Vlad gets around

It was a nerve agent.

A nerve agent was used to try to murder a former Russian spy and his daughter, police have said.

Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon and remain critically ill.

A police officer who was the first to attend the scene is now in a serious condition in hospital, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of Counter Terrorism Policing, said.

Is that terrifying enough yet? Will Trump ever have second thoughts about his best friend Volodya?

There are 14 other deaths under scrutiny.

In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian agent, was rushed to hospital after collapsing in London. As the world watched, a rare and highly radioactive isotope destroyed Litvinenko’s organs one by one, and he died three weeks later.

A British public inquiry found that the former Russian agent had ingested Polonium 210, and that his assassination was likely ordered directly by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That is, Donald Trump’s dear darling beloved friend. Trump says Putin is trustworthy while Mueller is not. Trump believes whatever Putin tells him, while he treats Mueller’s investigation as a fraudulent attack on him by political enemies.

Russia has denied any involvement, but the case has put renewed scrutiny on a string of deaths in the UK in the past two decades. The chair of the home affairs select committee, Yvette Cooper MP, wrote to Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Tuesday calling for a review of 14 other cases.

Those cases were variously found to have been heart attacks, suicides, accidents, and deaths by natural causes, but some allege that they amount to a pattern of state-sponsored murder on British streets.

The CIA carried out some murders of that kind in the past. Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffat were blown up by a car bomb in Washington D.C. Our hands are not clean. Nevertheless…

There was Alexander Perepilichnyy.

Perepilichnyy was born in Ukraine and made his fortune as a financier in Russia, allegedly helping government-connected Russians launder money. In 2010 he fled to Britain and began to co-operate with British authorities. He collapsed during a run near his home, the day he returned from a short trip to Paris.

Initial toxicology tests on Perepilichnyy’s body revealed nothing suspicious and it was ruled to be a natural death. But two years later, a fresh round of tests arranged by a life insurance company found traces of a rare and deadly plant toxin in Perepilichnyy’s stomach.

Gelsemium, a flowering plant native to China and Southeast Asia, is known as “heartbreak grass”, because its leaves, if swallowed, cause cardiac arrest.

US intelligence sources told the BBC at the time that they believed Perepilichnyy was murdered. An extensive investigation by Buzzfeed News claimed that the businessman was one of at least 14 people US officials suspected were killed in the UK by Russia.

(BuzzFeed again. Just yesterday I was reminded that BuzzFeed broke the story of the Steele dossier. BuzzFeed is far from just a gossip rag.)

In Salisbury, counter-terror police have taken over the investigation. The park bench where Mr Skripal collapsed has been cordoned off and a restaurant where he ate lunch has been temporarily closed.

If it turns out to have been a Russian attack, part of the purpose will have been to warn those in Russia against betrayal, and those in exile that they are never safe, said Mr Browder. “It sends a message to the rank and file that terrible things can befall you and your family,” he said.

That’s the country Trump is in thrall to, either through blackmail or through bone-deep stupidity. That’s the country that is remaking the US in its own image.

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