Four curiosities in Yulia Skripal’s ‘official’ statement – and their significance

  • The statement released by the Metropolitan Police today on behalf of Yulia Skripal has been treated with extreme suspicion by social media users
  • It contains a number of ‘curiosities’ that are fuelling public distrust among those who doubt its authenticity
  • While not probative, these curiosities mean that Russian claims that Ms Skripal is under duress or being held against her will are harder to dismiss
  • The statement raises further concerns, at best, about the competence of the government’s handling of information around the Salisbury incident and its aftermath – and will intensify suspicions that all might not be as presented

yulia skripal.png

Yulia Skripal’s statement via the Metropolitan Police has raised a number of inconsistencies with her previous comments and behaviour – and has certainly rung false with both experienced observers and social media users.

Curiosity #1 – Sergei’s condition

Ms Skripal’s statement includes a comment about her father’s health that is at odds with her more naturalistic discussion with her cousin Viktoria. According to the Met, she said:

I have left my father in their care, and he is still seriously ill. I too am still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against us.

Ms Skripal, speaking a week ago when the UK authorities had not yet even revealed that he was out of critical condition – that revelation came after the release of the recording of her telephone call with Viktoria – said that her father’s condition was ‘ok’ and suggested the effects of the poison had not been too serious:

Everything’s ok, he’s resting now, he’s sleeping. Everyone’s health is ok. No one has had any irreversible harm.

Curiosity #2 – cousin Viktoria’s visit

When Yulia Skripal was first – as far as we know – out of critical condition, her first instinct was to get a phone and call her cousin Viktoria, as we’ve seen above.

Sounding strong, she tells her cousin that she doesn’t think Viktoria, or anyone else, will get a visa to come and see her – but she gives no indication that she doesn’t want her cousin to visit.

But in her Met statement today, she not only asks her cousin not to visit – but not even to try to contact her.

Is such a complete change of heart credible, absent any duress or pressure?

Especially when Ms Skripal, in her first conversation with the outside world that we know about, was already cynical enough about her situation to tell her cousin:

Nobody’s getting a visa [to come and visit me].

Curiosity #3 – ‘access to friends and family’

The statement says that Ms Skripal has access to her friends and family – yet, as noted, the family she opted to reach out to by phone was her cousin Yulia. Which are the friends and family to whom access now is apparently not only available but also so sufficient that she basically forbids her cousin from even trying to contact her?

Curiosity #4 – language

Ms Skripal’s complete statement is reproduced below. Note the sections in bold text – and the sections in bold italics:

I was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital on the 9th April 2018. I was treated there with obvious clinical expertise and with such kindness, that I have found I missed the staff immediately.

I have left my father in their care, and he is still seriously ill. I too am still suffering with the effects of the nerve agent used against us.

I find myself in a totally different life than the ordinary one I left just over a month ago, and I am seeking to come to terms with my prospects, whilst also recovering from this attack on me.

I have specially trained officers available to me, who are helping to take care of me and to explain the investigative processes that are being undertaken. I have access to friends and family, and I have been made aware of my specific contacts at the Russian Embassy who have kindly offered me their assistance in any way they can. At the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services, but, if I change my mind I know how to contact them.

Most importantly, I am safe and feeling better as time goes by, but I am not yet strong enough to give a full interview to the media, as I one day hope to do. Until that time, I want to stress that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves. I thank my cousin Viktoria for her concern for us, but ask that she does not visit me or try to contact me for the time being. Her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father’s.

For the moment I do not wish to speak to the press or the media, and ask for their understanding and patience whilst I try to come to terms with my current situation.

The bold sections are language that may be surprising from a non-English-speaker speaking in her own natural voice. Few English-speakers would think of ‘I do not wish to avail myself of their services‘ – most would say simply ‘I don’t want/need their help at the moment’.

It sounds like ‘officialese’ – as does :”her opinions and assertions are not mine and they are not my father’s“. ‘She doesn’t speak for us’ or something similar would sound natural – the words provided via the Met sound like an inserted or dictated statement you might expect from an official eager to gain some distance from that troublesome recorded phone-call.

The bold italic sections bear a strong resemblance to the statement released on behalf of DS Nick Bailey, the police officer who was also injured by the Salisbury poison.

The appreciative words about the hospital staff might be expected, as might the request for privacy – although more realistically speaking, an interview as soon as capable would allow the news agenda to move on so that peace and privacy follow naturally.

