Ex-spy Sergei Skripal may have been ambushed by attackers who sprayed him with poison in the street.
Investigators suspect the Russian army colonel collapsed so quickly because he inhaled the deadly chemical.
One line of inquiry is that his daughter Yulia is ‘collateral damage’, coming into contact with the substance as she attempted to help him.
Authorities are also hunting a blonde woman with a red handbag who was captured on CCTV 20 minutes before Mr Skripal and his daughter were found collapsed on a bench, the Sun reports.
It was initially thought the footage showed Yulia, but a witness who saw her with her father hours before they collapsed insisted she had reddish brown, not blonde hair, according to the newspaper.
Another line of inquiry investigators are looking into is the possibility Mr Skripal’s drink was spiked at a pub he and is daughter visited shortly before they collapsed.
Last night, both were fighting for their lives in hospital and remained in a critical condition.
The incident is being treated as an assassination attempted linked to the Kremlin, Whitehall sources confirmed to The Times.
Sergei Skripal, 66, (left, in 2006) and his daughter Yulia, 33, (right) are critically ill in hospital after being exposed to an unknown substance
Forensic teams examined the scene in Salisbury last night as investigators suspect the Russian army colonel Sergei Skripal collapsed so quickly because he inhaled a deadly chemical
But other theories, including that a rival faction may want to frame Russia for the incident – have yet to be ruled out.
The deaths of Mr Skripal’s wife from cancer in 2012 and his son’s death in St. Petersburg last year will be looked into as part of the investigation, according to The Times.
Police in Salisbury have widened their cordon to the site where Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, were taken ill, expanding it beyond the restaurant and pub which were initially closed off, while forensic teams continued to examine the scene.
Firefighters in Hazmat suits were last night sent to an ambulance base and were carrying out an inspection of the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury town centre, with the restaurant closed since Monday morning.
It is not clear when the couple were confronted, having left a branch of Italian restaurant chain Zizzi between 2pm and 3pm and being found on a bench overlooking the Avon shorly after 4pm.
They had also visited a pub called The Mill.
Several bystanders went to their aid as Mr Skripal fell into a catatonic state and Yulia appeared to suffer a fit on the ground.
Up to ten emergency service workers were also assessed by medical staff after treating the Skripals, of whom one remained in hospital last night.
Counter-terror detectives from Scotland Yard have assumed control of the probe, which has taken on political and international significance, and led to a meeting of the National Security Council.
Police in Salisbury have widened their cordon beyond the restaurant and pub which were initially closed off, while forensic teams in protective gear investigate the scene
The police investigation centres on Salisbury’s Zizzi restaurant, a nearby pub and the park where Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on Sunday
Investigators next to a police tent outside the Mill pub at the Maltings in Salisbury near to where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was found critically ill
The cordon in Salisbury was extended after a Zizzi restaurant and a pub called The Mill were closed, suggesting Mr Skripal and his daughter visited multiple locations
An NHS incident response unit ambulance is parked outside The Mill pub and hotel as a police cordon has been extended aground the area where Mr Skripal and his daughter were taken ill
Police tonight widened the police cordon and now have forensic teams entering the properties. Police have not confirmed the reason for extending the cordon
Some emergency workers had complained of suffering itchy eyes and difficulty breathing, suggesting some of the mystery poison may have remained in the air, while their colleagues put on full biohazard suits and respirators.
Tests on the substance involved are being carried out at the defence research centre at Porton Down.
Two police officers who were among the first to come into contact with Mr Skripal and his daughter were also admitted to hospital after suffering itchy eyes, rashes and wheezing on Sunday.
Up to 10 other people suffered symptoms including vomiting.
Toxicologists will examine samples of blood, urine and tissue taken from the victims at Salisbury District Hospital.
One former radiation biologist said the ‘considerable rapidity’ of their decline suggested a chemical source. ‘Decontamination at the scene would also suggest that possibility,’ he added.
‘However, we shouldn’t totally ignore biological contamination of food or the environment. However, the latter would have caused a wider response from Public Health England and the authorities.’
Former Metropolitan Police commander Bob Broadhurst said police and health staff will be working in tandem to identify the poison.
‘It overlaps in terms of public safety between the investigative police world and the forensic medical world,’ he said.
