Salisbury nerve attack draws responses in Moscow ranging from outrage to fear
Ask someone on the street in Moscow about the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, and their answers often reflect those heard every day from local TV pundits or MPs.
” What reason would Russia have to do this ?” said Sergey Markosyan, 36, as he popped into a Magnit supermarket in Moscow for beer, salty snacks and a carton of eggs.” He was in Britain, right? So shouldn't they look in Britain ?”
On Wednesday, Theresa May told British MPs there was ” no alternative conclusion other than the Russian nation was responsible for the attempted slaying of Mr Skripal and his daughter “.
And then, as ensure on Tv, came the kicker:” He lived a dangerous life. He clearly get himself into some trouble .”
Television is a powerful force in Russia, where the top three stations are funded by the country. And in the past week, those channels have been feeding Russians a steady diet of bellicose rhetoric over the Skripal poisoning.
“It's really hard to ignore,” said Diana, 26, who stood smoking a menthol cigarette outside the grocery store. She declined to give her last name.” It builds you angry. Sometimes you feel like there's going to be a war .”
At the very least, accusations that the Kremlin ordered Skripal's death seem unlikely to hurt his chances. In the past several years, conflict with the west has become the norm in Russia, and Putin's nominal popularity has remained high since his annexation of Crimea, despite western sanctions.
For many Russians, the hostile rhetoric isn't all that unusual. It fits a familiar pattern that begins, they say, with Russia being blamed by the west, and then Moscow defending itself.
” We are the world's scapegoat ,” said Anatoly Sobolev, a sales associate on his lunch hour at a KFC.
Sobolev said he didn't watch Russian television and is of the opinion that both the Russian government and media lied. But, he added, he trusted the British media and the British government even less.
He said Russia had also been accused of meddling in the 2016 US elections without any evidence.” Are we just supposed to believe them for their word ?” he asked.” Why can't they show any proof ?”
The Russian establishment has also backed an idea that Westminster is lashing out to disguise weakness.
People suppose” the British have gone rabid”, said Sergey Karaganov, an influential foreign policy intellectual, speaking by telephone on Wednesday.” There is a sense the west is lashing out because you're weak, because the west is declining and Russia is rebuilt .”
Not everyone backs the government line, however. Waiting for friends at a subway station, a 20 -year-old economics student named Alina said she was embarrassed by the heady rhetoric on television.
” It's obvious they did it ,” she said.” But who's going to force-out them to admit it ?”