seen as a case of those funny English going off in a sulk and not wanting to play because of their inflated sense of their own importance. The humiliation would lie in the fact that the tournament was a great success but the English had been too proud to take part.

      2. And I suppose you believe that “on the balance of probabilities” every time The Evil Assad and The Equally Evil Putin are about to successfully complete the recapture of ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliate Jihadi and Mujahadeen held territory they decide to shoot themselves in the foot and risk losing everything by crossing the whole world’s red lines and lobbing in a Sarin bomb or two into a residential area.

        You know, that odourless and colourless gas you can see floating towards hostage kids in ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliate Jihadi and Mujahadee propa, sorry, newsreel, videos which report the victims smelling the gas.

        And show them frothing at the mouth.


        And on the other hand you believe that “on the balance of probabilities” every time The Evil Assad and The Equally Evil Putin are about to successfully complete the recapture of ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliate Jihadi and Mujahadeen held territory the last thing the prisoner and child beheading, live prisoner burning, own child suicide bombing ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliate Jihadi and Mujahadeen would do is set off some of the Chemical Weapons ISIS liberated in Libya, or Al Qaeda captured in Ghouta, or that the CIA has trained at least one team of them to manufacture themselves and try to blame The Evil Assad and The Equally Evil Putin so that the whole world joins in on the “Moderate” “Rebel’s” side.

        Have you got your thumb on the scales there.

        Or are you basing your judgement on the “fact” that everyone knows the guys in the (propaganda) films in the white hats are the good guys!?!?

  3. As a thought experiment, I wonder (but will no doubt never find out) what an alternative piece would look like if you wrote it from a defence rather than prosecution viewpoint?

    With regards to the burden of proof, the balance of probabilities is insufficient in determining serious criminality (however frustrating that may be).

  4. Personally I find it embarrassing that the suggestion of boycotting the World Cup should accompany a promise of ‘appropriate and robust’ measures.

    We and other Western powers have, in effect, been collectively operating a policy of appeasement for the past couple of decades, more or less ignoring the evolving situation in post-Communist Russia. Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, his involvement in Syria (to protect the Russian navy’s access to the Mediterranean), and his policy of assassinating his opponents show that our weakness has merely emboldened him, and our sanctions have merely strengthened his resolve. As you say, he has been waging information warfare to divide and enfeeble the West. Without a concerted effort on the part of major powers I fear there will be mass bloodshed on European soil, perhaps in the Baltic States quite soon. Can we really wait several years for a further conclusion that Putin was likely responsible? Is his use of radioactive material and nerve agents on our soil not a deliberate hint that he ordered the killings, to show us his might without actually incriminating any specific individual(s)? It’s not just a policy of State-sponsored murder; it’s a policy of intimidating Western governments.

    If it were up to me I would call for much more stringent sanctions and consider raising the issue of removing Russia’s status as one of the permanent members of the UN. I know that’s a complicated issue, both politically and legally, and as neither a politician nor a lawyer I accept that I might be making naïve suggestions, but the bottom line is that we need to be talking a much tougher game than threatening to boycott a football competition.

    1. So Putin’s REannexation of the Crimea after the NATO/EU inspired illegal regime-changing coup in the Ukraine is wrong, and his LEGAL involvement in ALLY Syria (to protect the Russian navy’s access to the Mediterranean AFTER NATO/EU ILLEGALLY INVADED SYRIA WITH PROXIES TO “PROTECT” PIPELINE ROUTES AND SECURE SYRIAN OILFIELDS), are wrong according to you.

      But the West causing millions of deaths and unbelievable destruction in Serbia, the rest of the Former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…….

      And dozens of other countries.

      Including bombing medicine factories to distract from Presidential perversions is OK?!

      As for his policy of assassinating his opponents, do you have any more proof than in the supposed Kelly suicide, or all those mysterious deaths linked to the Clintons.

      Not to mention the extra-judicial Assassination of Gaddafi, Bin Laden, hundreds of attempts on Castro, the drone strikes Obama joked about, on wedding parties, including in places like Pakistan, which we haven’t even illegally invaded yet, not to mention all the air-strikes on houses full of kids considered to be command and control centres, and so legitimate targets, in an illegitimate and undeclared war in Libya?!?!

