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Police stand guard outside a restaurant in England where a former Russian spy was believed to have been poisoned Police stand guard outside a restaurant in England where a former Russian spy was believed to have been poisoned   (AFP or licensors)

Britain: Former Russian spy attacked with nerve agent

A former Russian spy and his daughter are in hospital in England, after an apparent attempt on their lives.

By Stefan J. Bos

British police say a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned in Britain with a nerve agent amid rising tensions with Russia.

Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley told reporters that Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were specifically targeted.

He said they collapsed in Salisbury on Sunday after they became victims of a chemical attack. "This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent," he confirmed.

"As you know these two people remain critically ill in hospital. Sadly, also, a police officer who was one of the first to attend the scene and respond to the incident is now also in a serious condition in hospital." 

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd later explained that the former Russian spy and his daughter remain in a critical but stable condition.

Russia behind attack?
 

She declined to say if she believed Russia was behind the attack. But the official warned that Britain would "have a plan in place" if that is the case. Moscow has denied it was involved and even offered to cooperate in the investigation.

Skripal, a former colonel in Russia's military intelligence service, was convicted in 2006 of spying for Britain and imprisoned.

He was freed in 2010 as part of a widely publicized spy swap in which the U.S. agreed to hand over ten members of a Russian sleeper cell found operating in America in return for four Russians convicted of spying for the West.

The Skripal case resembles the 2006 killing of another former Russian spy. Alexander Litvinenko. He was poisoned in London with radioactive polonium-210.

The banned VX nerve agent that is believed to have been used against Skripal was also administered to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader last year in Malaysia.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report
08 March 2018, 17:10