It’s happened again. Another Russian spy who’s taken up residence in the West has been poisoned under mysterious circumstances. At this hour, he is in intensive care, his fate undetermined. Worse, his daughter was poisoned with him and likewise is in dire condition. To anyone acquainted with what the Kremlin terms wetwork, this all looks depressingly familiar.
His name is Sergei Skripal, and he is a 66-year-old pensioner who once was a career officer in Russian military intelligence, known as GRU. In the mid-1990s, he became a mole for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, popularly known as MI6. Until he retired from GRU in 1999 as a colonel, Skripal passed SIS classified information in exchange for money. The secrets he shared with British spies included the true identities of Russian intelligence operatives in Europe.
Arrested in 2004, Skripal was branded a traitor, and he received a 13-year prison sentence for his betrayal—a relatively light sentence in Russia, an indication that Skripal had cooperated with the Federal Security Service (FSB) after his arrest. His fate was grim until he was suddenly released in the summer of 2010 and sent to Britain, a free man. This was part of the exchange of 10 Illegals, deep-cover Russian spies who were arrested by the FBI as part of Operation Ghost Stories. Pardoned before he departed Russia, Skripal started a new life in the United Kindgom.
That all came crashing down last Sunday, when Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in a shopping area of the provincial city of Salisbury in southern England, 100 miles southwest of London. The pair were whisked off to intensive care, and what agent was used to poison them remains undetermined at this hour. Theories that they were sprayed in the face with a lethal heavy metal remain speculation. Given the Kremlin’s longstanding acumen in weaponizing poisons, some of them obscure and difficult to trace, it may be some time before solid answers appear in this mysterious case.
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