Early reports suggested that colonel Skripal and the unnamed woman may have been exposed to the synthetic drug, Fentanyl, which is up to 10,000 times more powerful than heroin and has been linked to scores of deaths in the UK.

Killing someone with opiates works. Assuming the dosing is correct.

But why?

32 thoughts on “Weird”

  1. My guess is they want people (particularly other potential defectors) to know it was them – whilst still keeping a veneer of deniability. If it was a normal drug it wouldn’t get the news coverage and the opportunity to scare other people wouldn’t happen. The fact it failed is odd, but then it probably still does sufficient fear mongering to be pretty effective.

  2. The Russians probably read about Fentanyl in the tabloids.

    It’s the latest drug of choice.

    By which I mean chosen by journalists to be the latest;


    ‘Hashish Madness’ and ‘Ecstasy Peril’ having for the moment past their ‘shock by’ date.

  3. The Meissen Bison

    It seems that Fentanyl was present thanks to another couple and so unconnected with this business.

  4. “Matthew L

    Why don’t the Yanks use it instead of their lethal injection cocktail?”

    Or throw the condemned man out of a helicopter hovering over some wasteland? Anyone know how high you’d have to be to be certain? Probably not that high.

    I’m not personally in favour of the death penalty but if you’re going to do it, certainty of outcome ought to be the main criteria.

  5. There’s a long history of this sort of thing, from the blatantly overt (icepick through the ear for Leon Trotsky) through the Byzantinely complicated (umbrella jab and ricin poisoning for Georgi Markov, polonium for Litvinenko), to the fairly deniable (cyanide gas for Lev Rebet and Stepan Bandera – easily mistaken for a heart attack, emerged when the assassin defected a few years later)

    Best guess? Facing outwards this is a deniable “unfortunate drug overdose, that fentanyl’s nasty stuff, see how low people fall when they leave the benevolent haven of Mother Russia that they end up overdosing on park benches in winter?”

    Facing inwards, this is Uncle Vova reassuring Russian voters in the upcoming election that he’s indisputibly in charge (and what might happen to people who dispute that or try to change it…)

  6. I guess methods are chosen for a few reasons. Accessibility, lethality, deliverability etc.

    One of those reasons is also PR, of a sort. A horrible death (Litvinenko – polonium) is a warning. A natural-seeming death (Perepelichny – gelsemium, although reports conflict) can be deniable.

    There’s probably also an element of morbid experimentation as well – the guys who plan this stuff have to be somewhat maladjusted.

    If fentanyl was involved, and assuming it wasn’t chosen for practical reasons, then it might be used to slur that someone was involved in drug consumption. But I don’t think we know much yet.

  7. I thought there was a Russian Air hostess who survived an air-liner disintegrating at 30,000 feet, so the helicopter arrangement might not be as reliable as one might imagine!

  8. I recommend death by high explosive as being a highly certain, painless and cheap method of execution. A kilo of c4 strapped to the the head should see you right. 😉

  9. Bloke in North Dorset

    Matthew L,

    I wouldn’t be surprised if fentanyl has been deemed a cruel and unusual punishment, such is the bizarre world of the USA’s death penalty implementation.

    As dropping from height, a couple of concrete blocks round their ankles and dropped in the middle of the Pacific makes height irrelevant. Certify death becomes more difficult but if they survive that good look to them

    Gary Gilmore probably got it right demanding a firing squad, quick and painless.

    For the record I’m against the death penalty.

  10. @MatthewL

    How about Heroin? Plenty of it available for free to the state. Get a junkie out of prison to administer. Cheap and humane and probably less chance of “not dying”, which seems to happen quite a lot, inexcusably.

  11. No doubt it was actually done by the Democratic National Committee and the CIA as part of a plan to make Uncle Vlad seem responsible for all untoward events in the world. No one imagines that the Clintons would have any reservations about murder, do they?

  12. From wiki

    Perepilichny had no reported health issues when he collapsed. Two autopsies proved inconclusive, as did advanced toxicology tests. Two years after his death, Perepilichnyy’s life insurance company ordered tests that detected a toxin from a Chinese flowering plant called Gelsemium in his stomach; the plant is nicknamed “heartbreak grass” because its leaves trigger cardiac arrest if ingested.

    Fiona Barton, the lawyer for Surrey Police, has continued to maintain that “No identifiable toxin was found and that remains the case,” she said.

