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By John Helmer, Moscow

The British Government has admitted over the weekend that its troops currently running the British war in the Ukraine are also engaged in managing the document file for the alleged Novichok attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March 2018.

The disclosure appears in the text of a document signed by Cathryn McGahey KC,  dated October 31, and released on the website of the
Dawn Sturgess Inquiry chaired by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image left). “The war in Ukraine has required”, McGahey (right), a barrister representing the government ministries, wrote to Hughes, “and continues to require work to be undertaken by many of the same individuals and resources who are working on disclosures. Many of those working disclosure are subject matter experts,. While disclosure to the Inquiry is a priority, there have been times when this has had to take second place behind live, ongoing issues of national security.”  

McGahey testifed before Hughes at a two-hour hearing on the Novichok allegations in a London courtroom last Friday, November 11. Follow what was said, and what was meant, in this analysis.   An official transcript of the hearing can be read here.

According to McGahey, “approximately 80,000 documents (including emails) have been identified and located as relevant” to the Hughes inquiry. But before any of them can be identified, quoted, or released publicly, McGahey suggested, the government’s Ukraine warfighters will be obliged to down their weapons and pick up censorship tools to prevent the Russians from gaining any advantage.

 As Hughes has announced, referring to the allegations of Novichok poisoning, “the responsibility for the events in Salisbury [Skripal incident March 4, 2018] and Amesbury [Sturgess incident June 30, 2018]  is what is to be decided by this Inquiry. There is, however, at least a prima facie case (denied by those accused) that those responsible were Russian nationals acting in the interests of the Russian state and allegedly under its direction.”

Exactly what roles in the Ukraine war the “subject matter experts” are playing has not been disclosed. The Russian Government has publicly accused the British Government of providing undersea drone and other technology for attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines, Russia’s Black Sea fleet, a plan of attack against the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam, and nuclear weapons design.  

McGahey told Hughes the British Government hasn’t enough money to pay these warfighters to do both the Ukrainian and the Novichok jobs. “There are stretched resources and budgets across HMG [HHis Majesty’s Government], which are not trivial, and there is very real pressure on government departments and agencies.”

Hughes has decided there must be a near-total ban on identifying by name any British official engaged in warmaking against Russia, including intelligence gathering, weapons training, plans and operations.

“The risk of damage to national security here,” he said, ” lies in the risk that hostile actors, whether State or otherwise and, if State, whether Russian or otherwise, might target individuals identified as concerned in the UK reaction to those events, and/or might use access to their names as a means of disrupting UK public functions. I am satisfied, on all the material I have seen, both OPEN and CLOSED, that these are marked real risks to some of those who were involved in the 2018 events, and that Russia in particular has both an interest in such activity and a known capacity to carry it out. For most of these persons therefore, a restriction order is likely to be necessary…  [Russia] would have a similar interest in anyone amongst government staff who carried out any sensitive role; an obvious example would be any person concerned in the work of intelligence agencies, or other covert activities, but the risk will not be limited to them. General disclosure of the names of persons subject to these risks would indeed present a hostile actor with a convenient directory of suitable targets and/or a list of sensitive functions which would be of considerable value to a hostile actor accumulating intelligence about UK security and government systems.”  

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