Kremlin Calls Sudden, Mysterious Sickness of Russian Traitor 'Tragic'


For nearly a decade Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal betrayed his country by stealing information for the British before he was caught.

Arrested in 2004, Skripal was eventually sentenced to 13 years in prison. But then, in 2010, he was freed as part of a controversial spy swap that included 10 Russian operatives arrested by the FBI in America.

Two undercover Russian operatives make contact in Queens, New York. (Courtesy FBI)

Two undercover Russian operatives make contact in Queens, New York. (Courtesy FBI)

It appeared Skripal was finally free, but it may not have been enough. Late Monday local authorities in Salisbury, England reported that a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s "were found unconscious on a bench" in a shopping complex and were being treated for "suspected exposure to an unknown substance."

"Both are currently in a critical condition in intensive care," police said, declaring it a "major incident."

Related: How the FBI Foiled 'The Americans'-Style Plot to Steal Satellite Secrets for Moscow

After British media identified the man as Skripal, suspicion immediately fell on the Russian government -- as it would not be the first time Moscow has allegedly ordered a hit using poison on a traitor in England.

"If it does turn out that Sergei #Skripal was poisoned by #Russia then UK needs to think beyond usual responses (rhetoric, expulsions) & think what new + *asymmetric* options [would] punish Moscow. Russians are ignoring old etiquette of spy game, after all," Russia expert Mark Galeotti wrote on Twitter.

Related: Putin's Nuclear Threat Echoes Cold War Strategy

Former CIA officer John Sipher, who once ran the agency's Russia program, was more succinct, only saying, "Surprise, surprise."

Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters today that the Russian government didn't know anything about the incident.

"You know how he ended up in the West, what actions led to that, I will not repeat it. Now we can see that a tragic situation has happened but nevertheless, we have information about neither the reasons for it nor the activities the man was involved in," Peskov said, according to Russia's TASS news agency.

Peskov said U.K. authorities have not requested the Russian government's assistance in the investigation, but "Moscow is always open for cooperation."

Related: Russians Over Wichita: Could 'Open Skies' Work in Cyberspace?

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