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24 Mar 2018 17:05
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  •   Home > News > International

    Sergei Skripal poisoning claims get the cold shoulder in Red Square

    A large number of Russians haven't heard about the Sergei Skripal poisoning, while those who have don't seem to care. And in Red Square, few are convinced Vladimir Putin could have ordered such an assassination.

    On the edge of Red Square, men dressed as famous former Russian leaders are posing for photos with tourists and locals on their lunch-breaks.

    There's Joseph Stalin, Ivan the Terrible and a couple of other less-well-known Tsars.

    Generally speaking, Russians seem to like leaders who aren't afraid to project power well outside the country's borders and judging by the amount of cash they've earned, the impersonators seem to be doing ok.

    But when we ask if they think their country was to blame for the poisoning of former double-agent Sergei Skripal in England, few seem convinced President Vladimir Putin could be bothered ordering such an assassination.

    "[Skripal] was already a piece of waste and useless," Vasily Ivanov, the man dressed as Ivan the Terrible, said.

    "His death wasn't necessary for the big political picture. I don't think it was us that did it."

    Many think it's more likely the attempted killing could be part of an elaborate conspiracy theory.

    "These sort of things are generally done by Western intelligence to blame Russia and Putin afterwards," said Krill Borisov, another Tsar impersonator.

    "That's what I think. This has been going on for a long time."

    Those views aren't really surprising when you consider they are the kind of theories often aired on Russian TV or put out by some politicians.

    Andrey Afanasyev, a presenter on conservative, pro-Putin channel Tsargrad TV, claims there's a chance the poisoning was even an attempt to "destabilise" this Sunday's presidential election.

    "In these stories you should always think of the motives, like any real British detective story," he explains, slightly tongue in cheek.

    "Who benefits from that [the assassination attempt]?

    "Russia does not. We do not need such a kind of scandal on election eve.

    "This is not something we want to discuss."

    The truth is many people we've met don't think there is actually very much to discuss.

    A large number of Russians haven't heard about the poisoning, while those who have don't really seem to care.

    A double agent dying in unusual circumstances is seen as somewhat par for the course, or at the very least, a type of unsurprising occupational hazard for anyone involved in international espionage.

    Russians are regularly told on state media their interests are being constantly targeted by unfriendly countries, particularly in the west.

    Most people we have met seem fairly happy for their leaders to protect them by any means necessary.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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