A 66-year-old former Russian spy and his 33-year-old daughter have been hospitalized with a serious illness in England. Sergey Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, have been hospitalized in Salisbury, a cathedral city in Wilshire, England, about ninety miles southwest of London, since Sunday, when they were found slumped, unconscious on a bench.
Police in England are now treating the case as attempted murder.
Authorities say the two are suffering from “exposure to a nerve agent.” Skripal’s being described as being “seriously ill;” authorities say his condition has worsened since being admitted to hospital.
A third victim, a British Detective that visited Skripal’s home at the outset of the investigation has also been hospitalized. His condition has been described as serious.
Skripal is a former Russian military intelligence officer who was convicted in Russia of spying for the British in 2006. He was released in 2010 as part of a negotiated spy swap between the two nations, and had been living in Salisbury ever since.
Scientists have reportedly identified the nerve agent used but have declined to reveal what it is.
Skripal is not the first former Russian spy to be poisoned on British soil. In 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, a former officer with the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, fell critically ill after allegedly drinking a cup of poisoned tea. He died roughly one month later in University College Hospital in London after, his condition had gotten progressively worse.
Authorities would later determine the cause of death to be radioactive polonium-210, one of deadliest toxins known to man.
Litvinenko was arrested in 1998 after exposing a plot to assassinate Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky. He would write a book upon his release nine months later that detailed a false-flag operation run by the FSB in which apartment buildings were bombed in three Russian cities and Chechen separatists were blamed. They were used as pretext for the invasion of Chechnya in 1999.
Litvinenko sought was granted asylum in the UK in 2000. He had also been granted British citizenship in 2006. Upon his death it was revealed that he had been drawing a salary from MI6, the British secret service.
It is believed Litvinenko was poisoned while drinking tea at a London hotel with two former Russian agents. It was later learned that he had been preparing to fly to Spain to investigate Russian mafia links there, and was also investigating the death of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot in an elevator in her Moscow apartment building a month before Litvinenko was allegedly poisoned.
Politkovskaya had gained renown for exposing alleged abuses in Chechnya by Russian forces.
The Russian government has not commented on Skripal’s hospitalization except to say that it is “ready to consider” assisting in any investigation. “Whether it’s [about] poisoning of some British subjects, whether it’s rumors about interference in the U.S. election campaign,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed an “appropriate” response if Russia is found to be responsible for the poisoning of Skripal and his daughter.