But Ms Skripal’s comment about a different life closely echoes that of DS Bailey:

Yulia: I find myself in a totally different life than the ordinary one I left just over a month ago, and I am seeking to come to terms with my prospects, whilst also recovering from this attack on me.”

Bailey: “I recognise that ‘normal’ life for me will probably never be the same – and Sarah and I now need to focus on finding a new normal for us and for our children.”

The language in the statement and its ‘curiosities’ also occurred to former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who described it as “strangulated officialdom speak” and observed that the only people to allow us to hear Yulia Skripal actually speak are the Russians.

The statement says that Ms Skripal is still suffering “effects of the nerve agent”, rather than the ‘poison’, ‘toxin’, the ‘substance’ or some other more vague term. Justified or not, this gives the impression of coaching to match an official narrative. 

Finally, the statement starts by providing us with a date on which Yulia Skripal was discharged from Salisbury hospital. Would any one of us start a statement with a date, as opposed to saying ‘on Monday’ or ‘the day before yesterday’ or something similar?


None of these things are conclusive proof that Yulia Skripal is under duress or that the statement released in her name is not genuine or has been substantially influenced by the UK authorities.

But equally, none of them do anything to defuse such suspicions – or to damage the credibility of Russian claims that she is under duress or is being prevented from the consular/embassy access to which she is entitled as a Russian citizen.

If the statement does convey the genuine wishes and sentiments of Yulia Skripal, the excessive secrecy and caution with which the authorities are behaving represent extraordinarily bad perception management on the part of the authorities.

Transparency would have defused suspicion and its absence plays into the hands of the Russian government in a way that can justifiably be called incompetent – and which leaves space for worse concerns and suspicions to persist.

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  1. One other thing that struck me was the use of the word whilst. This is an English term, is it not? Non-brits, like me, would use while but never, ever whilst.

      1. My school (’60-’67) was a bog-standard grammar in the North West, but one with pretensions. I was taught (iirc) that ‘whilst’ was to compare/contrast one thing with another whilst ‘while’ was for ‘during’ – so you wouldn’t say, ‘while ‘while” as above.
        I’ve always used them interchangeably though and every on line reference I can find agrees.
        Yeah, I’m losing the will to live too…

  2. She can’t have written it — no idea how good her English is but it would be amazing if she could compose a perfect statement on a complicated and sensitive manner in a state of trauma without assistance. She would have written in Russian which was then translated. The English phraseology is the translator’s not hers. It would have been discussed with her but she wouldn’t be able to judge whether “to avail myself of a service” reads awkwardly or not. Don’t overdo it.

  3. I think I would be suspicious if my cousin had betrayed me in similar circumstances.

  4. Yes, I agree with your observations. This response stinks of being written for her, whether or not she has expressed any of the sentiments. And of course it is unlikely that she has seen/heard any impartial and/or dissenting views to the official line.

    One minor error in your piece at Curiosity #3; “…the family she opted to reach out to by phone was her cousin Yulia.”. I think you mean Viktoria.

  5. There’s probably not a single word of her own in the statement as released.
    Our lot would be bound to consider the possibility that the Novichok had been deliberately ‘detuned’ to learn something about Porton Down’s capabilities.
    If an enemy agency did want the answers to specific questions the use or avoidance of one or more common English words in a short statement could answer quite a complex question like, “Do the English know x, y or z about Novichok?”
    I’d guess our lot would have a few people rewrite each other’s rewrites of her statement to avoid such a possibility.

    The Noel Coward ‘Brrittish’ might just be our lot taking the piss.
    Never considered the possibility that they might actually have a sense of humour until now though.

  6. Should we still be competing in The World Cup with all the inherent risks to any British fans daft enough to travel there?

    On the one hand we are planning to bomb in Syria with the distinct possibility of direct armed conflict with Russia and on the other we are sending a UK football team to compete in Russia. Combine that with the attempt to murder two people in the UK (apparently by Russia) using a nerve agent.

    It just doesn’t make any sense

  7. FO travel warning would stop them obtaining travel insurance I expect?

    Governments ignored the biggest worldwide anti-war demonstrations in history in ’03 so something more must presumably be required to stop them this time if that’s what we want.

    I wouldn’t begin to know how to block their communications. Surrounding Parliament would hardly even slow them down.
    Kidnapping the cabinet would probably be illegal.
    I’ve no relatives in the armed forces I could threaten with disinheritance.