‘What was the cause of this illness? Was it a poison, and if so how did he ingest it? Who else is potentially at risk? You will have almost a parallel investigation – detectives and doctors trying to find cause and effect.’
Police sealed off the restaurant in relation to the suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy and were continuing investigations last night
Police are seen in protective suits near The Mill pub and hotel as a cordon is extended around the area in Salisbury after the former spy and his daughter were taken ill
Professor Alastair Hay of Leeds University said it could take some time before the test results are known.
‘Individuals cannot provide unlimited amounts of blood for testing so investigations will be guided by the clinical team,’ Professor Hay said.
‘Some tests are rapid and some [poison] candidates will be looked at quickly. But if the cause is more unusual, body fluids will require significant clean-up preparation before they can be put in an instrument. So this could take a day or several days.’
‘Police had a good look at the footage and were interested in these two people. It was the only image they took away,’ said Cain Prince, 28, the manager of a nearby gym.
‘They wanted a list of everyone in the gym between 3pm and 4pm as well.’
Mr Skripal was jailed in Moscow for selling Russian secrets more than a decade ago – but had set up home in the south of England after a Cold War-style ‘spy swap’ with Russian agents including Anna Chapman.
But a relative of Mr Skripal has said he knew he would not escape his past that easily.
He told BBC Russia: ‘From the first day he knew it would end badly, and that he would not be left alone’.
‘They both remain in a critical condition and our thoughts and best wishes remain with their families during this difficult time,’ said Kier Pritchard, temporary chief constable of Wiltshire Police.
Police seal off the back of The Mill, a Greene King pub where Mr Skripal and his daughter are believed to have attended, as the police cordon is extended in Salisbury
Police in protective suits and gas masks are seen inside Zizzi’s restaurant in Salisbury, where Mr Skripal and his daughter visited before being taken ill
Police officers are pictured with a vehicle outside the home of Sergei Skripal yesterday
He said: ‘Since Sunday, we have had access to a wide range of specialist resources and services that have been working alongside us.
‘You will be aware that this afternoon, the Metropolitan Police have confirmed that, due to the unusual circumstances, the Counter Terrorism network will now be leading this investigation, as it has the specialist expertise to do so.
‘It is important to reiterate that they have not declared it as a terrorist incident and at this stage they are keeping an open mind as to what happened.
‘The advice from Public Health England remains that, based on the evidence to date, currently there doesn’t appear to be any immediate risk to the public.’
Home Secretary Amber Rudd will chair a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee Cobra on Wednesday morning to discuss the ongoing investigation into the incident in Salisbury.
Mr Skripal is a former army colonel who was jailed in Russia for spying for MI6. His daughter is understood to be a 33-year-old businesswoman who has worked for Nike and Pepsico
Two fire engines and a mobile control unit were at the ambulance base at Solstice Park in Amesbury, about seven miles from Salisbury.
It is believed crews who attended the emergency call out on Sunday were among the first responders who later had hospital treatment after coming into contact with Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Witness Freya Church, 27, who later spotted the pair ‘slumped’ and ‘passed out’ on the bench, said the couple pictured in the CCTV images released yesterday were ‘100%’ the people she saw.
She told the BBC: ‘On the bench there was a couple, an older guy and a younger girl. She was sort of leaned in on him. It looked like she had passed out, maybe.’
‘He was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky,’ she said.
‘I felt anxious, I felt like I should step in, but to be honest they looked so out of it that I thought even if I did step in, I wasn’t sure how I could help. So I just left them. But it looked like they’d been taking something quite strong.’
Police officers man a cordon near a forensic tent where Sergei Skripal, 66 and his daughter Yulia Skripal, in her 30s, were found unconscious in Salisbury town centre
Wiltshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Kier Pritchard speaking at a press conference today, where he confirmed both patients remained in a critical condition
Freya Church, 27, who spotted the pair ‘slumped’ and ‘passed out’ on the bench told the Press Association the couple in the CCTV images were ‘100%’ the people she saw on Sunday
Kier Pritchard addressed reporters today at a press conference outside Wiltshire Police Headquarters in Devizes
Witness Freya Church walks with a policeman near the place in Salisbury where the two people were found unconscious
Another witness, Jamie Paine, told BBC News: ‘Both her legs came together.