  5. Isn’t it fortunate ththe rest of the world has not woken up to the same possibility of boycotting the British for all the nasty stuff our government has sanctioned? Let’s be real, the Russian government on some matters is probably just as “representative” of their ordinary people as ours is. You got a problem with Putin: go after him. Use your platform to discredit him. Leave the rest of us to enjoy the football; even though we know how awful Putin and his ilk are, if it’s all true.. And please, no comments about us supporting an awful regime because, as ordinary people, we like to watch some sincere sport.

      1. Anyone would think it’s a business like Starbucks (other brands are available).

        But who makes the tax laws?!

  6. I assume it’s a CIA false flag operation somehow related to the slow-motion coup against Trump.

    How heartening to see the CIA and FBI on the same side for once.

  7. Oh, Purleeeeeeze!

    I don’t remember seeing you writing anything similar about the Peking Olympics.

    Or about attending the Korea Olympics where the official half host country was getting so pally with its Northern Half,

    And what about the London Olympics?!

    The host nation has been “deliberately targeting” schools n hospitals, retirement homes, power stations, water treatment plants, wedding parties, even EMBASSIES, in several countries since Serbia. And look at what’s happening in the Yemen!

    And the Serbs are still clearing unexploded cluster bombs and bomblets and suffering the effects of depleted uranium!!!

    But all your concerned about is the Evil Putin and the Equally Evil Assad destroying two hospitals a day since the start of Aleppo!?!?

    The siege of East Aleppo lasted four years.

    Or about 1,500 days.

    Or about 3,000 hospitals destroyed.

    In East Aleppo alone.




    And you actually get paid to be a Barrister?!?!

  8. By the way:

    “War crime upon war crime, none of which will be punished.”

    I thought war crimes only applied where you invaded another country, and not to Civil Wars?

    Talking of which, anyone bin dun yet for -illegally invading the Former Yugoslavia with cluster bombs, depleted uranium and white phosphorous?!

    Not to mention Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen…..

    Or fomenting the illegal coup in the Ukraine!

  9. “The well-documented interference by Russia in the US Presidential elections and probably the Brexit Referendum and many European elections too;”

    Are you sure you aren’t thinking of Obama threatening the UK and Eire with economic harm if we didn’t vote the way he wanted in the Brexit and Gay Marriage referendums?!

    By the way, didn’t Obama himself fly to Russia and personally talk to Russians while still President Elect?!?!

    So why all the fuss about Trump’s team?!?!?!

    1. PS What about EU interference in European elections and referendums too.

      Making countries rerun referendums until they get the right result.

      Making countries reform their elected governments because the EU didn’t like some of their elected members.

      Even replacing elected governments with EU bEUrocrats……

  10. “But we are not conducting an attempted murder trial, at any rate not yet, so we do not need to be sure beyond any doubt before deciding whether our participation in the World Cup is appropriate; we simply need to decide who is likely to have been responsible.”

    Well spotted.

    But are you now arguing FIFA poisoned Skripal with a dodgy drink out of the World Cup?!

    It’s not Russia’s World Cup, it’s FIfA’s.

    Which is the football playing world’s.

    It just happens to be being held in Russia.

    And it’s too late to change venue!

    By the way, have you noticed the way that every time The Evil Assad and The Equally Evil Putin are about to successfully complete the recapture of ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliate Jihadi and Mujahadeen held territory they decide to shoot themselves in the foot and risk losing everything by crossing the whole world’s red lines and lobbing in a Sarin bomb or two into a residential area?

    Have you noticed how the US suddenly managed to find a defector who just happened to be an eye witness to the only country on the planet still doping athletes (those elevated in the Sky like the US and UK obviously don’t count).

    And now, with the World Cup looming, and Russia, and especially his associates, suffering from sanctions, Putin decides to carry out a pointless assassination in a foreign country using a crew of clowns who left a trail of “evidence” pointing back to him!

    On the other hand he’ll hath no fury like a woman scorned and her deep state agents!

    Or so it’s said.

    On the balance of probabilities!

