Ex-Russian spy critically ill after suspected poisoning

A former Russian spy who worked for Britain is in a critical condition in a Salisbury hospital on Monday after being exposed to an “unknown substance,” media say.

Sergei Skripal, 66, a former intelligence agent with the FSB, was found unconscious along with a 33-year-old woman on a bench at the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Sunday afternoon.

“The pair are currently being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance and are in a critical condition in intensive care,” said Wiltshire police on Twitter on Monday.

Skripal and the unnamed woman had no visible injuries on their bodies, they said.

Skripal was convicted in Russia in 2006 on charges of spying for Britain and passing state secrets including names of several dozen Russian agents working in Europe.

He was sentenced to 13 years. He arrived in the UK in 2010 as part of a Cold War-style spy exchange in Vienna.

Sunday’s incident comes 12 years after a former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned after he drank a cup of tea laced with radioactive polonium in a London hotel soon after meeting the killers.

Relations between Britain and Russia were strained after that incident. A British inquiry said the “hit” was probably approved by President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, Wiltshire police said they are conducting extensive enquiries to determine what led to the couple sitting on the bench to fall unconscious and whether any criminal activity was involved.