‘Her eyes were just completely wide, they were wide open and frothing at the mouth, and then the man went stiff and his arms stopped moving and still looking dead straight.
‘Then the man started throwing up, but it was weird, it wasn’t like normally when someone throws up.
‘You couldn’t see that he was visually throwing up. His throat wasn’t moving, vomit was just pouring out of his mouth.’
The incident has also led to comparisons to the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a Putin critic who was killed with polonium-laced tea in a Mayfair hotel in 2006.
Mr Skripal, 66, was convicted in Russia of receiving £78,000 in exchange for taking huge risks to pass classified information to MI6.
After being brought to England in a 2010 spy swap, he moved into a £350,000 house in Salisbury.
His daughter Yulia is a businesswoman who has worked for Nike and PepsiCo in Russia, The Daily Telegraph reported.
She is understood to make frequent visits to see her father in the UK.
Mr Skripal is understood to have suffered a double family tragedy after his son, Alexandr, died last year – five years after Mr Skripal’s wife, Lyudmila, passed away from of cancer.
Mystery surrounds the cause of death for both, with his wife’s death certificate claiming she died of cancer but neighbours saying it was in a car crash.
Police stand outside an address believed to be the home of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury
This CCTV is thought to show the movements of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old companion shortly before they were the victims of a suspected poisoning
A police tent has been put up over the park bench where the pair appeared ‘catatonic’
Police also threw a cordon around a nearby pub as they desperately trying to piece together where the father and daughter had been and who else might be affected
A policeman stands outside The Mill pub in Salisbury yesterday, which has been sealed off in connection with the incident
The inside and outside of The Mill pub in Salisbury are pictured after it was sealed off by police
Mr Skripal’s cleaner said: ‘I had known his daughter was coming over to the UK from Russia because he had asked me to clean her room the week before but I never saw her.’
She said of Mr Skripal: ‘He is a lovely, friendly and kind-hearted man and I was shocked when I found out it was him who was in hospital.
‘I knew he was in the Russian army as we chatted a bit but he never said he was spy, but at the end of the day he was working for us so I don’t care really.
‘He’s a great guy. He had friends and he loved music and he would go and talk to the neighbours sometimes but he mostly kept himself to himself.’
It was suggested that Vladimir Putin would never have forgiven Mr Skripal following his treason conviction. The Russian President once said: ‘Traitors always end in a bad way. Usually from a drinking habit, or from drugs, right in the street.’
Police arrived at Skripal’s home in Salisbury on Sunday evening and have remained there since
The entrance to the accident and emergency department at Salisbury District Hospital where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was taken for treatment
A cordon around a police car near the entrance to the accident and emergency department at Salisbury District Hospital is pictured on Tuesday
It was suggested that Vladimir Putin (pictured yesterday) would never have forgiven Mr Skripal following his treason conviction
Russian president Vladimir Putin (pictured yesterday) once hinted at how his country deals with spies by insisting that ‘traitors always end in a bad way’
‘Poisoned’ agent may have worked with ‘Trump dossier’ spy
The Russian former double-agent now fighting for his life in hospital may have worked with Christopher Steele, the ex-MI6 spy who compiled a controversial dossier on Donald Trump, it has emerged.
Sergei Skripal was accused by Russia of spying for MI6 before he was brought to Britain as part of a Cold War-style spy swap in Vienna in 2010.
Christopher Steele, pictured above, was one of MI6’s top Russia experts, having spent at least three years working in Moscow.
During his years in the Russian capital, he had established personal contacts with KGB agents, and operatives of its successor agency the FSB.
Mr Steele quit MI6 in 2009 to set up his own so-called ‘spies-for-hire’ firm, Orbis Business Intelligence.
It was through this firm that he is understood to have worked on a dossier on President’s Trump alleged links to Russia, which included explosive allegations including lurid sex claims and claims the Kremlin had sought to ‘cultivate’ Mr Trump.
It is likely that during his time working in Russia, Steele would have got to know Skripal, The Times reported. It is thought Mr Steele may be helping police with their investigation.
A spray-style attack would have disturbing echoes of the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother at Kuala Lumpur airport last year.
Kim Jong-nam was poisoned by VX nerve agent, which was sprayed in his face by two young women who claimed afterwards that they thought it was a prank. Experts have already said it is highly unlikely that a radioactive poison was involved in the attack on the Skripals because of the speed with which they were struck down.
