All eyes on Russia as ex-spy still ‘critical’

Hit-list: Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found slumped on a bench.

What is Russia up to? Ex-spy Sergei Skripal is still critically ill after being poisoned in Salisbury. The Russian government stands accused. Now attention turns to its wider schemes.

Just over a week ago, a 60-year-old man bought a scratchcard from a newsagents in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Then, with his daughter, the man visited a pub and a pizza restaurant.

Sergei Skripal, an ex-Russian spy, and his daughter Yulia are now seriously ill. They were poisoned by a deadly nerve agent.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd refused to speculate on whether the Russian state might have been involved, but Tory MP Sir Edward Leigh said the evidence against Russia was “very strong”, warning that if the Kremlin were implicated it would be a “brazen act of war”.

Why? What on earth is going on? These are the bewildered questions on everyone’s lips.

It has been a generation since Russians were in the business of shaping the destiny of the world. But in recent years Russia has been trying to re-establish its place as a superpower.

The list is familiar: intervention in Ukraine and annexing Crimea, meddling in Syria and alleged hacking of the US election.

When this resurgence first started, many assumed that it was simply a question of regaining power over the vast areas it ruled during Soviet times. But now something more sinister seems to be at play.

Just how evil is Russia?

Eastern menace

Look at the facts, say some. Russia kills its opponents at home and abroad. It rigs elections at home and abroad. Its online presence is directly aimed at climbing inside the mind of the West and rewiring it to suit its own interests. How much more evidence do we need to show how grave a threat Russia is?

Calm down, reply others. We are jumping to far too many conclusions. As Peter Hitchens writes in the Mail Online, remember the “Policeman’s ABC”: Assume nothing. Believe nobody. Check everything. Russia is a complex place, and we have no evidence that Vladimir Putin ordered this.

You Decide

  1. Can it be right to describe a country as “evil”?

Activities

  1. “We talk too much about Russia and too little about China.” As a class, discuss this statement.

Some People Say...

“Nothing will stop Russia on the road to strengthening democracy and ensuring human rights.”

Vladimir Putin

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Sergei Skripal and his daughter are critically ill after being poisoned by a deadly nerve agent in the city of Salisbury. This is not the first time a high profile Russian has been poisoned in mysterious circumstances in Britain.
What do we not know?
Whether the Russian state, and even President Vladimir Putin himself, were behind this.

Word Watch

Sergei Skripal
A former military intelligence colonel in Russia, Skripal was convicted in 2006 of spying for the UK. He was later pardoned, and moved to the UK in 2010.
Kremlin
Home of the Russian government.
Soviet
The Soviet Union, led by Russia, dominated Eastern Europe from 1922 to 1991.
Kills its opponents
For example, Sergei Magnitsky, who uncovered the alleged theft of £150 million by Russian tax officials and police officers, died in a Moscow prison in 2013 after being severely beaten.

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