UK ministers to be briefed on former Russian spy case

International | Written by : IANS| Updated:

UK ministers to be briefed on former Russian spy case

London, March 7 (IANS) Senior British ministers will be briefed later on Wednesday by investigators probing the suspected poisoning of a former Russian double agent and his daughter in Salisbury that has triggered a diplomatic row.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd will chair a meeting in Whitehall to discuss the crisis as Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia continue to fight for their lives in hospital, the Telegraph reported.

Skripal was once a colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence service, but was convicted in 2006 for betraying dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence in exchange for financial rewards. He was granted refuge in the UK in 2010 under a "spy swap". 

Skripal and his daughter were found slumped and unconscious on a bench outside the Maltings shopping centre on Sunday afternoon. They were thought to have been exposed to an "unknown substance".

Scientists at the UK's military research facility at Porton Down were examining the "unknown substance", according to reports.

Met Police counter terrorism officers extended cordons in the city overnight. A bridge was shut on Tuesday evening, while Salisbury's Zizzi restaurant and The Bishop's Mill pub remain sealed off.

Scotland Yard, which took over the investigation from Wiltshire Police, said it was keeping an "open mind" and the case had not been declared a terrorist incident.

Skripal's relatives told the BBC that he believed "the country's special services might come after him at any time".

It also emerged that Skripal's daughter Yulia had previously expressed contempt for Russian President Vladimir Putin in social media posts, accusing him of being "the worst President in the world".

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the UK would respond "robustly" to any evidence of Russian "state responsibility" in the case and described Moscow as a "malign and disruptive force". 

Johnson said the action could include sanctions and asking UK dignitaries not to attend the World Cup in Russia this year. 

The Russian Embassy said it was "completely untrue" to suggest the country's special services were involved and criticized Johnson for speaking "in such a manner as if the investigation was already over".