World

Russian Double Agent Poisoned on British Soil

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel of Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, looks on inside the defendants’ cage as he attends a hearing at the Moscow military district court, Russia August 9, 2006. (Kommersant/Yuri Senatorov via Reuters)

A former Russian spy living in England was poisoned along with his daughter on Sunday, British officials have confirmed.

While officials maintain they have not yet identified the perpetrator, they have confirmed that a rare nerve agent was used in the attack, prompting speculation that a state government, likely Russia, is responsible.

The spy, Sergei Skripal, 66, was convicted for leaking information to British intelligence services in 2006 while serving as a colonel in Russian military intelligence; he was turned over to the British government in 2010 in a prisoner swap.

Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia — both of whom remain in critical condition — were “targeted specifically,” according to British authorities.

“This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent,” said Mark Rowley, Britain’s chief police official for counterterrorism and international security.

Skripal’s brother and son both died in the last two years in what family members claim were mysterious circumstances.

The Kremlin denied any involvement in the incident, calling it an attempt to further divide Russia and the United Kingdom.

Should authorities conclude Moscow is responsible, it would not be the first attack of its kind in the U.K. Former Russian agent, and outspoken Putin critic, Alexander Litvinenko, was poisoned with a rare metal in London in 2006; British authorities determined Moscow was responsible for the assassination roughly ten years later.

It remains unclear exactly what nerve toxin was used in what authorities are now treating as an attempted murder, but it is clear that whatever agent was employed requires significant expertise to manufacture and store.

“This needs expertise and a special place to make it or you will kill yourself. It’s only a small amount, but you don’t make this in your kitchen,” one unnamed chemical-weapons expert told The Guardian.

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