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An ex-colonel of Russia’s Main Intelligence Agency of Sergey Skripal, poisoned in in the center of Salisbury in the evening of March 4, is still struggling for life in the intensive care unit of the local hospital. The police began investigating the incident; British (and not only British) media immediately dubbed the "Litvinenko-2" situation, the Kremlin has already managed to comment on these hints.
Let us try to understand what is known at the moment.
A former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko died on November 23, 2006, in the UK as a result of poisoning with radioactive polonium-210.
Britain believes that he was poisoned by a former GRU officer, the current State Duma deputy, Andrei Lugov, who acted on the orders of the Russian leadership.
Russia has criticized such conclusions, calling them politically biased.
And now, almost 12 years later, a new poisoning happened. And also with the ex-employee of the Russian special services. And also in the UK.
Sergey Skripal was born on June 23, 1951. He served in the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of Russia (GRU), retired in the rank of colonel. After his retirement, he worked in the Household Department of the Russian foreign ministry, continuing to work for MI6. He also had his own business.
In December 2004, Skripal was arrested in Russia and charged with "high treason in the form of espionage", and was convicted. Prosecutors initially argued for fifteen years in prison – Skripal was eventually sentenced to thirteen, in recognition of his poor health and the fact that he co-operated with investigators. The affair was not revealed to the public until after he was sentenced in August 2006. Skripal's lawyers appealed the sentence.
Skripal pleaded guilty. He stated that he was recruited by the British in 1995 and provided them with information about GRU officers and agents in Europe. For this data, he allegedly received more than 100 thousand dollars.
"At the same time, it was stressed that Skripal continued to work for the British special services even after his dismissal from the GRU. As a result, Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in prison in a strict regime colony.
In July 2010, Skripal, along with three other Russian nationals imprisoned for espionage, was pardoned and released as part of a spy exchange for the ten Russian agents arrested in the United States as part of the Illegals Program, after being pardoned by the then President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev.
One of the exchanged Russian agents, Anna Chapman
After the exchange, Skripal received political asylum in the UK.
Sergei Skripal and his companion (according to The Sun, this was his daughter Julia) were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury.
They were taken to hospital with a diagnosis of "poisoning with an unknown substance."
An eyewitness in the BBC commentary said that they looked as if they were delusional:
"The man moved his hands randomly, his eyes were full of hollow, the girl buried her face in him as if she had fallen asleep, apparently fainted, to be honest, they were clearly not themselves," she said.
After hospitalization, visitors to the shopping center and Zizzi restaurant, where Sergei Skripal and his companion could have a dinner, were evacuated. People in chemical protection suits conducted disinfection on the spot.
There is no official conclusion yet, but several media (for example, in The Guardian and The Times), referring to the state sources, claim that they could be poisoned by fentanyl. Fentanyl is an opioid analgesic. It is used mainly as an analgesic in anesthesiology.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Skripal had previously applied to the British police that he feared for his life.
It is known that law enforcement officers and emergency workers who visited the site of the poisoning of Skripal needed medical assistance. The Wiltshire County police reported that help was needed by a "small number" of people and all of them, except for one, have already been released from the hospital.
Sky News, referring to sources, clarified that two policemen were hospitalized.
The Kremlin has already reacted to the incident. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that he cannot comment on Skripal because he "does not have information, confirming the reason for what this person did."
The widow of Alexander Litvinenko says it's "like deja vu" that a former Russian spy was poisoned 11 years after her husband's death.