BREAKING NEWS Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday at her home in Washington, the court says. She was 87. Full Story

Putin's missteps over the Russian spy murder

Russian President Vladimir Putin is often credited with being a master tactician.But in his country's response...

Posted: Mar 27, 2018 7:10 PM
Updated: Mar 27, 2018 7:10 PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin is often credited with being a master tactician.

But in his country's response to the alleged nerve agent attack in the UK, he may have overplayed his hand.

In a concerted move on Monday, the United States, Canada, member states of the European Union and Ukraine expelled more than 100 Russian diplomats, backing the UK in what British Prime Minister Theresa May called the "the largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history."

For years, Western officials have complained of Russian spy games, and the Kremlin's ability to sow doubt and confusion with propaganda and spin.

At first, Russia's response to the attack in the English city of Salisbury followed that predictable script.

After May said Russia was "highly likely" responsible for the attempted murder of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury earlier this month, Russian officials responded with denials.

"A circus show," scoffed Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. "Nonsense," said Russian President Vladimir Putin, adding that Russia had no motive to poison on the eve of presidential elections and the World Cup.

Then there were the contradictory accounts. Russia said it had destroyed its chemical-weapons stockpiles; it said it had no weapon codenamed Novichok, the nerve agent the UK says was used in the attack. A Russian scientist gave an interview to state media claiming to have worked on Novichok, but a key passage was subsequently redacted online to read: "A program for creating a chemical weapon called Novichok did not exist."

And then there were the conspiracy theories: The Skripal case was a plot to sabotage the World Cup; the British, the Slovaks, the Czech, the Swedes or even the Americans could be suspected of cooking up the stuff.

To many observers, it seemed similar to the theories thrown out by Russian state media and Russian officials in the wake of the downing of MH-17 in 2014: competing narratives thrown out like chaff to distract and confuse.

And the timing of the international response riled some Russian observers. Russia on Wednesday will observe a period of mourning after a tragic fire in a shopping mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo, an incident that claimed dozens of lives. Putin traveled to Kemerovo to meet with grieving families and focused his public remarks Tuesday on the tragedy.

In an interview published Tuesday in the respected business newspaper Kommersant, US Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman expressed condolences to the Russian people. But asked why the US and its allies moved, even as the Salisbury investigation continued, Huntsman made it clear something had changed. Washington and its allies, he seemed to suggest, were fed up with the lying.

Huntsman said he saw from the Russian side "a sea of disinformation, making it very hard for people to tell fact from fiction. So we've had to rely, as the UK, on their own rigorous approach to the facts that they know and the rigorous investigation. We have great trust in what they have done and what they will do."

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 448052

Reported Deaths: 33085
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Queens714747239
Kings667377314
Bronx524684940
Nassau460522201
Suffolk459562011
Westchester377181454
New York329383178
Richmond156891085
Rockland14747675
Orange11760498
Erie10873689
Monroe5857289
Dutchess5050153
Onondaga4185205
Albany2979134
Oneida2369123
Ulster223595
Niagara1707101
Putnam156963
Sullivan156848
Broome145069
Schenectady137448
Saratoga98517
Rensselaer89542
Columbia58037
Chautauqua5359
Madison48417
Ontario45435
Oswego4183
Tompkins3900
Warren35433
Steuben34242
Fulton33124
Otsego3245
Orleans32254
Greene31918
Herkimer31810
St. Lawrence3144
Genesee3095
Wayne3065
Chemung3053
Washington28714
Cattaraugus2496
Chenango2487
Tioga22225
Montgomery2194
Livingston2018
Cayuga1952
Jefferson1600
Essex1570
Clinton1545
Cortland1500
Wyoming1315
Delaware1294
Seneca1053
Allegany951
Schoharie830
Franklin640
Yates627
Lewis500
Schuyler370
Hamilton140
Unassigned019
Utica
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 58°
Oneonta
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 54°
Herkimer
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 58°
Thendara
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 58°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Click here to learn more about A Healthier Mohawk Valley
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
WKTV Golf Card - Under 150 left