  13. From over at Guido. Couldn’t link direct, I hope he´ll forgive me!

    Not a hero of mine but:
    Quote of the Day
    Labour MP Mike Gapes with an epic subtweet:

    “Stalin died 65 years ago today. Let us take a few moments today to remember the tens of millions of victims of the crimes of his murderous Soviet Communist regime, the terror and famine he unleashed, and the invasion, annexation and occupation of neighbouring states.”

    For all my friends and enemies who think collectivism is a good idea.

  14. The American death penalty system does seem bizarre (almost as if people who don’t want it are rigging it to make it hard). How they can struggle to get drugs that kill effectively boggles the mind when every single vet in the country can easily order lethal injections to put animals down. I’m no chemist or biologist but I’m sure at least some of them will be as effective on humans as dogs. Also anaesthetics are effective ways to kill people – hence why we’ve got an entire medical specialism trained to know exactly which knobs to twist when.

  15. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Just pumping nitrogen into a gas chamber while you pump the air out works a treat. No respiratory distress, just hypoxia, unconsciousness, death. You can even use xenon if you want an anaesthetic effect but it’s wildly expensive and would need reclamation.

  16. Adjusts aluminum hat …

    The possible Russian poisoning in Salisbury is likely moving a spotlight back onto a certain Mr Steele who was MI6 Russia desk chief until 2009 – covering the period Colonel Skripal was operating …

    It isn’t unreasonable to believe that as a western asset Skripal’s usefulness had waned and that he didn’t present much of an ongoing threat to Russian intelligence – on the other hand it isn’t beyond belief that the present fraught circumstances of Mr. Steele would make compromising material on him potentially *very* valuable … to all concerned.

    Spooks huh?

  17. @Patrick

    Not a fan of the death penalty, but …

    I note that efforts towards a “better” or “more humane” death penalty seem to have focussed on making it appear “clean” and medicalised. But such sanitisation appears to be for the benefit of the death penalty-imposing society rather than the sod getting executed, if reports of lethal injections and electric chairs are anything to go by. Frankly a professionally-conducted hanging (with the Official Table of Drops) or guillotining would be preferable. And if the gore of it all puts society off from imposing it then so much the better as far as I’m concerned, at least it would concentrate minds a little.

    I’m with you, I’d far rather the tendency was towards something of such utterly atrocious destructive power that there isn’t time for any pain. A trip to the Dr Who/Blake’s 7 quarry (do they film anything down there anymore?) with a big block of explosives, or a human-scaled version of one of those macerators they shred male chicks with sound preferable to lethal injection to me.

  18. Why?

    I suspect the report is wrong. If it was an opiate, why would the hospital need to declare a major incident, if two apparent druggies had suffered an apparent overdose? Again, why would the use of fentanyl require decontamination procedures and inspection of the scene in protective clothing?

    Also, the Telegraph story refers to the Colonel as being FSB, R4 this afternoon had him pegged as GRU, as did the Russian Deputy Duma something or other whose name I have forgotten.

  19. Leaving the body intact is an issue in the death penalty. Some religious groups get quite worked up about it, and the US will always bend over for religion.

    A mix of non-oxygenated has is quick and painless, which is why people use car exhausts (and formerly gas ovens).

  20. Bloke in North Dorset

    Seems both his wife and son had untimely deaths and are now being investigated along with a number of other deaths.

    This is getting beyond spy novel intrigue.

  21. “Leaving the body intact is an issue in the death penalty.”
    In Larry Niven’s short story – The Jigsaw man – not leaving the body intact was the whole point. However, it did outline an effective, painless means of administering the death penalty.

  22. I hope that the two victims, Mr Skripal and his daughter, recover, from this.
    If the Russians did this, the perpetrators should face trial.

    Not to be flippant, but, will the England football team boycott the World Cup over this?
    Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland dis not qualify so do not have to worry about boycotting the World Cup. But will government pressure the English to boycott the football World Cup.

  23. “But will government pressure the English to boycott the football World Cup”

    The FA should jump at the chance to boycott the World Cup. Less ignominy as England crash out in the group stage again, probably having lost to somewhere that has the population of Doncaster.

  24. “But will government pressure the English to boycott the football World Cup.”

    Does anyone give a shit, seriously?

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