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A badly-staged farce - with a brutal message.

Byline: analysis BY CHRIS HUGHES DEFENCE AND SECURITY EDITOR

PUTTING two Russian hitmen on TV to make unconvincing and bizarre claims they were tourists at first seems a peculiar move for Putin.

But from the attack on the Skripals to its deadly aftermath, everything has been coldly calculated, rehearsed and scripted for maximum effect.

Few will be convinced that these two, or Putin, are telling the truth. But their poorly-rehearsed TV appearance will have done a job.

For conspiracy theorists it chips away at the western narrative. And it will also provoke a desired reaction from those who believe the pair really are Russian hitmen.

They, as Putin proxies, were telling viewers that Russia can do what she likes to those who betray her and can project deadly power globally with no consequences.

But, despite their casual attire, they were not as relaxed as we might expect seasoned and well-trained spies to be after a non-military operation like Salisibury.

Sources suggested they had experience of Syria, Ukraine, perhaps even Chechnya.

What mattered most to Russia was that they would not be initially recognised as being GRU, with their faces on MI5's radar.

But it also means Russia did not and does not care that we know what they did - because they pretty much got away with it. And this pair seemed to be revelling in it.

CAPTION(S):

cold-eyed Putin Novichok tactics

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Sep 14, 2018
Words:232
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