New Straits Times

Britain warns Russia of robust response

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SALISBURY: Britain warned Russia yesterday of a robust response if the Kremlin was behind the mysterious illness that struck down a former double agent convicted of betraying dozens of spies to British intelligen­ce.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson named Sergei Skripal, once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligen­ce service, and his daughter, Yulia, as the two people who were found unconsciou­s on Sunday on a bench outside a shopping centre here.

Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter were exposed to what police said was an unknown substance. Both are still critically ill in intensive care.

If Moscow was shown to be behind Skripal’s illness, Johnson said, it would be difficult to see how UK representa­tion could go to the World Cup in Russia.

Skripal, who passed the identity of dozens of spies to the MI6 foreign intelligen­ce agency, was given refuge in Britain after he was exchanged in 2010 for Russian spies caught in the West as part of a Cold War-style spy swap at Vienna airport.

Skripal was arrested in 2004 by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) on suspicion of betraying dozens of Russian agents to British intelligen­ce. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 after a secret trial.

Skripal, who was shown wearing a track suit in a cage in court during the sentencing, had admitted betraying agents to MI6 in return for money, some of it paid into a Spanish bank account, Russian media said at the time.

But he was pardoned in 2010 by then-president Dmitry Medvedev, as part of a swap to bring 10 Russian agents held in the United States back to Moscow.

One of the Russian spies exchanged for Skripal was Anna Chapman. She was one of 10 who tried to blend into American society in an apparent bid to get close to power brokers and learn secrets.

 ?? REUTERS PIC ?? An old video grab showing Sergei Skripal being detained by Russian agents.
REUTERS PIC An old video grab showing Sergei Skripal being detained by Russian agents.

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