UNDER the cover of darkness on Saturday night, someone scaled the scaffolding to hang a large Russian flag on Salisbury Cathedral. At the time of writing, it’s unclear whether this was just some sort of drunken after-the-pub jape or something more pre-planned. Whichever way round it was, the stunt was all done in the worst possible taste – brought into sharp relief by being carried out on the same day that the Guardian ran a moving interview with the parents of Dawn Sturgess.

If it was somehow pre-planned, it would certainly fit with the ongoing attitude of both the Russian state and media to treat the Skripal attack as something to laugh and joke about. Back in December, the Russian news channel Russia Today decided an appropriate Christmas gift to its contacts was a chocolate model of Salisbury Cathedral. Then in January came the release of the ‘Our Guys in Salisbury’ board game. My sides.

The Twitter account of the Russian Embassy in the UK (@russianembassy), meanwhile, has consistently trolled and mocked the investigation into the Skripal Affair ever since it began. Its response to the report in this weekend’s Sunday Times that Sergei Skripal’s health has deteriorated was to ask, ‘What’s cooking?’ Turning to the flag story, it ran a poll as to who was responsible, with its followers deciding ‘foolish prank’ edged out ‘UK staged provocation’ as the culprit.

It may just be the purest form of coincidence, but this week also saw two key developments in the Novichok case. The first of these was the report on the investigative website Bellingcat naming a third Russian agent involved in the operation. Bellingcat, who previously revealed the true identities of Alexander Mishkin and Anatoly Chepiga, have now cited the involvement of a third agent, Denis Sergeev, under the alias Sergey Fedotov. According to the website, Fedotov flew from Moscow to London on March 2, checked-in but didn’t board the return flight on Sunday 4 March, instead returning to Moscow via Rome.

The significance of ‘Fedotov’ is that his involvement links the Salisbury poisoning to a previous incident in Bulgaria in 2015, when a local arms dealer, Emilian Gebrev, was poisoned by an unknown substance. On Friday, it was announced that British investigators had travelled to Bulgaria to look at links between that incident and the attack on Sergei Skripal. Fedotov, according to Bellingcat, was also in Bulgaria at the time of the attack of Gebrev, and like with the Salisbury incident, checked in but didn’t turn up for his flight back, in this case returning to Moscow via Istanbul.

Meanwhile, all anyone is talking about is Saturday night, when someone scaled the scaffolding to hang a flag on Salisbury Cathedral.