  11. “Fourthly, state sanctioned murders overseas are explicitly permitted by *US* law (not that illegality would ever be much of an impediment).”

    Or so it would appear!

    And who had more to gain from the poisoning?

    Putin and/or his covert clandestine deep state.

    Or Hilary and/or Obama and/or his/her/their covert clandestine deep state……?

    On the balance of probabilities?!

    1. By the way, I was under the impression that extradition of Russian citizens is explicitly *NOT* permitted by Russian law.

      So why do people continually bang on about “Putin” “refusing” to extradite Russians to the UK?!

  12. “if we accept Russia’s probable guilt”

    But surely “on the balance of probabilities” is NOT the same as probable.

    That’s why it isn’t used in criminal trials.

    If we HAVE to decide which schoolboy owns the ruler and gets to keep it and we can’t get better than 58.00000000000001% then we HAVE to settle for that.

    But if we’re deciding who stole it from whom and is going to be punished with six of the best with the ruler then that should require a much higher standard of proof.

    Despite your claims to the contrary, what you are really advocating is the PUNISHMENT +F PUTIN down to the poorest Russian AND any and all other football supporters.

    In which case you accepting “Russia’s probable guilt” just doesn’t cut it!!!

    1. I think perhaps your anger is preventing you from reading what I wrote. You are quite right that we don’t (usually, there are exceptions) use “the balance of probabilities” in criminal trials. You have to be “sure,” or “sure beyond reasonable doubt” before convicting someone in a criminal trial.
      In civil matters it is different. We almost always decide civil issues “on the balance of probability.” In your ruler example, if you & I both claim ownership of a ruler, and if the dispute went to court, the judge would decide the case on the balance of probability. He or she would not need to be sure “beyond reasonable doubt” that it was mine before ordering you to hand it over, or pay me damages. It would simply be a question of whose it probably belonged to.
      If someone wants to sue Putin for killing their relative, the correct test would be “did he probably do it,” not “am I sure he did it.”
      It would be different if Putin was in the dock of the Old Bailey, charged with murder. Then he would be entitled to go free unless he could be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
      A decision about the World Cup clearly is not a decision attracting criminal sanctions. Like most important decisions in life the test should be “probability,” not “near certainty.”

      1. Sighhhhh…….


        Allow me to introduce you to the concept of projection!

        You could run a twelve screen multiplex by yourself, but have blinded yourself to the truth.

        As for “your anger is preventing you from reading what I wrote” you managed to write several paragraphs to explain to me what you missed me saying in one sentence.

        To recap, if one schoolboy owned the ruler with 5[0].00000000000001% probability that does NOT mean he PROBABLY owned it.

        If I were a brain surgeon and I said you probably had a serious condition that probably needed emergency surgery and that the condition would probably have a devastating result without surgery but the surgery was probably risk free and would probably provide a total cure and my “probably” was 50.00000000000001%, with the inevitable result, you’d soon be suing me for misleading you.

        And you aren’t suggesting the schoolboy return the ruler or pay a fine.

        You are demanding that the whole school pay a fine, the assets of the school AND its pupils be frozen or confiscated, AND its kitchen and sick room be banned from buying supplies, AND its sports teams be banned from inter school competition AND the school be nuked.

        Which sounds more like draconian punishment to me.

        Even if the Head had stolen the ruler.

        In fact, even if the Head had murdered a rival Head!

  13. There is no evidence as yet that the attack on Skripol and his daughter was a Kremlin ordered/manipulated crime. In fact the daughter connection ( and the method of transmission must surely have had the probability of intended co-assassination by extension) makes it even less likely that this was a Putin inspired/ordered plot. If, for whatever reason, Skripol ‘had to be got rid of’ there would not be a co-existent collateral daughter execution. Just not part of the Russian state (senti) mentality.

    To be frank, Skripol was a Russian traitor, post-Soviet era, who informed for money and then, when caught, happily coughed up on what was up. He was not driven by strong moral imperatives as far as we can tell. No doubt he must have enjoyed the edgy life of a spy until rumbled, and, in the quiet cul de sac of sleepy Salisbury, still yearned for some part of the ‘bigger picture’ of his future past and possibly financial reward.

