Rus­sia tracked emails of poi­soned spy’s daugh­ter

Of­fi­cial says nerve agent found on vic­tim’s door

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - NEWS - Jane Onyanga-Omara

LON­DON — Rus­sia mon­i­tored emails for at least five years of the daugh­ter of a Rus­sian for­mer spy who was poi­soned in Eng­land last month, a Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial said in a newly-re­leased doc­u­ment.

Mark Sed­will, the United King­dom’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, made the al­le­ga­tion in a let­ter to NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg. The Bri­tish govern­ment made the let­ter pub­lic Fri­day.

Sergei Skri­pal, 66, and his daugh­ter Yu­lia, 33, were found un­re­spon­sive on a bench in Sal­is­bury, south­ern Eng­land, on March 4. Bri­tain says they were poi­soned with the nerve agent Novi­chok and blames Rus­sia. The Krem­lin de­nies any in­volve­ment.

“I would like to share with you and Al­lies fur­ther in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing our as­sess­ment that it is highly likely that the Rus­sian state was re­spon­si­ble for the Sal­is­bury at­tack,” Sed­will wrote in the let­ter. “Only Rus­sia has the tech­ni­cal means, op­er­a­tional ex­pe­ri­ence and the mo­tive . ... There is no plau­si­ble al­ter­na­tive ex­pla­na­tion.”

Sed­will said Bri­tain had in­for­ma­tion that Rus­sian cy­ber spe­cial­ists mon­i­tored Yu­lia’s emails since at least 2013.

A “com­bi­na­tion of cred­i­ble open­source re­port­ing and in­tel­li­gence” shows that the So­viet Union de­vel­oped new “fourth gen­er­a­tion” nerve agents known as Novi­choks in the 1980s, the let­ter said.

“Within the last decade, Rus­sia has pro­duced and stock­piled small quan­ti­ties of Novi­choks,” Sed­will added.

He said the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of Novi­chok was found on Sergei Skri­pal’s front door.

Rus­sia has “a proven record of con­duct­ing state-spon­sored as­sas­si­na­tion,” Sed­will wrote, cit­ing as an ex­am­ple the 2006 poi­son­ing death in Lon­don of Alexan­der Litvi­nenko, a for­mer Rus­sian spy. The poi­son, polo­nium-210, is thought to have been given to him in a cup of tea at a ho­tel in Lon­don. A Bri­tish pub­lic in­quiry con­cluded in 2016 that Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin prob­a­bly ap­proved the killing. Rus­sia de­nied any in­volve­ment in Litvi­nenko’s death.

Sergei Skri­pal, a for­mer mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, was jailed in 2004 for sell­ing state se­crets to Bri­tain. He was re­leased as part of a spy swap and moved to Sal­is­bury in 2010.

“It is highly likely that the Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence ser­vices view at least some of its defectors as le­git­i­mate tar­gets for de­fec­tion,” Sed­will wrote.

Dozens of coun­tries and NATO have expel­led more than 150 Rus­sian diplo­mats over the poi­son­ing, and Rus­sia has re­tal­i­ated by ex­pelling a num­ber of for­eign en­voys.

Yu­lia was dis­charged from Sal­is­bury Dis­trict Hospi­tal this week while her fa­ther re­mains in the hospi­tal.

The Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) — the in­ter­na­tional chem­i­cal watch­dog — con­firmed on Thurs­day that the Skri­pals were poi­soned with a toxic chem­i­cal of “high pu­rity.”

AP

Emails of Yu­lia Skri­pal, daugh­ter of ex-spy Sergei Skri­pal, have been mon­i­tored in Rus­sia since at least 2013, a Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial says.

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