Being a spy comes with certain occupational hazards. The clandestine nature of the work, though, means hose hazards rarely make headlines. This one has. A spy, fearing for his life, went to police. Shortly after, he was rushed to a hospital suffering from what many assume is a case of poisoning.
The Russian, Sergei Skripal, became ill in Salisbury, England Monday. Police say Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter were exposed to an “unknown substance.”
Skripal, a 66-year-old who had ties to Russia’s FSB intelligence agency, was arrested in 2004 for allegedly giving information to Britain. Skripal reportedly gave the British government information about the identities of Russian spies working throughout Europe. He’d been sent back to Britain in a prisoner exchange in 2010.
Skripal was found outside of an Italian restaurant, which has since been closed as part of the investigation.
“Police said that Skripal and the younger woman, later identified as his daughter Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench, and were both in critical condition at a local intensive care unit,” The New York Daily News writes.
The police haven’t confirmed that the incident is a criminal act of poisoning, though. Yet the timing is odd, as Skripal had been in contact with authorities about his safety.
It wouldn’t be the first time a former spy had been assassinated. In 2016, Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian spy with ties to Britain’s MI6, was poisoned with radioactive polonium. The substance was put in his tea.
Prosecuting such crimes is difficult. “An inquiry published in 2016 said that the killing, believed to have taken place at a London hotel was ‘probably’ approved by FSB head Nikolai Patrushev and Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB agent,” NYDN writes.
Russia, however, continues to deny their involvement in these incidents. Dmitry Peskov, speaking on behalf of the Russian government, called the poisoning a “tragic situation.”
The UK’s Foreign Minister, Boris Johnson, has promised to respond “robustly” to the incident. What that means, though, remains uncertain, especially if it is determined to have been a state sponsored assassination.
Meanwhile, the local authorities in Wiltshire county have been relieved of their duties in the investigation. The UK’s Counter Terrorism Policing Network has taken over.