Yulia Skripal interview
© Dylan Martinez / Reuters
There are a multitude of oddities in the case of the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, but I want to draw your attention to yet another one, which I think is far more revealing than the publicity it received would suggest. It is a telephone conversation between Yulia Skripal and her cousin, Viktoria, which took place in early July (on the 4th, I think). Here is the full transcript of the conversation, as given on the @BBCMonitoring Twitter account on 6th July, which I assume is accurate. I have highlighted what I believe to be the most crucial bits:
Viktoria: Hello

Yulia: Hello Vik, hi, this is Yulia Skripal, if you still remember her.

Viktoria: Oh hi, there is no escaping you now. Hi.

Yulia: Listen, Vik, to be honest, I am calling to speak out, because what is happening now, what you are doing now is simply disgusting. Neither dad nor I want to see you or hear from you, to put it mildly. Because [of] the fact itself that you have made this public; no-one had asked you to do that. My flat, my dog, my car have nothing at all to do with you. Stop calling Diana. No-one will give you any keys.

Viktoria: Yulia, I have done what I have done only to drag you out of there. Are you not thinking about what is happening to us here, about me, about grandma? You know, I couldn't care less, as they say, about your flat, your car, your dog. I do not need your property, or anything else, if that is what you are talking about. Thank God, I have a flat of my own, my own house. You just think, for once, about what is happening to us, that because of this whole story Lena nearly ended up on the streets with the children. It cost me a huge effort for them to be allowed to stay in the flat.

Yulia: Vik, I have nothing at all to do with all that. I am just asking that no-one interferes in this situation, that's all.

Viktoria: Yulia, understand we didn't want to interfere with anything. I didn't want to interfere with anything all the more so. All I want is that you return home and live your life. And this is what I say to everyone.

Yulia: No-one is stopping that, do you understand? I can do that any day. It's just that I am currently looking after my father and recovering myself. That's all. As I have already said, I do not understand why the statements that I make [are subjected to speculation]. The tone was not right, she had practiced it, she had not. This is none of your business! No-one had drafted [any statements for me], naturally.

Viktoria: I have never said anything bad about you, never, anywhere, neither about you nor about your dad. First...

Yulia: The fact that this was made public has ruined our lives.

Viktoria: It has ruined our lives.

Yulia: I cannot now return to Russia only because all of this was on these stupid talk shows. What on earth did you appear on them for? Only because you appeared on them I cannot return to Russia, only because of that. That's all.

Viktoria: Do you think that it has not ruined my life? Do you think that everything that has happened has not ruined my life? Has nothing changed in my life?

Yulia: I think that you made this public.

Viktoria: Do you realise what has happened here? Do you realise that when my child was at school ...

Yulia apparently hung up at this point.
The conversation is astonishing, for more than one reason. But before I explain why, let's just recap what the official narrative asks us to believe about what happened to Yulia and her father at the beginning of March this year. It could be summarized as follows:
"Yulia Skripal is the daughter of Sergei Skripal, a former Colonel in the Russian GRU who was working for MI6 from 1995 onwards, and was caught and convicted for passing secrets on to British Intelligence. He was pardoned and released in 2010, as part of a spy swap deal, and lived thereafter in Britain, settling in the City of Salisbury.

On 3rd March, Yulia travelled from Moscow to London Heathrow, and then on to Salisbury to spend time with her father. On the following morning, 4th March, Yulia and her father visited the cemetery where her mother and brother are buried. They then returned home, before leaving at around 1:30pm, to drive to the City Centre. There they went for a drink in The Mill Pub, followed by a meal at the Zizzis restaurant on Castle Street. They left the restaurant at approximately 3:35pm, and at 4:03 were seen suffering from the effects of an as yet unidentified substance. The emergency services were called at 4:15, and the two of them were later taken to the nearby Salisbury District Hospital.

The two of them were in a coma for a number of weeks, during which time it was discovered that they had been poisoned by a military grade nerve agent, known as a Novichok, and that this had been applied to the door handle of Mr Skripal's house. The British Government concluded that this could only have been ordered by the Russian Government, and it responded, along with a number of other countries, by expelling Russian diplomats."
Now, let's assume that narrative to be true, and imagine being in Yulia's shoes when she woke to hear all about it. There would no doubt be a lot of thoughts whirling around her head, but amongst the most prominent would surely have been these:
  1. Wow, I'm at the centre of a scandal of epic proportions. It is not every day that a military grade nerve agent is deployed on the streets of one country by another, and the fact that the British Government has blamed the Russian Government, and expelled diplomats, signifies that an almighty row of geopolitical proportions must be taking place.
  2. I can never return to Russia - the country whose Government poisoned me and my father - and nor would I wish to, for obvious reasons.
On the second point, however, Yulia actually does want to return to Russia. There has been a good deal of speculation about this seemingly irrational desire, and within the framework of the official narrative I would suggest that there are four possible explanations:
  1. Yulia so loves Russia that she cannot bear to be away from it, even if it probably means falling into the clutches of those who apparently poisoned her and her father.
  2. She does not actually believe the official narrative that she and her father were poisoned by the Russian state.
  3. Yulia is mad.
However, there is a fourth possibility, and it is this that I want to concentrate on because - insane as it might appear - I think it to be the only explanation that actually fits with other things she says in the phone call with her cousin on 4th July. And it is this: When she made that call, she was not actually aware of the accusations of Russian state involvement.