But the Russian Embassy in London refuted what it called ‘various speculations which ultimately lead to a vilification of Russia’.
Diplomats urged police to reveal more about the incident, adding: ‘We believe that the British authorities and law enforcement bodies should step in immediately and inform the Embassy and the British society about the actual circumstances of this incident, so as to end the demonisation of Russia. With this in mind, the Embassy has turned to the Foreign Office for clarifications.’
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Tuesday dismissed Johnson’s remarks about a possible Russian involvement as ‘wild.’
‘I think we have to remember that Russian exiles are not immortal,’ Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police Service’s assistant commissioner for counterterrorism, told the BBC.
‘They do all die and there can be a tendency for some conspiracy theories. But likewise we have to be alive to the fact of state threats, as illustrated by the Litvinenko case.’
Friends of Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned at a London hotel in 2006 with polonium-210, said it had the hallmarks of a Kremlin-backed attack.
Last night, Alexander Litvinenko’s widow Marina told the Telegraph: ‘It looks similar to what happened to my husband but we need more information. We need to know the substance. Was it radioactive?’
Detectives are trying to work out if Skripal was given the mystery substance in the restaurant
The restaurant chain has promised to do all it can to assistant the huge police investigation
Police experts have scoured the restaurant in the centre of Salisbury during their investigation
While officials said there was ‘no known risk’ to public health from the incident, if anyone feels ill they should contact 111. Pictured, police inside the Zizzi restaurant
Boris Johnson says England could boycott the World Cup in Russia over suspected attempt to poison a former spy
Britain could boycott the World Cup in Russia this summer if the Kremlin is shown to be responsible for a suspected assassination attempt of an ex-spy, Boris Johnson suggested.
The Foreign Secretary said UK representation at the tournament would be ‘difficult to see’ as he threatened a range of new sanctions over what is suspected to be a bid to kill Sergei Skripal, 66, in Salisbury on Sunday.
Mr Johnson said: ‘If things turn out to be as many members suspect that they are… I think we will have to have a serious conversation about our engagement with Russia.
‘And for my part I think it will be difficult to see how, thinking ahead to the World Cup this summer, I think it would be difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way.
‘We will certainly have to consider that.’
Noting that the case has ‘echoes’ of the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian dissident who was fatally poisoned in London in 2006, Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘While it would be wrong to prejudge the investigation, I can reassure the House that should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility, then Her Majesty’s Government will respond appropriately and robustly.’
Mr Johnson said it was clear that Russia is now ‘in many respects a malign and disruptive force and the UK is in the lead across the world in trying to counteract that activity’.
Sources close to Mr Johnson later insisted he was referring to officials and dignitaries attending the tournament and not footballers.
The World Cup begins in Russia in June. England are the only UK team to have qualified to take part.
The Russian Embassy posted a short response to Mr Johnson’s address to MPs, saying ironically: ‘We are impressed by the statement of the Foreign Secretary in Parliament today. The Foreign Secretary spoke in such a manner as if the investigation was already over and Russia was found responsible for what had happened in Salisbury.’
The statement continued: ‘We regret that instead of a proper official clarification on the issue the Foreign Secretary chose to threaten Russia with retribution. Looks like the script of yet another anti-Russian campaign has been already written.’
Salisbury MP John Glen said Skripal bought a house in the city in 2011 before tragedy befell his family.
‘His wife died a year after he settled there and his son subsequently died last year,’ Mr Glen said.
He tweeted later in the evening to say a ‘terrible human tragedy’ had taken place in Salisbury.
‘My thoughts and prayers this evening are with my constituent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia,’ he said.
‘We still do not know all the facts but we do know that a terrible human tragedy took place on the streets of Salisbury on Sunday.’
Emergency services initially believed Mr Skripal and his daughter had taken fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more potent than herion that has caused thousands of deaths among drug addicts worldwide.
A tiny dose of the synthetic opioid, which can be purchased online via the dark web, would prove fatal.
Passers by and paramedics assumed the duo were high on fentanyl, a super strength painkiller causing thousands of deaths among drug addicts, but this was later linked to an unconnected incident involving another couple in the shopping centre.
