Former Russian Spy in Critical Condition After Being Exposed to Unknown Substance
Former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal and a woman reported to be his daughter, were found unconscious in Salisbury on Sunday.
Mr Skripal is a retired Russian Military Intelligence Colonel, who was sentenced to 13 years in prison after it was discovered he was passing the identities of Russian secret agents in Europe to the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). Although he was later pardoned for this and was flown to the UK, he has consistently believed that Russian special services may come back for him.
Both Mr Skripal and his daughter were found slumped on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday afternoon and scientists at Porton Down – the UK’s secret weapons research facility in Wiltshire – are studying the “unknown substance” that is thought to have made the pair ill.
The case has raised serious suspicion from UK Government officials who believe this case is similar to the case of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 in London after being poisoned by a radioactive substance.
Although Russia has denied any involvement, Counter Terrorism Police have now decided taken over the investigation from Wiltshire Police.
The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke in the House of Commons this afternoon, saying that the UK would respond robustly to any evidence of Russian involvement in the case.
Mr Johnson did stress in his statement that this is an “ongoing investigation” and that no conclusions can be drawn at this early stage. But he did remark very pointedly about the connection between this case and that of Alexander Litvinenko, asking MPs to draw their own conclusions.
Perhaps most importantly though, Mr Johnson’s speech made it clear that the UK is prepared to act against the Kremlin. He suggested there could be targeted sanctions against those close to President Putin, British politicians and officials could boycott the 2018 World Cup in Russia, or potentially the government could seek to rally international support and turn towards its NATO allies.
Russia has insisted it has “no information” about what could have led to the incident, but says it is open to co-operating with the police investigation if requested. The Russian Embassy in London has labelled the Foreign Secretary’s Comments as “demonising.” This afternoon they released the following statement:
The UK Counter Terrorism Unit has insisted there is no danger to the wider community and that this is an ongoing investigation