Critically ill man is former Russian spy

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Media caption “He was doing strange hand motions, looking up to the sky”: What we understand so far

A man who is vitally ill after being exposed to an unknown compound in Wiltshire is a Russian nationwide convicted of spying for The uk, the BBC understands.

Sergei Skripal, 66, was given refuge in the UK following a “spy swap” between the US and Russia this year.

He and a girl, 33, were found unconscious on a along with at a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday.

Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury has been closed by police “as a precaution”.

The particular substance has not been identified, but Open public Health England said there was simply no known risk to the public’s wellness.

Wiltshire Police are usually investigating whether a crime continues to be committed. They said the pair had simply no visible injuries yet had been found unconscious at the Maltings shopping centre.

They have got declared a “major incident” plus multiple agencies are investigating. Someone said it had not been declared as a counter-terrorism incident, but they were keeping a good “open mind”.

Col Skripal, who is a retired Ruskies military intelligence officer, was jailed for 13 years by The ussr in 2006 for spying with regard to Britain.

This individual was convicted of passing the particular identities of Russian intelligence agencies working undercover in Europe towards the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

Russia said Col Skripal had been paid $100, 500 for the information, which he had already been supplying from the 1990s.

He was one of four criminals released by Moscow in exchange pertaining to 10 US spies in 2010, included in a swap. Col Skripal has been later flown to the UK.

He and the woman, who else police said were known to one another, are both in intensive care in Salisbury District Hospital.

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Media caption Witness: “They looked like they’d already been taking something quite strong”

Several locations in the city centre had been cordoned off and teams completely protective gear used hoses in order to decontaminate the street.

The hospital advised people to attend regimen operations and outpatient appointments except if they were contacted. It said the A& E department was open up but busy because of the weather.

On the restaurant closure, law enforcement said Public Health England experienced reiterated the advice that there had been no known risk to the broader public, but as a precaution recommended that if people felt ill they ought to contact the NHS on 111.

“If you are feeling your own or another’s health is certainly significantly deteriorating, ring 999, inch police said.

Nearby neighbours at Sergei Skripal’s home within Salisbury say police arrived about 17: 00 GMT on Weekend and have been there ever since.

They said he had been friendly and in recent years had dropped his wife.

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Media caption Temp Asst Chief Constable Craig Holden: “We are unable to ascertain whether or not a criminal offense has taken place”

Eyewitness Freya Cathedral told the BBC it appeared as if the two people had taken “something quite strong”.

The girl said: “On the bench there was clearly a couple, an older guy and a youthful girl. She was sort of leant in on him, it appeared as if she had passed out probably.

“He was using strange hand movements, looking up towards the sky…

“They appeared so out of it I thought even if I did so step in I wasn’t sure could could help. ”

Image caption Public Health England has not verified what the substance was
Picture caption The hospital’s A& E was closed on Mon while two people were treated

The possibility of a good unexplained substance being involved provides drawn comparisons with the 2006 poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko.

The Russian dissident died working in london in 2006 after drinking herbal tea laced with a radioactive substance.

A public inquiry came to the conclusion that his eliminating had probably been carried out with all the approval of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

The spokesman for the Russian Embassy in the united kingdom, when asked for comment on the occurrence, said: “Neither relatives nor lawful representatives of the said person, neither the British authorities, have tackled the embassy in this regard. ”


Simply by BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera

The parallels are striking with the 2006 situation of Alexander Litvinenko.

He, too, was a previous Russian intelligence officer who acquired come to the UK and was used ill for reasons that were at first unclear.

If so, it took weeks to establish how the cause was deliberate poisoning, and it also took close to a decade before the public inquiry pointed the hand of blame at the Russian condition.

Officials are usually stressing that it is too early this time to take a position on what happened here or the reason why.

The police are certainly not even yet saying a criminal offense has been committed, but if the similarities perform firm up and Moscow is once more found to be in the frame you will have questions about what kind of response could be required – and whether sufficient was done in the past to prevent such activity being repeated.

Former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind said the police approach to the particular Salisbury incident suggested there could be the “very sinister background”.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, he said: “It could indeed potentially have been the particular FSB (Russian intelligence services) or maybe the Kremlin could have been behind it.

“It could have been some type of criminal response for other reasons, or even it could be some form of personal grievance a few individual had against these two individuals or either of them.

“We don’t know at this stage in fact it is not going to be useful to speculate over and above that, ” he added.

What were the particular charges against Col Skripal?

Col Skripal was found guilty of “high treason in the form of espionage” by Moscow’s military court within August 2006. He was removed off all his titles plus awards.

He has been alleged by the Russian security services FSB to have begun working for the particular British secret services while helping in the army in the 1990s.

He had been passing details classified as state secrets plus been paid for the work by MI6, the FSB claimed.

Col Skripal pleaded guilty with his trial and co-operated along with investigators, reports said at the time.

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