On July 5, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti published a story saying that Britain’s “Deputy Interior Minister” –who is actually Britain’s Minister of Security – Ben Wallace ruled out Russian involvement in the poisoning of two British citizens in Amesbury.
According to British authorities, two Britons in their mid-forties, a male and a female, were hospitalized in critical condition on June 30 after being poisoned with the Russian-made nerve agent Novichok.
The two victims are residents of Amesbury, a small town located 11 kilometers north of the city of Salisbury, where ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok in March.
“Knowing that they (Russia) developed Novichok, that the targets were connected, we affirm with a high degree of certainty that Russia is behind the initial (i.e. Skripal) attack,” RIA Novosti quoted Wallace as saying.
“At the moment, we see no evidence of a connection between the last two victims, neither with the Skripals, nor with the previous place where they were poisoned,” he added.
RIA Novosti used this quote to claim falsely that Wallace ruled out Russian involvement in this latest poisoning case. However, the Russian news agency’s version of the quote is incomplete and taken out of context: it leaves out an important part of the Minister’s statement.
The Guardian newspaper quoted Wallace as saying: “Based on the evidence we had at the time of the Skripal attack, the knowledge they [Russia] had developed Novichok, they had explored assassination programs in the past, they had motive, form and stated policy, we would still assert to a very high assurance that the Russian state was behind the original attack.”
RIA Novosti’s version of the quote leaves out the references to assassination programs, motives, etc., without the use of ellipses.
More importantly, the RIA Novosti article omits that Wallace implicated Russia in the attack, and demanded an explanation from the Russian government to clear up the matter.
“The Russian state could put this ‘wrong’ right,” the security minister said on BBC radio, according to the New York Times. “They could tell us what happened, what they did and fill in some of the significant gaps that we are trying to pursue.”
Wallace specifically relates this new incident to the Skripal case.He is quoted as saying “the working assumption” is that the new victims were poisoned as “the consequence of the previous attack,” though he holds out the possibility of some other cause.
Russia continues to deny involvement. The Kremlin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said: "I know nothing about any appeal [from the UK being conveyed to Russia over the incident]." He added that the British government has never presented credible evidence of Moscow’s ties to the Skripal’s poisoning.
Moscow’s own versions of the incident in Salisbury have been thoroughly examined and proven false.
The Western news media has already noted that “Russia’s spin operation has gone into overdrive” on the new poisoning. The Daily Beast points to quotes from a Kremlin spokesman, denying Russian involvement, and the deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of the parliament, accusing Britain of trying to spoil soccer fans positive reactions to the World Cup tournament.
Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council’s DFRLab tweeted that Russian embassies are “already dismissing, distorting and distracting.”