    I suppose all we can hope for is to hold them to account later – what form that might take would probably depend on the extent of the damage.
    In fairness we should hold Blair responsible for his war crimes too – finally.

    1. Hopefully the willful avoidance by TM of a parliamentary vote will come back to bite the Tories in the arse.

  8. Personally, I think she (and her father and DS Bailey) are being detained against their will. According to Wikipedia, habeas corpus is medieval Latin meaning literally “that you have the body”) is a recourse in law through which a person can report an unlawful detention or imprisonment to a court and request that the court order the custodian of the person, usually a prison official, to bring the prisoner to court. I wonder if this could this be used to help them, perhaps by the Russian Ambassador, or her cousin, Viktoria.

  9. Who knows what is true but my blood ran cold last night listening to the narrative of MP Bob Seely on Galloway’s TMOATS radio show. It become clear to me that a sector of the British establishment lives in a fairy tale land where Britain is the white knight forever saving the damsel in distress from dragons, demons and ogres… I imagined quangos, think tanks and committees sitting there excitedly embellishing their fairy tales for public consumption and some actually believing them.

    No wonder the British establishment is in panic and losing the plot unable to keep tight hold of their narrative… the children are growing up, questioning the fairy tales and even the Easter bunny and Santa himself.

    I don’t think there is even a world half way between Seely’s and mine, we are living in parallel worlds that may come close once or twice in a life time.

  10. Being for working people in every country and against the rich and powerful in every country I am tempted to say a plague on all their rich houses (but I am too kind) and good points made here.
    Yet I can’t help thinking if this had happened to 2 UK citizens in Russia and they were being denied UK Consular access well perhaps Mystic Meg May, Barmy Boris and Wally Williamson would no doubt be doing a war dance!
    Shouldn’t we be arguing that the Skirpils should also be allowed access to an independent person such as an advocate, counsellor or human rights lawyer?
    Just some food for thought in this sorry and mysterious saga.

    1. Very similar to my thoughts: a group of UK and Russian judges should interview Yulia in the presence of her father. This will ensure that threat to her father cannot be used. Without such an independent confirmation there is no way I will believe anything I am told about the Scripals.

  11. We could b seeing the results of a plan coming together here.

    Let’s suppose a relatively small group of people were illegally occupying the land of someone else in the Middle East but they were backed up and supported by the USA. Slowly the tide of public opinion in the US started to turn against them and the group began losing the publicity war. In addition, someone who had been opposed to them for years looked like he had an excellent chance of becoming British PM. Under no circumstances could they allow this or the situation to deteriorate any further for them so they hatched a plan.

    They decided to mount an assassination attempt on an exiled Russian spy in Britain and make it look like a Russian operation, thus turning the British and other European leaders against Russia. At the same time they launched a defamation campaign against the potential British PM to try and isolate him for the next stage of the plan.

    Syria, one of the group’s enemies was involved in a war to prevent being taken over by religious extremists, they were being assisted by Russia and Iran, another of the group’s enemies.

    The next part of the plan was to conduct an operation in Syria to make it look as though Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people. This would then elicit an attack on Assad by the hot headed US President, assisted by the British PM who owed him a favour for his support over the spy episode.

    The result would be further destabilisation of Syria, a warning message to Iran, a boost for the flagging popularity of Trump, a probable ‘Falklands Bounce’ for the British PM with a corresponding decrease in the possibility of Jeremy Corbyn becoming PM.

    A win all round for them….. but it couldn’t happen – could it?

  12. I think I read that Yulia had lived and worked in the UK for a couple of years which would suggest reasonably good English. I also think that I read that they had only bought the guinea pigs a few days before the incident. I remember being surprised that her father would want guinea pigs and wondered if Yulia was intending to stay with her father for a long period.

    1. I was surprised too 🙂 There’s hardly a bacon sandwich in a pair of ’em.

  13. I like Skwawkbox very much and support it, and thanks for all you do. But there has been conspiracy creep in your messages that is frankly unnecessary -and anyway does not hold up on parts of the Skripal story. While we want to highlight anomalies in mainstream media and their pisspoor journalism, we also need to build a reputation for accuracy and spot on reliability on the left. I know it is difficult to get at source stuff, and Skwawkbox needs to be very wary of sources that approach it with information with the intention of undermining and misleading it, but unless Skwawkbox builds a reputation for being spot on accurate, ‘whistleblowers’ and genuine leaks and hot stories will not come Skwawkboxes way and the support will drop off. We need you. The right are throwing every bit of ordure they can at those who believe in For the Many Not the Few,exagerrations, wrong alleys, misinformation and lies no doubt, but we do not need to add to it. Rosie B

    1. Rosie, especially in the current circumstances and given the lies told to get us to attack Iraq, don’t you believe in the maxim “Question Everything”?

