Battle lines drawn in Skripal affair

In the row over the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal the UK has rejected Russia's request for a joint investigation of the affair. British Foreign Secretary Johnson has come under fire for presenting the evidence as conclusive. Commentators note that London has lost a great deal of credibility over the Skripal case.

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The Guardian (GB) /

Johnson gambling away Britain's credibility

The British foreign secretary has only played into Russia's hands by exaggerating the evidence against Moscow, The Guardian complains:

“The case for this mysterious culprit being Russia was never definitive, but unless anyone produces strong evidence to the contrary, that's by far the most likely explanation. That much hasn't changed. What has changed is the credibility of the government in saying so, because the foreign secretary's over-egging of the pudding - whether by carelessness or design, and in the circumstances both are inexcusable - gives Vladimir Putin a perfect excuse to cast doubt over anything and everything the British government says.”

Právo (CZ) /

London sinks to Russia's level

The way London has dealt with the Skripal affair is simply preposterous, Právo finds:

“There were, are, and no doubt will never be any convincing facts in this case. What there is is the 'conviction' that Moscow was behind the attack against the double agent Skripal, as a high-placed MI5 source was quoted as saying in The Times. Of course the source remains unnamed, so his statements can't be verified. ... Perhaps Russia is guilty. In fact for many reasons this is even highly likely. Nevertheless the British should finally understand that their way of presenting the case simply does not wash. They have lowered themselves to Russia's level, where no one can be sure what is the truth and what is just a game on the part of politicians and the secret services.”

The Times (GB) /

Too many in the West let Putin do what he wants

The Times is outraged by criticism of London's actions against Moscow:

“What we don't have is any real doubt among experts or policy-makers that the Salisbury substance originated in Russia and was deployed by a state actor, which is vanishingly unlikely to be any country other than Russia. ... For various reasons there are all too many people in the West who will be diverted or want to divert others on the matter of Russian culpability. There are pacifists who dread a nuclear war, anti-imperialists for whom the West is the world's greatest enemy, business interests ... who fear the effects of bad relations with Russia, and mistaken oppositionists who blame their own government for everything and trust it on nothing.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Scepticism is called for

Doubts about Britain's account of the Skripal case are growing, NRC Handelsblad observes:

“It cannot be denied that Britain's actions were particularly ill-conceived. ... What the evidence was that pointed to the poison being of military origin was never revealed. ... Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's claim that there is - or was - proof that Russia amassed stockpiles of Novichok over the last ten years has been disputed repeatedly in the last few days. If Johnson was so sure he could have requested that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons carry out a special inspection. But he didn't.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Propaganda like before the war against Saddam

Ria Novosti feels reminded of a historic lie London used as a pretext to go to war 15 years ago:

“An exact copy of the propaganda and political scheme with which Britain was dragged into the Iraq War is emerging, with history repeating itself even in the details: Jeremy Corbyn, Labour's current leader and the only influential British politician who has taken a stand against the unproven accusations against Russia, also spoke out against the Iraq War - citing the lack of reliable evidence that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No one listened to him back then and no one is listening today. Back then he was accused of betraying national interests, and exactly the same thing is happening now.”

Trud (BG) /

Mudslinging without proof

The international reaction to the Skripal affair is just one big campaign against Russia, Trud criticises:

“London has no proof for the accusations that Moscow was behind the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter, but Russian diplomats have already been punished and Russia vilified - all without any legal basis. ... The same happened with the sanctions against Russian athletes and the Russian Olympian committee due to alleged doping. There is no proof but there are harsh punitive measures that are all the more humiliating when one considers that the athletes were clearly innocent. The West is showing the world that it can do as it pleases. That it can play the role of policeman, public prosecutor, plaintiff and judge and always get its way.”