Who poisoned the former Russian spy Skripal?
The British police are working on the assumption that former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter are the victims of a nerve gas attack. The Russian government is under suspicion because the case harks back to the killing of the spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. Some journalists concur that Russia is behind the attack. Others disagree.
New source of friction between East and West
The case will lead to new tensions between London and Moscow, investigative journalist Oleg Kashin writes in Republic:
“A spy from the 1990s whose cover was blown in the early 2000s falls victim to an attack at the end of the 2010s. In an entirely different era in which every potentially explosive piece of news about Russia's relations with the West seems like part of a huge screenplay. In that screenplay Russian hackers, doping, missiles in Putin's speeches and other things occur that one would never have imagined in the days when Skripal was an active spy. And compared with back then everything now seems extremely exaggerated: for numerous reasons today the West is convinced that Russia is evil and devious. And Russia has just as many reasons to be convinced that the West is biassed and lacks objectivity.”
Decisive reaction required from London this time
This new case of poisoning on British soil is also connected to the Litvinenko case of 2006, The Times comments:
“If proven, the implications could hardly be more serious. It would be clear that the government's response to the last known murder of this kind was inadequate, as Mr Litvinenko's widow has long argued. Far from being deterred, Russia would have been emboldened. It would be clear that a much more decisive reaction is required this time, and that this should include punitive, personalised sanctions against all individuals found to be responsible.”
Accusations against Moscow are nonsense
It's very unlikely that the Kremlin was involved, The Independent argues:
“The point is that an honour code has governed spy swaps pretty much since they began. Those exchanged become the responsibility of the country they spied for and are left alone by the country they betrayed. If it were otherwise - if the swapped spy became fair game for state retribution of whatever kind - then the whole practice would be negated. This - even more than the time lag, and the fact that Skripal's children were able to travel - is why the Russian state, as such, is unlikely to have targeted Skripal.”
Russia does as it pleases
The clear rules regarding the exchange of prisoners have apparently been suspended in this case, Eesti Päevaleht criticises:
“Skripal is not just one of those double agents Moscow has always considered to be legitimate targets, but an exchanged double agent. He was one of the eight Western spies exchanged for Anna Chapman and ten other Russian agents in 2010. Such exchanges also involve a guarantee of mutual pardon. ... This case not only means that Moscow continues to laugh at the West and does as it pleases with traitors even on Western soil. The message is also that a pardon by the Russian president clearly is no guarantee for a person's safety.”