Yulia Skripal was discharged from a British hospital this week just over a month after being poisoned with a nerve agent along with her father Sergei, a former Russian double agent. Picture: Facebook via AP
It has now been established that Britain accused Russia of being behind the March 4 attack on the Skripals without credible evidence - the question we should all be asking is: "Why?"

Why was it that Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson were so eager to pronounce to the world that it was “highly likely” that Russia was behind the chemical attack in Salisbury?

The content of some of the six transparencies Britain used to brief its allies has already been leaked to the press, in which May said she had “no doubt” that Russia was responsible.

Johnson even told Deutsche Welle on March 20 that “the people from Porton Down had said it is absolutely categorical”.

But on April 3, Porton Down, Britain’s own top military lab, came out to say they could not verify that the nerve agent used in the poisoning had come from Russia.

As Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said, Johnson was left with egg on his face. Johnson has since been publicly accused of misrepresenting the evidence and misleading the public on the case.

Russia has consistently raised a series of pertinent questions with Britain, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN about the case.

According to the articles of the Chemical Weapons Convention, the path to be taken in such a case is bilateral consultations. According to the protocols, the UK should have asked questions of Russia and Russia would have been obligated to provide answers within 10 days, but in this case it was the reverse.

Russia has been asking all the questions and Britain is refusing to co-operate in ascertaining the truth. Russia has pointed out that if it was military grade Novichok that was used, as Britain alleges, then the Skripals would have been affected immediately, especially seeing as they first got it on their skin - it wouldn’t have taken four hours. To date, Russia has been denied consular access to the Skripals, in violation of diplomatic norms and conventions.

Russia has also insisted that it is not in possession of Novichok, which is a Western classification of a series of nerve agents. In Russia, there has never been a nerve agent under the name Novichok.

Porton Down, on the other hand, has admitted to having Novichok in its lab. Interestingly, the attack took place 11km from Porton Down.

So that begs the question as to whether Britain had a hidden agenda in accusing the Russians so publicly and definitively.

What we do know is that prior to the Skripal incident, May was in a weak position politically, both within her own party and in the country over the controversial Brexit. Some have suggested that her position within the party has strengthened.

It seems the country has rallied behind what has become a common enemy and 28 nations have supported Britain in condemning Russia and expelling Russian diplomats.

We know that nations have at times gone to war to deflect attention from uncomfortable domestic dynamics or scandals and some have suggested that May accomplished this type of deflection from her political troubles without even having to fire a shot.

There may also be other possibilities that involve foreign intelligence agencies.

The US intelligence agencies may also have had an interest in discrediting Russia, given the current dynamics between the two countries. Just a week prior to the Skripal incident, President Donald Trump had warmly congratulated Russian President Vladimir Putin on his re-election and invited him to Washington - a move that may not have gone down well with the security establishment.

Then there is, of course, the other narrative, which says that there has been a string of Russian political opposition figures who have died mysterious deaths in Britain over the past 10 years.

What they all had in common is that they were anti-Putin.

Some analysts who believe Russia was behind the Skripal attack suggest that Putin may have wanted to send a message to the many political dissidents currently living in Britain. But then again, Skripal has been living in Britain for eight years.

The Skripal story may now have been eclipsed by developments on the ground in Syria, but the truth with regards to what really happened still needs to be uncovered.

What this case does remind me of is a previous period in British history when Russia was falsely accused of bomb attacks on British soil which caused international hysteria, only for the culprits to have been within Britain itself.

In 1883-1885, London was the site of 13 terror attacks, including bombings in parliament. The British press eagerly accused Russia of the bombings and anti-Russia hysteria spread throughout Europe, just as we are seeing now.

Not a single piece of evidence was found that pointed to Russia and in the end, it turned out that the Irish nationalist organisation Clan na Gael was responsible.

It almost seems as if history is repeating itself.

* Shannon Ebrahim is Independent Media's foreign editor.