Salisbury poisoning on Russian TV: confuse, undermine and ridicule
Last week, Russian TV continued to present more theories and accusations in relation to the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English town of Salisbury. See the UK answer to the disinformation spread here.
Following British Prime Minister Theresa May’s statements the main pro-Kremlin TV channels rushed to point out the West’s real intention: to “demonize” Russia.
May’s statements was called an “idiotic ultimatum” and Skripal was described by the pro-Kremlin media as a “spent force” used by the UK’s security agencies.
Thus we heard that this case is part of a grand “Russophobic” plot (TV host Dmitry Kiselyov, on Rossiya 1); “a provocation and special operation against Russia” (TV host Valery Fadeyev, Channel One; Dmitry Kiselyov, Rossiya 1); an attempt “to discredit” the country (Andrei Lugovoi, Rossiya 1); and to present it as a “global evil” (Vladimir Solovyov, Rossiya 1).
“If you think carefully, the British people are the only ones who benefit from the poisoning of the Main Intelligence Directorate’s former colonel. Simply, in order to feed their Russophobia”, says Dmitry Kiselyov, qualifying this case as a “typically British murder”. “Britain has a history of scheming against Russia, from plotting against tsars to causing trouble for Soviet Russia”, adds Kiselyov.
His accusations went even further and targeted the importance of Britain as country. “Who do they think they are”, he asks, describing Britain as a “group of comparatively small islands in the North Sea”, over a graphic of the globe: “those that people have to use a magnifying glass to find” on the map. “There used to be England but there is no more,” says Kiselyov, adding that the proceedings in the House of Commons resemble Stalin’s show trials against opposition.
Even Ukraine was included on the list of suspects by the pro-Kremlin media, being accused of “bringing about a clash between London and the West on the one hand and Russia on the other, which is a tried-and-tested technique practised during Euromaidan”. Kiselyov adds that Novichok, the chemical that poisoned Sergei Skripal, “was developed not in Russia but in the Soviet Union. This means that the poison could have been brought to Britain from “Ukraine or, for example, from the United States”.
On the other hand, the Gazprom-owned TV channel NTV questioned the authenticity of Novichok: “it was a KGB ruse and Mirzayanov fell for it (…) Or, whatever it was, it was destroyed under verification by the USSR”, says Irada Zeynalova.
And why would the West do this?
To answer this question, the pro-Kremlin media circulates a string of conspiracy theories:
a) To provoke a scandal ahead of the Russian presidential election and to turn Russian voters “against Putin” by using a “sacraficial victim”;
b) To damage the country’s reputation;
c) To boycott the Fifa World Cup, hosted by Russia;
d) To prevent a “continental alliance” between Russia and other European countries, because this would be the “worst nightmare” for the UK; to trigger a “radical worsening” in Russia’s relations with other nations and to make Russia unable to “oppose the diktat of the USA and its European allies”;
e) To “divert attention” from Brexit and scandals related to “the mass paedophilia that for years thrived in Britain”;
f) To create obstacles to normalisation in Syria;
g) To talk up the Russian threat and justify more troops in the Baltics, where the far right is “busy rewriting history”.
For those who won’t believe these theories, the pro-Kremlin media offers still more alternative explanations. For example a theory that Sergei Skripal “poisoned himself with something” in Salisbury, according to Dmitry Kiselyov. And what if London is a “sickly place” for Russian exiles and the British climate is “lethal” for people with Russian connections? A correspondent on Channel One used this opportunity to mention that some other former Russians have died in suspicious circumstances in Britain in recent years.
The editor-in-chief of Russia Today (RT) Margarita Simonyan drew a parallel between Skripal’s case and Stephen Hawking’ death: “You know, Stephen Hawking, a famous and wonderful person, rest in peace, died today, and Russia has not provided convincing evidence that it is not guilty. Just listen to what they are saying. They are absolutely denying us the presumption of innocence”.
But the main argument that is continuously repeated by the pro-Kremlin media is that of “non-existent proof against Russia”. Kiselyov mentions the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy poisoned with polonium in London in 2006, to underline that “there was no proof that the Kremlin ordered his killing”(Dmitry Kiselyov, Rossiya 1). In fact the UK murder investigation identified Andrey Lugovoy, a former member of Russia’s Federal Protective Service, as the chief suspect for the murder. Britain demanded that Lugovoy be extradited. Russia denied the extradition.
Defensive disinformation as decoy flare: Skripal and Flight MH17
Behind the Smokescreen: Who are the Actors Spreading Disinformation on Ex-Spy Poisoning?