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By John Helmer, Moscow

It is now one year and one month since there was a direct contact with Russia proving that either Sergei Skripal or Yulia Skripal, or both, are still alive. That was an hour-long telephone call from Yulia Skripal to her cousin Viktoria Skripal on November 21, 2020.  

There has been no direct evidence from Sergei Skripal himself that he is alive since he telephoned his family home on June 26, 2019.  

Viktoria Skripal told a Moscow press interviewer three months ago that because there was no word from either of them following the death in Yaroslavl of Elena Skripal, Sergei’s mother, on January 7 of this year, she believes they may be dead. “We can assume that they are not alive. Because they knew that their grandmother had died — in any case, we were assured that they had been accurately informed. But there were no condolences, no flowers, none of this from them.”

Reporters from the two Moscow dailies, Moskovsky Komsomlets (MK) and Izvestia, who have been closest to Viktoria, confirm the silence. Alexander Klibanov of MK says he knows of no telephone call or other message from the Skripals this year. “There’s no sign of them,” Nikolai Pozdnyakov of Izvestia adds. He also says there is no definitive proof of their death. “They may be necessary for some new ‘Novichok show’ or something of the sort if the British secret services are going to provide such a thing.”

The last two photographs of Yulia Skripal appear to be many months, possibly years apart in time. It is uncertain, however,  which photograph is the more recent of the two.

Left:  Yulia Skripal appearing in an interview scripted and produced by British officials and broadcast from the US Air Force-Royal Air Force Fairford base  by Reuters on May 23, 2018.  Right:  the last published photograph of Yulia Skripal, copyrighted to her name and published by a London newspaper on January 8, 2021.  Note that in the interval the tracheostomy scar appears to have disappeared without a trace. In addition to a simple ornament around her neck, in the second photograph Skripal revealed she was wearing a Russian Orthodox crucifix. Photographs also published before the alleged Novichok incident of March 4, 2018, suggest the second picture is the earlier one of the two.  If true, then there is no public photographic evidence of Yulia Skripal for three and a half years.

The verified voice records in Moscow indicate that Sergei Skripal’s three last telephone calls to his family home in Yaroslavl were on April 4, 2019; then a month later on May 9; and the last one on June 26, 2019.   Understood by Russians, but unreported in the western and Russian press are the tone and choice of words in Skripal’s messages; he was expressing tenderness towards his family, and also signalling he wasn’t confident he would ever see them again. “After they buried my grandmother [Elena Skripal died on January 7, 2021] our paths have parted completely”, Viktoria Skripal has told MK.

A new British documentary on the Skripal affair is scheduled to be broadcast next week by Discovery+, an internet media company specialising in pay-to-view shark attacks, aliens,  and disasters.  The media company has recruited Nicholas Bailey, the former Wiltshire county policeman who claims to have been hospitalised with Novichok poisoning after visiting the Skripal home on the evening of the alleged attack, March 4, 2018.

Since then Bailey has changed his story several times while promoting his public speechmaking business and a compensation lawsuit against the Wiltshire police force.  

Six months ago, Bailey said through his PR agent that he would say no more on the case.

In a London press promotion for next week’s commercial broadcast, Bailey reveals for the first time:  “At one point I was accused of being the assassin. I was accused of being Sergei’s handler. I was accused of working for MI6.”  Exactly who made this new allegation is not identified by Bailey. He adds he is hostile towards MI6, the Secret Intelligence Service,  for not revealing Skripal’s identity or safe house to the local police force. “[Skripal] chose Salisbury, or MI6 chose Salisbury for him. And I did think, why was the former Russian spy living in Salisbury and how we did not know that he was there? Surely, we should have been made aware? By all accounts no one knew.”

Bailey’s representatives decline to confirm or deny that he had been paid a fee by the film company.

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