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U.K. reacts after Russian spy is suspected of being poisoned

By Sheetal Sukhija, St Petersburg News
07 Mar 2018, 13:34 GMT+10

LONDON, U.K. - The suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, who fell critically ill in the U.K., after exposure to an unknown substance has led to a threat from the U.K.

On Tuesday, British authorities said that they are trying to figure out what sickened the former Russian spy who is believed to be fighting for his life after what police described as illness triggered after exposure to an unknown substance.

Authorities also said that the counter-terrorism police took over the investigation of the illness of Sergei Skripal.

Skripal, who was a former Russian army colonel and spy, moved to the U.K. in 2010. 

Media reports revealed that in 2004, Skripal was arrested in Russia and sentenced to prison for spying for Britain. 

A few years later, in 2010, he was released in a prisoner exchange, in return for ten Russian agents who were operating in the U.S.

According to reports, the infamous Anna Chapman was part of this exchange.

Later, Skripal settled in Salisbury and seems to have led a quiet life there, until now.

On Tuesday, he continued to remain in the hospital at the Salisbury hospital following his mysterious illness.

The former spy was capture on a security camera video, walking alongside a woman, identified as his 33-year-old daughter Yulia. 

The duo were pictured walking toward downtown Salisbury on Sunday, and reports noted that half an hour later, they were both found collapsed on a bench. 

Jaime Paine, who found the couple and alerted police told the local media, “When she was on the floor, her eyes were just completely white. They were wide open but just white and (she was) frothing at the mouth. Then the man went stiff. His arms stopped moving, but he's still looking dead straight.”

According to the British media, police teams in hazmat suits have been scouring the places Skripal had been in Salisbury, an Italian restaurant and a pub, for the past 36 hours.

Hours later, the London Metropolitan Police confirmed that the counter-terrorism division was taking over as the lead agency in the investigation, "due to the unusual circumstances" of the case.

The police said in a statement, “It has not been declared a terrorist incident and at this stage, we are keeping an open mind as to what happened.”

Later, Mark Rowley, head of U.K. counter-terrorism police said in a statement, “The critical thing is to get to the bottom of what's caused this illness as quickly as possible. As you'd expect, the special resources that work within the counter-terrorism network that I coordinate across the country and other partners are working with Wiltshire police.”

Meanwhile, the Wiltshire police said in a statement earlier in the day that, “a small number of emergency services personnel were assessed immediately after the incident and all but one have been released from the hospital.” 

The police said that there was no suspected danger to the public.

In a brief statement, Russia has said that it is ready to help with the investigation if asked.

However, Britain warned Russian on Tuesday that it would response strictly if the Kremlin was behind the mysterious illness of the former double agent.

In a statement, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the British parliament, “We don’t know exactly what has taken place in Salisbury, but if it’s as bad as it looks, it is another crime in the litany of crimes that we can lay at Russia’s door. It is clear that Russia, I’m afraid, is now in many respects a malign and disruptive force, and the U.K. is in the lead across the world in trying to counteract that activity.”

Johnson said that “if Moscow was shown to be behind Skripal’s illness, it would be difficult to see how U.K. representation could go to the World Cup in Russia in a normal way.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Johnson’s comments were “wild.”

Further, the Russian government said in an official statement that it had no information about the incident.

Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said accusations of Kremlin involvement “weren’t long in coming.”

Peskov said, “You know how he ended up in the West, what actions and decisions led him there.”

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