Another witness said of Mr Skripal: ‘He looked very ill, he was being sick – he did not look well at all. He was conscious at the time.’
She said of his daughter: She was surrounded by paramedics and he was a few minutes after I arrived as well.’
Georgia Pridham, 25, also saw the couple slumped on the bench. She told The Telegraph: ‘He was quite smartly dressed. He had his palms up to the sky as if he was shrugging and was staring at the building in front of him. He had a woman sat next to him on the bench who was slumped on his shoulder.’
She added: ‘He was staring dead straight. He was conscious but it was like he was frozen and slightly rocking back and forward’.
Igor Sutyagin, who was part of the same spy swap as Mr Skripal and now is a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said he is not worried for his safety.
Anna Chapman and nine other Russian secret agents were returned to Russia in exchange for four Western spies in a dramatic swap in 2010.
The exchange, described as the biggest spy swap since the Cold War and which saw Sergei Skripal returned to the West, saw two aircraft parked next to each other in Vienna as the 14 agents involved in the deal swapped planes.
‘I feel OK, I am not concerned,’ Mr Sutyagin told The Times.
‘We have saying in Russian that if you keep thinking one day [something bad might happen] then that day will come.’
He also said there was not enough evidence to point fingers in any direction.
‘There are lots of former security officers that deserted to the West,’ he said, urging caution until more is known. ‘It is necessary to balance this information.’
The pair were taken to hospital after they collapsed inside The Maltings shopping centre after coming into contact with an unknown substance. Pictured, emergency crews at the centre
An eyewitness said Skripal and his daughter seemed ‘out of it’ after she came across the pair slumped on the bench at the shopping centre. Top right: A police tent covers the spot where they were found
Mr Skripal was among of a group of top spies exchanged in Vienna in 2010 (left) for a group of Russian agents including the glamorous Anna Chapman (right)
The restaurant was deserted as police examined the scene and Skripal’s nearby home
Emergency services found Sergei Skripal and a woman, said to be his daughter Yulia, slumped over a bench at The Maltings shopping centre before they were transported to Salisbury District Hospital, where a major incident was declared on Monday
Scotland Yard counter-terrorism officers take over ‘poisoning’ probe
Head of terrorism policing Mark Rowley has revealed it has taken over investigations into an unknown substance which has left a former Russian double agent and his daughter fighting for their lives.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police, where the Counter Terrorism unit is based, said: ‘Due to the unusual circumstances it has been decided that the Counter Terrorism Policing network will lead the investigation as it has the specialist expertise to do so.
‘It has not been declared a terrorist incident and at this stage we are keeping an open mind as to what happened.’
Head of Counter Terrorism Policing Mark Rowley said: ‘Working alongside Wiltshire police and partner agencies, we are carrying out extensive inquiries today.
‘The focus at this time is to establish what has caused these people to become critically ill.
‘We would like to reassure members of the public that this incident is being taken extremely seriously and we currently do not believe there is any risk to the wider public.
‘We continue to appeal to any members of the public who may have information in relation to this incident to contact police immediately on 999.’
Temporary chief constable of Wiltshire Police Keir Pritchard added: ‘I would like to reassure our local communities that the multi-agency response is ongoing.
‘We will continue to work with our partners, including Public Health England, the local NHS trust, local authorities and emergency services.’
But Keir Giles, the director of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Cambridge said he ‘would be surprised if this were not linked back to Russia in some direct way.’
He said he could not rule out an overdose or some other kind of accidental poisoning – but found it hard to picture such a scenario ‘that would lead to a full-scale decontamination of the street and the hospital.’
Giles also invoked a string of suspicious deaths of Russian government opponents in Britain since Litvinenko’s slaying.
‘It’s not just Litvinenko,’ he said. ‘It’s hard not to see a pattern of the attacks becoming more and more brazen.’
Officers were called to The Maltings by a member of the public on Sunday shortly after 4pm.
A major incident was declared at Salisbury District Hospital, but patients have been advised to attend appointments as normal unless advised otherwise.
A patient who came to the A&E department said the incident had caused ‘chaos’.
The man, in his mid-20s who did not want to be named, said he had been taken to a boardroom in the hospital while the fire service decontaminated the scene.
He said: ‘I had gone to the A&E department because I had busted two of my knuckles. The staff said something to me about chemicals and that it had all happened in front of the A&E entrance.
