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Bumblers or just brazen? Spotlight on Russia’s ascendant GRU

PARIS — It seems like a spy film parody — two burly Russian agents staying in a low-end London hotel and doctoring a perfume flask with deadly nerve agent, oblivious to the security cameras filming them along the way.

The operation to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal in Britain was either botched, or intentionally obvious. But experts say it’s hallmark GRU, the Russian military spy agency with a brutish reputation that’s increasingly taking on high-profile, high-risk operations to damage Russia’s enemies, or simply strike fear.

British authorities identified two alleged GRU agents this week as the perpetrators, but the Kremlin calls the British evidence hogwash. Either way, the accusations against the GRU fortify Russia’s image as unafraid to protect its interests on foreign soil, at any cost.