Of course that sounds bonkers, but then again it wouldn't be the first and it undoubtedly won't be the last example of "bats in the belfry" in this case. But why do I think it likely? Well, as I mentioned above, there is absolutely no doubt that accusations of the use of a military grade nerve agent by one country on the territory of another would create enormous attention. In fact, we could go further and say that there is no possibility that such an accusation would not create enormous attention, all the more so since the man apparently being targeted was - as is supposed - a "Russian spy" (he was of course a "British spy", but we'll let that go for now). The case itself was absolutely bound to attract publicity, since it involved the British Government accusing the Russian Government of a very serious crime on its territory.

And yet having apparently heard the official narrative of who poisoned her and her father, and how this was done, why does Yulia think the case has attracted such publicity that she cannot now return to Russia? Because her cousin drew attention to it by going on TV talk shows!!!

Think about it. Here we are having sat through this whole scandal for months, and we can see exactly why the case has attracted huge publicity. One Government has stated that another Government poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal, along with (inadvertently) Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. And so the idea for us that Viktoria Skripal is somehow to blame for the publicity the case has received is therefore absolutely laughable.

And yet on 4th July, Yulia Skripal, who is at the centre of all this, somehow seemed to think that if it hadn't been for her blabbermouth cousin, the whole thing might have been relegated to page 23 of the Salisbury Journal, before being quietly forgotten about. Not only this, but she'd soon be able to fly back to Moscow to continue her life as if nothing had happened, just as soon as her father is well enough to go home (or wherever he is/was supposed to go).

I would submit that there are only two possible explanations for Yulia believing this. Either:

A) She is a monumentally dim bulb who doesn't understand that an accusation by the British Government of a Kremlin-directed nerve agent attack on a British street, is bound to attract massive international publicity, and that it has nothing whatsoever to do with her cousin appearing on chat shows or

B) At the time of the call, British authorities who were looking after her had not actually told her what the British Government was alleging had happened.

I doubt very much that A is true. And so no matter how bizarre it may seem, it looks for all the world to me that when this call was made, on 4th July, Yulia had not actually been informed by the British authorities of what they were claiming had happened to her and her father. Had she been told, she could hardly have blamed her cousin for creating the publicity that is apparently preventing her return.

In support of this conclusion, a further call between the two was said to have taken place at the end of July. Although I do not have a transcript of this, the details revealed by Viktoria are interesting, to say the least. She claimed that Yulia told her:
"I finally got internet, and I read everything. I understood everything. Forgive me."
This implies two things. Firstly, until that point Yulia had been denied access to the internet (a clever human rights lawyer would have a field day with that). But even more crucially, the words "I understood everything. Forgive me," imply that she has for the first time discovered what has been said about the case, and that it is not what she was previously told. Consequently, for the first time she sees where her cousin is coming from, and presumably that it was manifestly not her appearances on the chat shows that created the publicity, but the case itself, or more specifically, the accusations levelled at the Russian Government by the British Government.

I realise that this sounds bonkers. I realise the idea that Sergei and Yulia Skripal may have been the only two sentient people in the country who didn't know what the British Government was claiming about Kremlin assassins and military grade nerve agent sounds completely mad. But so is almost everything in this case. But test it for yourselves. Go back and read what Yulia says to her cousin, firstly assuming that she had been told what Mrs May and Co have told us. I promise you that it will make no sense whatsoever. Then go back and read it assuming that she hadn't been told what Mrs May and Co have told us, and it fits much better. Yes it's nuts, but a rule of thumb is to go with the least nuts explanation, rather than the most, if you can.

All of which begs a number of very important questions for those who have been looking after Yulia and feeding her information:
  1. Has Yulia been kept fully informed about what the British Government have claimed happened to her and her father on 4th March?
  2. If so, why did she appear to have had little or no understanding of the true reason for the publicity around the case prior to getting internet access in late July?
  3. Up to the beginning of July, what was she actually told about what happened to her and her father?
  4. If she was kept in the dark about what was being claimed, what was the reason for this?
  5. What really happened to her and her father on 4th March?