‘Any fool can commit murder, but it takes an artist to make it look like suicide’ the KGB used to say. But whoever put Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in hospital was rather less subtle: police have identified 240 potential witnesses, according to Amber Rudd, and have extensive CCTV coverage to go through.
I write in The Sun this morning that anyone capable of getting hold of the nerve agent used was capable of killing him in a far more subtle manner – with no witnesses and nothing in CCTV. Whoever carried out the attack on Skripal wanted to send a message. They wanted to prove that enemies of Russia are not safe wherever they may be. They also wanted to highlight Western impotence; to show how the liberal democratic world struggles to deal with attacks that come wrapped in a cloak of deniability.
It is currently hard to escape the conclusion that the UK government’s passivity in the face of Alexander Litvinenko’s murder has emboldened Putin’s friends to carry out another attack in Britain
This time it must be different. The UK needs to make clear that Russia will pay a price for this kind of behaviour.
We should use social media to spread the word in Russia about just how rich Putin, his family and his cronies are. Ahead of the Russian elections later this month, Putin released details of his wealth. They suggested he had around £175,000 in the bank, some shares in a bank, a flat and a few sportscars.
But considering that his son in law had to essentially give away close to $2 billion worth of shares when he broke up with Putin’s daughter, it is safe to assume his real worth is massively more than this.
Getting this information out there in Russia would embarrass Putin. Combine this with far sharper sanctions on his associates, allies and enablers and his gang would think twice about letting people carry out assassination attempts on British soil.