Ex-Russian spy ill in the UK from ‘unknown substance’
A former Russian spy and a woman were in critical condition at a British hospital Monday, after becoming sick from an “unknown substance,” according to police and the BBC.
The incident is reminiscent of the 2006 poisoning death of another former Russian agent, Alexander Litvinenko, after he was exposed to a rare radioactive isotope, polonium-210.
The BBC identified the man in critical condition as Sergei Skripal, 66, a former Russian military intelligence colonel who was sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison in Russia for spying for Britain. Skripal was freed in 2010 as part of a U. S.-Russian spy swap and moved to Britain.
Wiltshire police said in a statement that a man in his 60s and woman in her 30s, who apparently knew eaach other, were found on a bench at a supermarket in Salisbury, about 90 miles west of London. The pair, who police did not identify, were being treated for exposure to “an unknown substance,” the statement said.
“Because we are still at the very early stages of the investigation, we are unable to ascertain whether or not a crime has taken place,” Craig Holden, the temporary assistant chief constable, said in the statement.
Both people were being treated at Salisbury District Hospital. The BBC posted photos of workers in bright yellow hazardous materials suits washing the area where the two were found.
Skripal was previously accused by the Russian security service, the FSB, of passing secrets to the British intelligence agency MI6 for money during the 1990s.
The poisoning of Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin who sought asylum in Britain, came after he assisted British intelligence and Spanish corruption investigators.
British investigators traced his poisoning to two Russians who allegedly left a radioactive trail through Europe that led to a London hotel, where they were accused of pouring the substance into Litvinenko’s tea.
An official British inquiry concluded in 2016 that Putin probably approved the assassination. The Kremlin adamantly denies that accusation.
Putin is running for re-election March 18 and is the overwhelming favorite to win.
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