Two people collapsed from an “unknown substance” in the British town of Salisbury on Sunday and were rushed to hospital. They turned out to be Russian colonel Sergei Skripal, 66, who spied for MI6, and a 33-year old woman, later identified as his daughter, Yulia. Both are fighting for their lives. The hospital ward was closed to protect other patients, part of the city sealed off and the Italian Zizzi restaurant where the couple was thought to have dined also shut down. Ten years ago, Skripal was accused of passing secrets to British MI6 officers using a fake rock hidden in a Moscow Park, which agents accessed with a hidden handheld device. Russian secret services exposed the rock in 2006. He was sentenced to 13 years in a high-security prison in August 2006 before being freed in a 2010 deal which saw 10 Russian sleeper agents expelled from the United States. He set up house in Salisbury.
It is suspected that Col. Skripal, who unmasked dozens of Russian agents, may have been the target of a revenge ‘hit’ by colleagues he betrayed. Last year, his son was killed in a car crash in Russia, five years after his wife died in the same way and was buried in Britain. Monday, Kremlin officials said they are open to working with Britain over the incident, and British counterterrorism authorities have made contact with the Salisbury police investigation.