One Dead, One Poisoned & 23 Exiled: The Russian Spy Scandal So Far

It began on the afternoon of March 4 in Sailsbury, United Kingdom, when Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench next to a shopping mall. They were moved to hospital where they are now fighting for their lives.

A witness claimed to have seen the woman frothing at the mouth with her eyes “wide open but completely white.” He added that “the man went stiff, his arms stopped moving but he was still looking dead straight.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did not place blame on any parties but said that Russia was “a malign and disruptive force.” He added that the UK would respond “robustly” if any evidence of Russian involvement was found.

Russia denied involvement and said that it had “no information” about what could have caused the incident, and that they were open to working with British police if required.

The Russian Embassy in London said “media reports create an impression of a planned operation by the Russian special services, which is completely untrue.”

Sergei Skripal is a former Russian Colonel who was convicted of spying for the UK. His family told reporters that he believed the Russian Secret Service might come after him at any time. Mr. Skripal’s wife, brother and son have died, some under suspicious circumstances, over the past two years.

Just eight days later, Nikolai Glushkov, 68, who was associated with a leading critic of Vladamir Putin, was found dead in London. Police said his death was “unexplained.”

“A post-mortem examination will be held in due course,” police said at the time. “The death is currently being treated as unexplained.”

He was a good friend of exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, and a friend of former officer of the Russian FSB, Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered in the UK in 2006. Mr. Berezovsky was found dead in his bathroom in 2013; police found no signs of a struggle.

Mr Glushkov commented at the time, saying, “I don't believe Boris died of natural causes. Too many deaths [of Russian exiles] have been happening.”

Mr Berezovsky’s death is one of up to 14 under review by police and MI5, following the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter.

The Prime Minister of the UK, Theresa May, said regarding the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, that it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible. She added that if there was no “credible response” by midnight on March 13, the UK would conclude there was an “unlawful use of force” by Russia.

“Either this was a direct action by the Russian state against our country, or the Russian government lost control of its potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others,” she added.

After a failure to respond credibly, Mrs. May on Wednesday gave 23 Russian diplomats one week to leave the country and has suspended bilateral relations with Moscow and toughened sanctions against Russia. May described it as the biggest single expulsion in 30 years.

She told Parliament that there can be “no alternative conclusion” other than the Russian state being responsible for the actions.

Furthermore, Britain is to freeze Russian assets if there is evidence they are being used to compromise British security, and the government will enact a new targeted power to detain people suspected of hostile state activity at the borders.

The UK is also to increase checks on private flights, customs and freight from Russia.

The Prime Minister confirmed that members of the Royal family would not attend the upcoming World Cup in Russia.

May's statement followed a joint declaration by all 29 NATO countries calling on Russia to “address the UK’s questions” about the attack and warned that any use of nerve agents would be a “threat to international peace and security.”

Spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, said May's statement was “an unprecedentedly crude provocation.”

She added it was “categorically unacceptable and unworthy” and that the UK government had “seriously aggravated” relations by announcing a “whole set of hostile measures.”

Russia has also accused the UK of breaching the chemical weapons convention by refusing to supply a sample of the nerve agent used against Skripal.

Zakharova called the UK “fully-fledged liars." She added that it has no idea about professionalism or diplomacy, and that Russia would take “fitting... symmetrical measures that are completely appropriate for the situation.”

Tom Day

15 March 2018 18:33