Monday 10pm – 11.05pm, Channel 4
Channel 4’s European editor, Matt Frei takes an in-depth look at the story which has shocked the world in this episode of Dispatches on Channel 4. Chemical weapons have been banned in the world since the 1929 Geneva convention but the cathedral city of Salisbury in Wiltshire finds itself at the centre of an investigation by the Hague based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped over a park bench on the 4th of March in the city, both remain critically ill in hospital. Suspecting poisoning the UK government ordered scientific testing to be conducted by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down. DSTL identified a very rare nerve agent had been used to poison the pair, they stated the deadly Novichok was to blame, a Russian military grade substance. The police had identified over 130 people who have been exposed to the chemical.
Following a COBRA meeting called immediately after the incident, Prime Minister Teresa May has vowed to hunt down and hold the culprits accountable for putting lives at risk on UK soil. Soon after NATO also condemned the action.
Sergei Skripal is a former Russian Military Intelligence Officer who acted as a double agent throughout the 1990’s and the early 2000’s. Skripal was arrested in 2004 and charged with high treason, being sentenced to 13 years in prison. He found himself part of the Illegals Program Spy Swap and took exile in the UK.
Frei, an award winning journalist with experience of working in war zones in Bosnia, North Africa and Kosovo is no stranger to asking awkward questions of unscrupulous people. He spent 4 years covering mafia stories in Italy and several years covering the policies of the Chinese government. In this episode of Dispatches Frei searches for potential clues, motives and theories on why Sergei Skripal was targeted with this deadly agent.
The search takes Frei into a deep, dark underworld that immerses him into politics, espionage and crime. The investigation leads a natural curiosity into whether the spate of Russian deaths in the UK in recent times are all linked, from Litvinenko to Perepilichnyy, all of whom have died in suspicious circumstances.
The UK government have clearly indicated they believe that Skripal’s situation is a state sponsored assassination attempt and Frei explores both this specific case and the suspicious nature of other Russian deaths in the UK to explore the possibility of them being linked.
The Kremlin firmly denies the allegation by the UK government, but with Russia’s elections so closely following the event is it plausible President Vladimir Putin did indeed order an execution to reaffirm his power?
Commissioned by Channel 4’s Tom Porter and produced by ITN Productions George Waldrum and Andy Dunn, this documentary promises to be thought provoking and provide an insight into a very murky world.
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