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Britain warns Russia over double agent’s mysterious sickness

SALISBURY, England (Reuters) – Britain warned Russia on Tuesday of a sturdy response if the Kremlin was behind a mysterious sickness that has struck down a former double agent convicted of betraying dozens of spies to British intelligence.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson named Sergei Skripal, as soon as a colonel in Russia’s GRU navy intelligence service, and his daughter Yulia as the 2 folks who have been found unconscious on Sunday on a bench exterior a procuring centre in southern England.

Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter have been uncovered to what police stated was an unknown substance within the metropolis of Salisbury. Both are nonetheless critically sick in intensive care, police stated.

“We don’t know exactly what has taken place in Salisbury, but if it’s as bad as it looks, it is another crime in the litany of crimes that we can lay at Russia’s door,” Johnson informed the British parliament.

“It is clear that Russia, I’m afraid, is now in many respects a malign and disruptive force, and the UK is in the lead across the world in trying to counteract that activity.”

Prime Minister Theresa May was briefed at a gathering of the National Security Council on the investigation into the incident, her spokesman stated with out elaborating.

If Moscow have been proven to be behind Skripal’s sickness, Johnson stated, it will be troublesome to see how UK illustration might go to the World Cup in Russia in a traditional approach. A government supply stated that meant attendance of ministers or dignitaries.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated Johnson’s feedback have been “wild”.

A earlier British inquiry stated President Vladimir Putin in all probability permitted the 2006 homicide of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko with radioactive polonium-210 in London. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s killing.

Litvinenko, 43, an outspoken critic of Putin who fled Russia for Britain six years earlier than he was poisoned, died after consuming inexperienced tea laced with the uncommon and really potent radioactive isotope at London’s Millennium Hotel.

It took weeks for British docs to discern the reason for Litvinenko’s sickness.

His homicide despatched Britain’s ties with Russia to what was then a post-Cold War low. Relations suffered farther from Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its navy backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad towards rebels attempting to topple him.

RUSSIAN DOUBLE AGENT

British authorities stated there was no identified danger to the general public from the unidentified substance, however they sealed off the world the place Skripal was found, which included a pizza restaurant and a pub, within the centre of Salisbury.

Counter-terrorism police at the moment are main the investigation although they stated they imagine there no danger to the general public. Samples from the scene are being examined at Porton Down, Britain’s navy analysis laboratory, the BBC stated.

Skripal, who handed the id of dozens of spies to the MI6 international intelligence company, was given refuge in Britain after being exchanged in 2010 for Russian spies caught within the West as a part of a Cold War-style spy swap at Vienna airport.

The Kremlin stated it was able to cooperate if Britain requested it for assist investigating the incident with Skripal.

A nonetheless picture taken from an undated video exhibits Sergei Skripal, a former colonel of Russia’s GRU navy intelligence service, being detained by secret service officers in an unknown location. RTR/through Reuters TV

Calling it a “tragic situation,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated the Kremlin had no details about the incident.

Asked to reply to British media hypothesis that Russia had poisoned Skripal, Peskov stated: “It didn’t take them long.”

Russia’s embassy in London stated the incident was getting used to demonise Russia and that it was critically involved by British media reporting of the Skripal incident.

Russia’s international spy service, the SVR, stated it had no remark to make. Russia’s international ministry and its counter-intelligence service, the Federal Security Service (FSB), didn’t instantly reply to questions submitted by Reuters concerning the case.

FROM MOSCOW TO SALISBURY

Skripal was arrested by the FSB in 2004 on suspicion of betraying dozens of Russian brokers to British intelligence. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail in 2006 after a secret trial.

Skripal, who was proven carrying a observe swimsuit in a cage in court docket in the course of the sentencing, had admitted betraying brokers to MI6 in return for cash, a few of it paid right into a Spanish checking account, Russian media stated on the time.

But he was pardoned in 2010 by then-president Dmitry Medvedev as a part of a swap to deliver 10 Russian brokers held within the United States again to Moscow.

The swap, one of many greatest because the Cold War led to 1991, happened on the tarmac of Vienna airport the place a Russian and a U.S. jet parked facet by facet earlier than the brokers have been exchanged.

One of the Russian spies exchanged for Skripal was Anna Chapman. She was considered one of 10 who tried to mix into American society in an obvious bid to get near energy brokers and study secrets and techniques. They have been arrested by the FBI in 2010.

The returning spies have been greeted as heroes in Moscow. Putin, himself a former KGB officer, sang patriotic songs with them.

Skripal, although, was solid as a traitor by Moscow. He is assumed to have performed severe harm to Russian spy networks in Britain and Europe.

The GRU spy service, created in 1918 beneath revolutionary chief Leon Trotsky, is managed by the navy common employees and experiences on to the president. It has spies unfold throughout the world.

Since rising from the John le Carre world of excessive espionage and betrayal, Skripal lived modestly in Salisbury and saved out of the highlight till he was found unconscious on Sunday at 1615 GMT.

Wiltshire police stated a small variety of emergency providers personnel have been examined instantly after the incident and all however one had been launched from hospital.

Skripal’s spouse died shortly after her arrival in Britain from most cancers, the Guardian newspaper reported. His son died on a current go to to Russia.

A white and yellow police forensics tent coated the bench the place Skripal was taken sick.

Additional reporting by Alistair Smout, William Schomberg, Andy Bruce and Michael Holden in LONDON, Andrew Osborn, Polina Nikolskaya and Margarita Popova in MOSCOW and Mark Hosenball in WASHINGTON; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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