Why is Sergei Skripal unable to phone his mother, whom he used to speak to on a weekly basis?
According to an article in The Mail, the mother of Sergei Skripal, Yelena, has not heard from her son since the incident on 4th March, and the last time she heard from her granddaughter, Yulia, was on 24thJuly:
“Recalling her phone conversation with Yulia, Yelena told the Daily Mirror: ‘The last time I actually spoke to Yulia was on the 24th of July on my 90th birthday. She rang – it was unexpected but it was so lovely to hear from her. She called and was actually with Sergei. She told me: “I’m with daddy he is beside me but he can’t speak as he has a pain in his throat”. She said he had been in some pain.’”
This is interesting for a number of reasons.
Firstly, we know that during the conversation on 24th July, according to a number of reports (for example here), Yulia told her grandmother that the reason Sergei was unable to speak was because his voice was still weak due to a tracheostomy:
“Babushka, happy birthday, everything is fine, everything is perfect. I am in London with papa. He can’t speak because he’s got a tracheostomy, that pipe, which will be taken off in three days. Now when he speaks with that pipe, his voice is first of all very weak and secondly, he makes quite a lot of wheeze. So babushka with your poor hearing you would really struggle to understand him. He’ll call after the tracheostomy is off.”
This was almost 3 months ago. So the tracheostomy was preventing Sergei from speaking; but it was coming off in three days; yet nearly 3 months later and still no call from Sergei? Is that not very odd? Indeed, especially given that Yelena states in the interview that she and Sergei used to speak every week.
Secondly, the call on 24th July is itself very odd. Notice that Yulia uses the phrases “everything is fine, everything is perfect.” These are basically the same sorts of phrases that she repeated over and over in her call with her cousin Viktoria on 5th April:
“Everything is ok, everything is fine.”
“Everything is fine, but we’ll see how it goes, we’ll decide later. You know what the situation is here. Everything is fine, everything is solvable, everyone is recovering and is alive.”
“Everything is ok. He is resting now, having a nap. Everyone’s health is fine, there are no irreparable things. I will be discharged soon. Everything is ok.”
She seems very keen – some would say overly keen – to emphasise that everything is fine and okay and perfect etc. To me it sounds unnatural and forced. What do you think?
But more than this, imagine yourself in the same situation. Your father is next to you. He can speak, but not very well, and so can’t communicate through the phone to his mother. What would you do? Well, I know what I would do. I would relay speech from the one to the other. “He says he’s getting better and misses you very much grandma.” “She says she loves you, dad.” Isn’t that what normal people would do in such circumstances?
But instead, Yulia speaks in a way that doesn’t fill me with too much certainty that he was actually in the room with her. It’s all very medical and somewhat officious. And even if his voice was a bit wheezy and hard to understand, his ears were okay, weren’t they? Couldn’t Yulia have held the phone to her dad’s ear so he could hear his mother speak to him? Again, that would be what a normal person would do in such circumstances, wouldn’t it? But of course they don’t do normal in SkripalWorld.
Thirdly, we have to reckon with the fact that since that call, in which Yulia indicated that Sergei would call in as little as three days, there has been no communication at all. Not with grandma. Not with Viktoria. Not with anyone (apparently even Mark Urban got the cold shoulder).
Actually, that’s not quite the case. We don’t really have to reckon with this because the heroic journalism of The Mail gives us the answer. In the same piece that it mentioned a call between Yulia and her grandma, in which Sergei was apparently sat right next to Yulia, we get this:
“Since that solitary phone conversation, she [Yelena] has not heard from her the two targeted relatives as any contact could lead Russian forces to the pair.”
Remarkable, isn’t it? So according to The Mail, the reason that Sergei Skripal cannot call his mother, is because Russian forces might be able to trace his whereabouts and order a hit on him. Another one, apparently. And yet in the very same piece they report on Yulia Skripal calling her grandmother on 24th July, with Sergei Skripal at her side. See? It’s obvious, isn’t it?
Not for the first time in this case, I’m left scratching my head and wondering whether the journalists who write this sort of thing believe their readers to be so dim that they won’t notice statements in the same article that utterly refute one another, or whether the journalists themselves are so witless that they simply don’t realise that they are contradicting themselves in the space of a few sentences. Any thoughts?
The fact is that Yulia has phoned her cousin Viktoria a number of times since the beginning of April, and in most, if not all of those calls, her father was said to be close by. She even did a little film for Reuters in May, with her father apparently in the same compound. Why were these allowed, since according to The Mail, it could have led Russian forces to the pair? Or are we to believe that Russian forces have only just developed the capability to trace phone calls since 24th July? Worse still, have British Security Services forgotten how to prevent phone calls being traced by other intelligence agencies since 24th July, not to mention also losing the ability to stop Russian forces from coming and getting them?
Or is it more likely that The Mail cannot be bothered to ask the obvious questions that stem from their own report. Such as:
1. Why is the apparent victim in this case, Sergei Skripal, who is under the protection of British (and possibly US) intelligence services, unable to phone his mother, whom he used to speak to on a weekly basis?
2. Does this constitute a violation of his human rights?
3. Given that he has had no contact with his mother since 4th March, how can we be sure that he is alive, and if he is, whether he is not being held against his will?