Russian state TV wonders if the harsh English climate poisoned Sergey Skripal

12:50, 9 march 2018

Several unnamed security officials tell The Financial Times that Sergey Skripal, the poisoned former Russian intelligence officer who spied for MI6, continued to work in a limited capacity for the British after he was sent to London in 2010 in a spy swap. He hadn’t been “fully decommissioned,” one source told the newspaper. Another official claimed that Skripal shared his general knowledge about the Russian Military Intelligence Directorate with “friendly foreign services,” explaining how the GRU “infiltrates and recruits” and how to counter its operations. This kind of work is “not uncommon for former agents,” another source told The Financial Times.

Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping mall on Sunday. They remain in critical condition at a hospital in Salisbury, England. One of the first responders is also in serious condition, but he’s awake and talking. All together, the authorities have treated 21 people in the area for reactions to a nerve-agent attack. Health officials told The Associated Press that there’s little wider risk to the public.

Covering the Skripal poisoning on Russian state television, Peryvi Kanalpresenter Kirill Kleimenov made what seemed like a veiled threat to anyone who might be considering the idea of spying for the British: “I [...] don’t wish death on anyone, but in purely educational terms for everyone who dreams of such a career, I’d like to issue a warning. The traitor’s profession is one of the most dangerous in the world. Statistically, it’s far more dangerous than being a drug courier. [...] Alcoholism, drug addiction, stress, nervous breakdowns, and depression are the inevitable occupational diseases of a traitor.” Kleimenov even specified that potential traitors definitely shouldn’t resettle in Britain. “Something’s wrong over there. Maybe it’s the climate.”

Who was Sergey Skripal when he worked for the GRU? 

He joined the Military Intelligence Directorate when it was still Soviet. In 1995, he reportedly “got greedy” and started an illegal wine-import business that led him to an MI6 recruiter. For the next nine years, he fed intelligence to the British about his Russian colleagues and about the general structure of the GRU. In December 2004, he was arrested for espionage, and in August 2006 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Four years later, he was traded to the Brits with three other spies for 10 Russian “sleeper agents” caught in the U.S.