Hospitalized for poisoning: attack on ex-spy?

A former Russian double agent and a woman are poisoned with an unknown substance in Great Britain. This is reminiscent of a case in 2006.

Police task forces park in front of a house where the former Russian intelligence officer is believed to live Photo: dpa

A mysterious poisoning of a former double agent is causing a stir in British intelligence circles and brings back bad memories. In the southern English city of Salisbury, two people were taken to hospital over the weekend with suspected poisoning by an "unknown substance" and have been wrestling with death in intensive care ever since. This was announced by the police on Monday. The man is believed to be a former spy from Russia who worked on behalf of the British and came to Britain as part of a prisoner exchange in 2010, according to the BBC. The case was reminiscent of the murder of the Kremlin opponent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactively contaminated tea in 2006.

According to police, the man is about 60 years old. The second person is his companion, who is about 30 years old. The two are in critical condition, according to the statement. They were discovered unconscious by passers-by near a shopping center earlier on Sunday.

According to information from the BBC and the PA agency, the man is former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, who had spied for British intelligence as an officer of the GRU military intelligence service and was sentenced to many years in prison for treason after his unmasking in Moscow. He came to the UK in 2010 as part of an exchange of imprisoned spies between Moscow and Washington.

On Tuesday night, police closed a Salisbury pizzeria "as a precautionary measure" as part of the investigation. Although authorities ruled out a health hazard based on the information available, they said it was a precautionary measure. Nevertheless, the public was asked to report suspected cases of sudden illness immediately.

Police spoke of a "serious incident" and a number of authorities had been called in. It was not yet clear whether a crime had been committed. Television images showed emergency workers in protective suits cleaning the site where the injured were found. "We want to assure people that we take incidents of this nature extremely seriously," the police statement said.

In 2006, the killing of Kremlin opponent Litvinenko had caused a stir in Britain. Unknown persons had poisoned him in London with radioactively contaminated tea. The highly toxic polonium 210 contained in it kills him after three weeks. According to British investigations, former Russian secret service agents were behind the murder of the renegade exile.

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