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The mysterious apparent murder bid on an ex-Russian spy in Britain has taken on a wider European dimension.
Predictably, the incident was used to whip up anti-Russian claims in the British media. But, in addition, the European Union soon came under pressure to show "solidarity" with Britain in the supposed Russian assault on its sovereignty.
Former British officials were reported bemoaning the lack of solidarity from EU states over the alleged Russian violation on British soil. The EU then responded with an obligatory statement of "solidarity" with Britain, with the tacit acceptance of Russian malfeasance at play.
The allegations of Russian state involvement in the apparent lethal poisoning of exiled Kremlin agent Sergei Skripal in England last Sunday have been leveled with deplorable disregard for due legal process.
Within hours of the incident -- which saw 66-year-old Skripal and his adult daughter rushed to intensive hospital care -- British media were speculating that Russian agents had carried out a revenge assassination attempt.
Skripal was exiled from Russia in 2010 after being convicted for treason as a double agent for Britain's foreign intelligence service MI6. He was living in the southern English town of Salisbury, where he was found paralyzed in a public park along with his 33-year-old daughter.
British counter-terrorism officers have disclosed that the pair were victims of a toxic nerve agent attack, without identifying the chemical used. They have claimed that the attacker or attackers must have been state-sponsored to carry out such a lethal operation. British police have not yet specified any particular agency for the attack, but as noted the British media quickly jumped to reckless speculation of Russian involvement. The speculation has been fueled by government ministers like Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson using innuendo.
Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations of Moscow's involvement as "more irresponsible Russophobia."
The notion that Russia would carry out a risky operation on the eve of its presidential elections this month in order to avenge a disgraced former spy who had been living openly in England for the past eight years defies credibility. It's frankly absurd given the already heightened anti-Russia hysteria in the Western media that the Kremlin would even contemplate such a scheme.
Nevertheless, the evidence does point to an assassination attempt on Skripal using a military-grade chemical weapon. Senior British toxicologist Dr Alistair Hay told Radio Free Europe this week that the chemical substance used in the attack was most likely one of the organophosphate poisons, such as soman or tabun, which are related to sarin and VX. These are nerve agents that can kill from exposure of human skin to a single droplet.
Hay, who is an advisor to the British government on chemical warfare agents, cautioned against rushing to accusations against Russia. "In my view, it's much, much too early to point a finger at anybody at this stage," said the expert.
All that the internationally respected toxicologist would venture to say is that the nature of the attack had "military capability" because of the extreme lethality of the substances involved.
If we assume that Russia was not involved -- which is a fair assumption given the above reasoning -- then the question is: what state agency could have carried it out? For what objective?
In particular, focus is drawn here to agencies which are seeking to sabotage Europe-wide relations with Russia. As noted above, one of the ramifications from the anti-Russian allegations over the poisoning incident was [to] prompt pressure on the EU to show a tough response towards Moscow.