    So what motive for Putin/Russian state to assassinate this also-ran? I don’t see the Litvinenko analogy and of course the hedged Owen finding is not universally agreed, even on these shores.

    You make a compelling but question-begging case for the circumstantial prosecution Matthew. But Chechen, Ukraine etc are all without necessary caveats as with the election interference etc.

    Maybe what you don’t like is that fact that Putin is so popular in Russia? And the reasons for this.
    How is that there are so many oligarchs in exile exerting so much influence through their wealth and connections? How come these people gained so much ex-officio wealth and power in so little time and that they all hate Putin and have a great deal of western propaganda muscle while the Russians themselves support Putin?

    You know yourself what the appearance and reality is within the criminal justice system in the UK. Why do you place so much trust in the pantomime version of Russia v the West?

    1. I’m specifically not arguing that there is sufficient evidence to prosecute Putin. If we waited for that before deciding what to do we would have a long wait. But we are faced with a choice, and doing nothing carries consequences too.

      Specifically on the World Cup (it may not be the only issue but it’s the one I’ve chosen to write about) if we play in the wretched thing it means either:

      (a) We think that Putin is probably responsible but we don’t really care (perhaps because, as you seem to imply Skripal, was a traitor so it doesn’t really matter, and nor does it matter that he also tried to kill Yulya who isn’t);

      (b) We think he probably isn’t responsible.

      Obviously (a) is a morally dubious position, and it doesn’t even make sense from a “realpolitik” perspective – if we carry on as normal he will just do it again.

      So far as (b) is concerned, it requires a perverse view of all the available evidence, although of course things may change.

      Putin is not an ordinary politician. He is a monster: a gangster, a thief, a murderer and in effect an absolute dictator. Such people are quite often very popular in their own countries (although it’s quite hard to judge exactly how popular). Indeed Stalin, who was all of those things, although not perhaps personally quite as greedy as Putin, was almost certainly immensely popular even while he was purging people by the tens of thousands. It is not that hard to be popular if you control the media, you kill or lock up all serious political opponents and strut around as a military hero.

      Waiting for “absolute” proof is a luxury we may have in a functioning justice system. It is not a luxury we have in the world of international relations.

      1. I certainly did not mean to imply that because Skripol was a traitor to his country, a foreign state assassination attempt did not matter. I was merely suggesting that absent evidence, we don’t know what his connections were that might suggest motives by others. And that the attempt on the daughter too, would tend to militate against it being a Russian state/Putin attack.

        Personally, I don’t care whether we boycott the World Cup for this or that reason. I also think Putin has to be seen in the context of the Russia he took over and the world as it is today where so many disparate interests collide in appalling ways. There is blood on many hands. But, as with the Saddam WMD, pre-emptive conclusions may have undetermined consequences and that if boycotting the World Cup is justified, it should not be on the back of this particular mysterious atrocity, without more.

        1. Maybe our difference is this.

          I have seen the criminal justice system being perverted systematically over 25 years or more in this country whereas you acknowledge the deficits but do not recognise ‘the banality of evil’ it represents.

          Accordingly I do not accept a whole range of speculative ‘judgements’ as definitive proof. Nor do I accept the routine mickey mouse portrayal of ‘hostile’ foreign states without more.

          Unlike you I’m prepared to go forward with Brexit as a positive world future – if people can think.

          Unlike you I’m prepared to wager that Trump is a more productive president than Hillary Clinton would have been.

          Unlike you – whatever Putin is or represents, I do not think he would have authorised the Skripal attack on him and his daughter.

          Because unlike you, I think Putin lives in the real world.

      2. M’learned Lud, I put it to you that we know that the monster, gangster, thief, murderer, and Absolute Dictator Putin is guilty this time because we said he wuz the guilty monster, gangster, thief, murderer, and Absolute Dictator last time, and we knew he wuz that time because we said he wuz the time before.

        I mean, Me Lud, just look at all the other times we tried to find him guilty in a court of law, or maybe made allegations about him in a government report, or cast aspersions about him in the court of public opinion when we tried to try him by media and Twitter Mob.

        And the Clincher, MiLud: he’s too stupid NOT to be guilty!