‘It caused chaos inside the A&E department – I was taken to a boardroom where I had to wait while they dealt with it. There was a green tent set up in the drop-off area and people in forensics clothes were all walking around.
Police said the pair, named by media Mr Skripal and his daughter, had been ‘exposed to an unknown substance’
Firefighters and police attended The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury at around 4.15pm on Sunday afternoon
Police and paramedics discovered the two Russians in a critical condition on Sunday
Salisbury District Hospital, Wiltshire, declared the ‘major incident’ this morning, which involved a ‘small number of casualties
One of the Russian spies exchanged for Skripal was Anna Chapman (pictured), who was greeted as a hero by the Kremlin
‘From what I was told, the fire engine got to the hospital about 15 minutes before I arrived at 10.30am.’
Dr Andrew Foxall, of the Henry Jackson Society security think-tank, said: ‘MI5 believes that there are now more Russian spies in Britain than during the height of the Cold War.
‘They will likely be experienced in all manner of activities. While it is too soon to attribute responsibility, it would be foolhardy if the authorities were not to explore the Russia connection in relation to Mr Skripal’s illness.’
Mr Putin boasted that Moscow thwarted more than 400 foreign spies last year.
He also called on Russia’s FSB spy agency to block further foreign attempts to obtain political, economic and military information.
Salisbury District Hospital said it was dealing with a ‘major incident’ on Monday morning and called in the fire service and Incident Response team to decontaminate the area
Two Incident Response Unit ambulances and the fire service were called to the hospital, to treat the patients and decontaminate the A&E department
‘Traitors always end in a bad way. Usually from drugs in the street’: How ex-KGB chief Putin hinted at the way Russia deals with spies
Russian president Vladimir Putin (pictured today) once said ‘traitors always end in a bad way’
Russian president Vladimir Putin once hinted at how his country deals with spies by insisting that ‘traitors always end in a bad way’.
The former KGB chief’s words are all the more chilling as fears build over a poison plot in Wiltshire against Sergei Skripal, a Russian colonel who spied for MI6.
Among the Russian agents exposed was the red-haired ‘femme fatale’ Anna Chapman, and Mr Putin said at the time: ‘It is a result of betrayal.
‘Traitors always end in a bad way. Usually from a drinking habit, or from drugs, right in the street.’
Mr Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in a high-security prison in 2006, before being freed in a 2010 deal which saw ten Russian sleeper agents expelled from the US.
Mr Skripal retired from military intelligence, often known by its Russian-language acronym GRU. He went on to work at the Foreign Ministry until 2003.
He was arrested in 2004 in Moscow and admitted he was recruited by British intelligence in 1995 and had provided information about GRU agents in Europe, for which he was paid more than $100,000.
Mr Skripal was one of four agents pardoned and released by Moscow in what was said at the time to be the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.
He was flown to the UK with another of the men freed by Russia in the exchange – analyst Igor Sutyagin, who was serving a 14-year sentence for spying for the US.
Russian spy Anna Chapman pictured on May 21, 2011
The spy swap took place on July 9, 2010 on the tarmac at Vienna’s airport and a Boeing 767-200 carrying the four agents was understood to have later touched down at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire.
The returning Russian spies were greeted as heroes in Moscow. Mr Putin, himself a former KGB officer who served in what was then East Germany, sang patriotic songs with them.
But Mr Putin predicted a grim future for the man who had betrayed the Russian spies in the US, saying that he knew both his identity and location.
He said that a ‘Mercader has already been sent after him,’ referring to Ramon Mercader, the assassin who was sent to kill Leon Trotsky in 1940 in Mexico.
Mr Skripal was cast as a traitor by Moscow at the time of the spy swap. He is thought to have done serious damage to Russian spy networks in Britain and Europe.
Cancer, car crash and liver failure: Mysterious deaths of family of Russian ‘Spy with the Louis Vuitton Handbag’
He was jailed for passing on the identities of Russian secret agents in Europe to MI6
The former Russian double agent who is critically ill in hospital after a suspected poison plot was hit by a double family tragedy within five years, it has emerged.
Sergei Skripal, 66, is fighting for his life at Salisbury District Hospital after being found unconscious with his daughter Yulia, 33, in the city on Sunday.