    2. Thanks for the mostly-kind words. The articles I suspect you’re referring to are carefully-worded not to claim more than can reasonably be claimed. They just raise interesting details or questions. Of course, the fact they don’t suggest ‘conspiracy theory’ won’t stop some people claiming they do, but that kind of misrepresentation happens whatever we put out and no matter how carefully we write…

  14. Here’s what I think’s gonna happen…

    Things are gonna unravel soon that could or will blow the lid off the whole bleedin’ lot of the palaver, and the job’ll be completed on Sergei & Yulia Skripal. Or one will be ‘got at’ to silence the other.

    Officially, their death(s) will be down to “Complications arising from the RUSSIAN manufactured extremely potent (Stop sniggering, please) nerve agent which was irrefutably administered by RUSSIAN agents who were acting on the executive orders of RUSSIAN premier Putin.”

    The copper – If he & his family are never seen again because of a risk to their safety, will be either found under a tree in a field with his wrists slashed: ‘Difficulties coping with the thorough debriefing process, but essentially he was unable to live with the recent trauma he went through’.

    Or, in a suitcase locked on the outside in some: ‘Houdini act gone wrong’.

    Or, naked in a cupboard with a whole orange in his gob, and a rope around his neck, in: ‘A kinky sex game gone wrong’.

  15. “Few English-speakers would think of ‘I do not wish to avail myself of their services‘ – most would say simply ‘I don’t want/need their help at the moment’.” Speakers of one language use words and phrases that are not directly translatable into another language. If she wrote it in English maybe you could argue – but all you are saying is the Russian translator has not used idiomatic English. A totally pointless quibble.
    Also I see that per the BBC “The international chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed the UK’s analysis of the type of nerve agent used in the Russian ex-spy poisoning.”

    1. “But all you are saying is the Russian translator has not used idiomatic English. A totally pointless quibble.”

      ‘Idiomatic English’ , is it?

      Well f*ck me – it’s just as well that rees-mogg or boris himself didn’t translate it, innit?


      ‘Also I see that per the BBC: “The international chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed the UK’s analysis of the type of nerve agent used in the Russian ex-spy poisoning.” ‘

      And the OPCW report tells us what, exactly?

      1. idiomatic meaning :using, containing, or denoting expressions that are natural to a native speaker.

      2. Yes, I’m fully aware of the definition, thanks.

        Perhaps my tendency to indulge in flauchinaucinihipilification has bequeathed a countenance of one’s braggadocio-esque superciliousness?

        Permit me to prevail upon you, the contrary. I merely demonstrate, manifestly, the distinction between and betwixt the idiom (rees-mogg, johnson and the rest of the pretentious pones) and the undistinguished (The common or garden scum like meself).

        In essence, only officials (Or a 50’s bbc tv newsreader) would use those terms to the masses.

        And the same officials are telling us sod-all and raising more questions than they answer.

      3. Yeah – officials- you mean like goverment translators?

      4. I’ve never said the translator interpreted Skripal’s statement any differently to how it was dictated.

        However, there ARE people who do that sort of thing on behalf of H.M. Govt…A lot of politicians are fairly good wordsmiths aren’t they? 🙂

    2. That’s what the BBC is saying. It doesn’t mean what they’re spinning it to mean

  16. Don’t forget that we live in a Brave New World, where nothing can be taken for granted. Both sides have access to the latest technology. It used to be that ‘Photographs don’t lie’ – then along came Photoshop.
    Now, Photoshop is working on a voice app so that you can imitate ANY voice. (https://www.theverge.com/2016/11/3/13514088/adobe-photoshop-audio-project-voco). Something like this was featured, probably satirically, in the US drama, The Good Fight. And, if you want to be really scared, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmajJTcpNk.
    So both sides are probably trying to con us…

  17. For all the reasons given, this statement, like that purporting to be from DS Bailey, is absolute bollocks.

    Yulia was almost certainly discharged from hospital so as to avoid the possibility of another sympathetic member of staff giving her a means of unfettered communication.

    I judge this ridiculous organophosphate theatre to be very close to disintegrating. What a bunch of pathetic, shitty creeps the UK establishment and its collaborators are.

    Horrible bastards.

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