        I mean, M’Lud, who else but a dumb former high ranking KGB officer who’s managed to survive years in Russian politics and is a monster, gangster, thief, murderer, and Absolute Dictator would be stupid enough to deliberately target TWO HOSPITALS, NO DOUBT FULL OF BABY INCUBATORS SPECIALLY FLOWN IN FROM KUWAIT, VIA NEW YORK, BY MODERATE (we know they are, because we pay them to wear white hats!) REBELS *A* *DAY* IN EAST ALEPPO?!

        FOR 1,500 DAYS!!


        AND NOW THE monster, gangster, thief, murderer, and Absolute Dictator Putin IS DOING THE SAME THING IN EAST GHOTA WITH HIS monster, gangster, thief, murderer, and Absolute Dictator MATE ASSAD, JUST AS THEY’RE GAINING THE UPPER HAND?!?!?!?!!!!

        And as for deliberately crossing Red Lines EVERY time they are about to clear an area of terrorist Jihadis and Mujahadeen?!?!?!

        See, M’Lud, only Putin, or maybe his mate Assad, would be stupid enough to pull stunts like that!!!

        Did someone (dare) suggest “we may have in a functioning justice system”?!

      3. “if we play in the wretched thing it means either:”

        You hate association football or your mother was hit in the stomach by a soccer ball when she was pregnant with you?!

        What on earth brought that up?!?!?!

  14. It does if it’s nothing more than an unjustified personal attack.

    Especially if you’re claiming it’s an extended one.

    Which is why I gave you the opportunity to justify your extended slur.

    Which, I note, you’ve declined to accept.

    Which confirms my original assumption.

  15. My view towards accusation has changed significantly since being accused of a heinous crime. Many others will have experienced a conversion of attitude, like me, from assumption of guilt to questioning the evidence. My mind and heart says ‘They did it’, my experience of dealing with many Russian students, who have differing cultural approaches to life itself . I fought for my country in cold seas of the Falklands. I saw through my childhood in ‘walled’ Berlin where hostility to the west (something that has never really changed) was evident.

    Despite these experiences I do hope that we have not succumbed to a ‘knee jerk’ reaction then aligning ourselves with a ‘Russian’ type justice system. I would like to hold faith in our security services and police that there is ‘significant evidence’ to support the allegations. I also hope that there is evidence that would stand up in a court and that this is not political mechanism of clearing the ‘Russkies’ off our streets that will haunt us for a long time.

    It is so easy to accuse, as many of us know.

  16. I don’t hold out anywhere near as much hope as you that boycotting the world cup “will achieve a great deal”. At the recent olympics – of course for very different reasons – most of the Russian squad was banned. Did anything change?

    But I can see why people agree with the likes of Corbyn and I think it’s for two main reasons:
    1) May’s disappointing cleverly worded speech in the commons on Weds
    2) The question of what is ‘responsible’

    On (1) Theresa May stated in parliament on Weds that the only two plausible explanations were
    -direct Russian authorisation
    -that Russia ‘lost control’ of it and ‘allowed it to get into the hands of others’.
    They didn’t know which. And both were plausible.
    Five paragraphs later May concludes that because Russia didn’t answer her 48hr deadline ‘there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable’.
    -How did we go from ‘two plausible explanations’ to ‘Russia was culpable’ purely because they didn’t provide an answer in 48hrs?
    There’s a tinge of something in this which reminds me of your excellent post on Ted Heath in which you summarised the allegations as (sorry I can’t remember your exact words) ‘he was in a position of power, he never married, he was a sailor, wink wink, what else do you need to know?’

    On (2) If it’s true that these chemicals were researched at a Soviet facility in Uzbekistan commencing fifty years ago, which was subsequently decommissioned by the US on the breakup of the Soviet Union, then it doesn’t seem that unreasonable to speculate the intellectual property has spread wider than Russia in the decades that have passed. Indeed at a minimum at least one researcher is in the US. And other states are known to have chemical weapons programs too.
    -What is ‘responsibility’ in this context? Inventing it? Not being able to control the IP? Not actively tracking down other people trying to use it?

    Sadly I thought May did a bad job explaining either of these, especially since things could escalate.

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