‘British Police Have Not Confirmed Bellingcat’s Investigations’ – Researcher

© AP Photo / Ben Birchall/PAVarious police, Army and other emergency service personal attend a scene in Durrington near Salisbury, England, Monday March 19, 2018, as a car is taken away for further investigation into the suspected nerve agent attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia
Various police, Army and other emergency service personal attend a scene in Durrington near Salisbury, England, Monday March 19, 2018, as a car is taken away for further investigation into the suspected nerve agent attack on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia - Sputnik International
UK-based investigative group Bellingcat has identified Alexander Petrov, suspected of poisoning the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, as a Russian military doctor named Alexander Mishkin. The report claims that Alexander Petrov is an undercover alias for an officer of a Russian security agency.

Previously, Bellingcat claimed that the two suspects in the poisoning were Russian security officers.

Sputnik discussed this information with Alexander Mercouris, a commentator, legal expert and editor-in-chief of The Duran.

Sputnik: What's your take on this latest batch of information published by Bellingcat?

Alexander Mercouris: It seems to me that we have two investigations going on in Britain at one and the same time. The first one is the real investigation carried out by the police, which have been extremely careful to simply name two suspects and to leave the question of them open.

A sign of Salisbury District Hospital where former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are treated - Sputnik International
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The other one is an entirely fictional investigation carried out by Bellingcat, in which they basically troll through photographs of various people in Russia, produce these photographs, which are of very uncertain provenance and claim without very much authority that they prove certain theories that Bellingcat already had in advance. I'm afraid I don't take it very seriously.

Sputnik: What's your take on Bellingcat overall as an organization?

Alexander Mercouris: I think the point about Bellingcat is that it's a blog that has very strong political views and which says an awful lot of things that an awful lot of people in Britain, especially in the media, want to believe. It provides information — not evidence — that tends to bear out what people in the media want to believe. But it is not a substitute for proper investigations of some of the things that it has been saying. I'm afraid that, like all amateur purported investigations, what it does is it creates enormous confusion.

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I think what we need to do is to leave the police in the Skripal case to carry out their investigation by themselves. I can say exactly what in my opinion, a proper professional investigation would want to do in this situation, is to interview the two suspects. The Russian authorities have spoken of a certain willingness to cooperate with the British authorities to move the investigation forward.

A proper meeting between the police and the suspects is what should happen. Certainly, speculations of the kind that Bellingcat is indulging in are of no value.

Sputnik: How likely are officials in the UK to publish any findings that they've made in this investigation? Or do you think that it's going to be kept pretty much closed until they conclude it?

Alexander Mercouris: They are not going to conclude the investigation because without cooperation from the Russians, they cannot conclude the investigation. I think that we will not hear very much more from the British, actually. The British police haven't confirmed Bellingcat's claims and I think that the British investigation is at an impasse.

In fact, I have to be frank and cynical here: I think that is the way that certain people in Britain want to leave it. I think that this has now become such a politicizes affair that to actually investigate this case in the way that it's intended to arrive at the truth, would risk the political gains that some people believe that have achieved by it.

Sputnik: Can you elaborate on what you're calling "political gains"?

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Alexander Mercouris: We've had a situation where the PM of Britain has stood up in the House of Commons hours after the police named two suspects and said, very carefully, that they were not claiming those suspects guilty and that they were not claiming any direct Russian government involvement in the Skripal case. And the British PM, doing something I have never seen before in all my life, stood up in the House of Commons, flatly contradicted the police and said that the two individuals not only were guilty, but were actually the members of the Russian intelligence services.

She used that for a very obvious political objective, which was to increase the degree of hostility that there is between Britain and Russia and between the West and Russia generally; and also for an internal political reason, which was to embarrass her political opponent Mr. Corbyn, who is the leader of the Labour Party and who is believed to want better relations with Russia.

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I'm afraid a large part of the media, which doesn't like Mr. Corbyn and has its own agenda of wanting hostility towards Russia, joined in and I'm afraid that an awful lot of the political leaders joined in also. I will stress again that that was blatant political interference in a police investigation.

Sputnik: You mentioned that it would be great if the UK police and authorities would have access to the two suspects. Has there been any official request for that? Do you think that's likely that the Russian side will actually give access? Would that be through extradition or through inviting UK authorities to come to Russia or wherever those suspects may be located?

Alexander Mercouris: There cannot be extradition because that is prohibited by the Russian constitution. The British police have said that; they have accepted that extradition cannot take place. The Russian authorities have repeatedly said that they're willing to help and cooperate with the British in this investigation. The people who are refusing all offers of Russian cooperation with this case are the British authorities.

In this Feb. 27, 2018 grab taken from CCTV video provided by ITN on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 , former spy Sergei Skripal shops at a store in Salisbury, England - Sputnik International
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When I say the British authorities, I want to make it very clear that I don't mean the British police; I mean the British government, the Foreign Office and the government agencies through which the Russians must work. I don't know what form the Russian offers of cooperation would take, but a natural first step in an investigation of this kind, if cooperation were to take place, would be for the British authorities to want to question the suspects.

Given that the Russians are offering cooperation and given that the Russians must know that is so, I would have thought that some form of questioning the suspects in Russia with lawyers present to uphold their interests, would be possible. But we will never get there, because the British government, having already declared Russia and the Russian intelligence agencies guilty, is not agreeing to it.

Sputnik: What are your thoughts on the outlook for relations between Russia and Great Britain in the near future?

Alexander Mercouris: They're going to continue to be extremely bad. They're probably going to get worse. There's nobody in the British government who is calling for improved relations and there are elements in the British security bureaucracy that are strongly opposed to any improvement in relations.

The only prospect for any improvement in relations between Britain and Russia would be a change of the government. That is possible, there may me elections quite soon; [Mr. Corbyn] has spoken in the part of better relations with Russia; maybe he would change the policies. But he would also meet huge resistance if he tries to do that. I'm afraid, at least for a foreseeable future, the prospects are bleak.

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Sputnik: It seems that a tabloid has published a story about Russia trying to turn Libya into a new Syria. Although we don't really pay attention to tabloids, the tabloid in question did quote the UK intelligence officials. What are your thoughts on that whole development?

Alexander Mercouris: I think that it is a further example of the extraordinary anti-Russian campaign that we're seeing at the moment. We have mainstream newspapers reporting, as I said, fictions that Bellingcat is putting out; it's a product of an amateur investigation. Then we have various agencies of the British state using tabloids to make utterly fantastic, indeed preposterous claims.

The claims involving Libya are just ridiculous — S-300 missiles in Libya, Kalibr missiles in Libya, Russian bases there — no one, seriously, in authority can believe that kind of nonsense. Yet we see that it is being promoted with a clear agenda of making Russia into some sort of adversary and of claiming, absurdly, that Russia is in some way responsible for the migration problems that have been proven so destabilizing in Europe.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Alexander Mercouris and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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