I have largely followed the story of the poisoning of the spy Sergei Skripal from a distance but his history, circumstances, and method of the attack certainly paint a picture of a situation very similar to that of Alexander Litvinenko. Nothing seems conclusive at this stage but it seems like the modus operandi of Russian intelligence is to take actions against former spies in order to send a clear international message.
While further investigation has been ongoing, the shocking details of the attack seem to have been overshadowed by the controversy and disagreement over the facts in the UK. There have been cries of conspiracy and confusion over how the situation was handled in the aftermath. While the official investigation goes on, details of the attack have been pieced together in a number of articles, the most recent of which revealed that an off-duty Army nurse was the first to treat the Skripals. The story was picked up by the Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in the UK who cast doubt over the likelihood of an Army nurse passing by (screenshot above).
“By pure chance, an army nurse was passing by the Skripals as they passed out, while by another pure chance army-trained doctors were on duty at the Salisbury hospital at that same moment. Sounds legit, @thetimes”
Russian Embassy Twitter accounts around the world have become a visible tool in generating an alternative narrative by muddying the waters of official narratives around any story that is deemed to be anti-Russian. In many cases the Tweets amount to low-level trolling, often with a tongue in cheek approach to some stories. There are serious implications to this sort of government delivered propaganda however; fuelling those in the fringes of politics who are already unhappy with the current government by legitimising the idea that the attack could have been a false flag designed to stoke anti-Russian sentiment.
Fortunately most of the attempts at this sort of trolling from Russian government outlets are thin on facts and easy to dissect. In this case, that an off-duty Army nurse was the first to respond is hardly an unlikely scenario. Most people following the Skripal story will be well aware that the UK’s chemical weapon research facility is remarkably close by and many will also know that Salisbury is an important training area for the Army but it is unlikely that the general public will realise quite how large the Army’s presence is in the local area. Salisbury and the wider Wiltshire area is the centre of the Army’s universe, thousands of troops are based within a few miles of Salisbury and Salisbury Plain is the Army's most important training ground, with troops exercising all year round.
I collated a map of the area surrounding Salisbury Plain, recording 14 separate Army or MOD facilities in the area, including Army HQ itself in nearby Andover. There are also a number of exercise areas in the plain that include extra accommodation for visiting troops and specialised training facilities. Undoubtedly I have failed to include a couple of local facilities as well and the entire region is undergoing a £1 billion redevelopment under the Army’s Basing Programme master plan which will see an additional 4,000 personnel relocate to the area from bases in Germany.
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