Russia is weirdly obsessed with Sergei Skripal's dead cat

Jack Taylor/Getty ImagesA police officer in a protective suit and mask works near the scene where former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia were discovered after being attacked with a nerve-agent on March 16, 2018 in Salisbury, England.
  • Russia has some questions about poisoned spy Sergei Skripal’s dead cat.
  • The cat and two guinea pig, have died after Skripal was poisoned with nerve agent in Salisbury, England.
  • Russia’s embassy in London is demanding answers on whether the pets were also poisoned.
  • The statements are part of a broader pattern of trying to sow doubt and confusion about Britain’s investigation.

Russia is hotly pursuing a new line of inquiry as it attempts to discredit the UK’s finding that Russia was responsible for a nerve agent attack on the former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England: Skripal’s dead cat.

Following the hospitalisation of Skripal and his daughter Yulia after they exposed to a deadly Russian nerve agent, his home was placed on lockdown. When a vet finally entered the property, his two guinea pigs were found dead and his cat was in a “distressed” state and subsequently put down. Russia has seized on both details as it works to undermine the UK’s assertion that Russia was behind the attempted assassination.

Based on a series of surreal tweets and statements by the Russian embassy’s press officer, Russia argues that the deaths of the animals are suspicious and should have been tested for traces of the nerve agent. The embassy first sent out a tweet demanding to know the animals’ location after reports surfaced that Skripal had pets, but before it emerged that they had died.

“To learn the fate of the animals is important not only from the point of view of Mr Skripal’s property rights, but also as a matter of animal welfare and, most importantly, in the context of the ongoing investigation,” the embassy spokesperson said.

The Sun then reported that the two guinea pigs had died of dehydration, and the cat had had to be put down because of its condition, prompting another angry tweet from the embassy’s press officer. “Are they seriously saying that nobody had a look at the pets at alleged crime scene?” the tweet said.

Following an official statement from the British government, the embassy sent out another tweet, this time including a photo of an apparently dead guinea pig.

The British government has said the guinea pigs died after the property was sealed as part of the investigation. A veterinary surgeon made the decision to euthanize the cat “to alleviate its suffering” after it was also trapped in the house. There is no indication as to whether they were tested for traces of nerve agent.

The tweets fit the pattern of Russia’s response to the attack: trying to sow doubt and confusion.

It has so far pushed 14 different contradictory theories about why it is not to blame for the attack, from the notion that the British government did it to distract from Brexit to the unfounded idea it was the Ukrainian government using old Soviet chemical weapons. Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in the UK has fired off a steady stream of provocative tweets that try to generate suspicions about the investigation and ridicule the UK.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Porton Down laboratory has identified the poison as the Russian-developed nerve agent Novichok, and British intelligence has since reportedly identified a lab in southwest Russia that is believed to have produced it. The UK and its allies have expelled dozens of Russian diplomats around the world, and Russia has responded in kind.

Both Yulia and Sergei Skripal remain in hospital. Yulia is recovering “rapidly,” while Sergei is no longer in “critical condition,” doctors said on Friday.

In a statement about Sergei Skripal’s pets, a government spokesperson said: “The property in Wiltshire was sealed as part of the police investigation. When a vet was able to access the property, two guinea pigs had sadly died. A cat was also found in a distressed state and a decision was taken by a veterinary surgeon to euthanise the animal to alleviate its suffering. This decision was taken in the best interests of the animal and its welfare.”

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