And it was revealed yesterday how Mr Skripal had suffered two bereavements within just five years when his wife Lyudmila died aged 59 in 2012, before his son Alexandr passed away aged 43 in 2017.
Mystery surrounds the cause of death for both, with his wife’s death certificate claiming she died of cancer but neighbours saying it was in a car crash.
It has been recorded that Mrs Skripal, died on October 23, 2012, with her death certificate recording the cause of death as disseminated endometrial carcinoma.
Her daughter Yulia reported the death to Wiltshire Council’s register office, but told staff that her father was a retired local government planning officer.
As for Mr Skripal’s son, he is said to have been killed in a car crash in St Petersburg last year – but the family’s cleaner said he had actually died from liver problems.
The Russian security service (FSB) allege that Col Skripal began to sell information in 1990’s right up until 1999 – when he left the special services
In Moscow at the time of his arrest he was mocked as ‘the spy with the Louis Vuitton bag’ after grainy pictures showed him at an airport on route on one meeting with his handlers
Putin has ‘hostile intent’ towards Britain, warns Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson
Vladimir Putin has ‘hostile intent’ towards Britain, the Defence Secretary said yesterday. Gavin Williamson called for the UK to wake up to the threat posed by Russia.
He warned that the Kremlin had developed a much more aggressive posture towards the UK in the past 12 months and the country should not sit submissively by.
With relations between Britain and Russia believed to be at an all-time low, Mr Williamson told MPs that the country needed to ‘match what Putin is doing with Russian forces’.
During defence questions in the Commons, he said: ‘Putin has made it quite clear that he has hostile intent towards this country.
‘We’ve been seeing the build-up of his forces across the Eastern Front and in terms of what they’re doing over many years now – we have to wake up to that threat and we have to respond to it.
‘And it is not just through nuclear weapons – our continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent is absolutely integral to maintaining the peace, but it is also through conventional armed forces. We have to match what Putin is doing with Russian forces.’
His comments came after he was asked by Labour’s Barry Sheerman about comments the Russian president had made in a state-of-the-nation speech last week.
Mr Sheerman pointed out that Mr Putin had basically announced ‘a new Cold War’.
Mr Putin boasted in his speech that Russia had developed an arsenal of invincible nuclear weapons that are immune to enemy detection.
The woman who cleans Mr Skripal’s home in Salisbury, who asked not to be named, said yesterday: ‘I saw reports on the news that his wife had died in a car crash.
‘That is not true, she died of cancer that she had when they moved to England. And his son died of liver problems, so I don’t know where the car crash idea came from.’
However, his neighbour Blake Stephens, 21, said earlier of Mr Skripal: ‘He used to live with his wife but unfortunately she died in a car accident a while ago.’
But the BBC claimed Alexandr died on holiday in Russia with his girlfriend after being taken to hospital with liver failure, and that his family was suspicious about his death.
Mr Skripal was dramatically exposed as having spied for the British in one of the biggest East-West scandals since the end of the Cold War.
He rose to rank of colonel in the Russian military before becoming a top intelligence officer in the chaotic days after the fall of communism.
But his reputation came crashing down in 2004 when he was accused of passing on the identities of Russian secret agents in Europe to MI6.
By this time he had retired from the military but was said to have used his old contacts to spy for the West.
He was jailed for 13 years in 2006 and was only released in the high-profile spy-swap which involved glamourous Russian agent Anna Chapman, who had been caught spying in the US.
After being debriefed by British security services, he was given a new life living in a £340,000 house in Wiltshire.
At the time of his arrest he was mocked as ‘the spy with the Louis Vuitton bag’ after grainy pictures showed him with an expensive looking bag at an airport en route on one meeting with his handlers.
The Russian security service (FSB) alleged that Mr Skripal began to sell information in 1990’s right up until 1999 – when he left the special services. They say he was paid around $100,000 for his services into his secret account in Spain.
Mr Skripal was turned by British special service until when he was detained for giving the UK top secret information.
The former intelligence officer, now believed to be 66, was convicted of ‘high treason in the form of espionage’ for his crimes.
He was alleged to have passed intelligence to a so-called ‘spy rock’ in a Moscow park
Russian authorities claimed agents walked past it transmitting their data via a hand held device
Among the Russian agents deported from the US as part of the largest spy swap since the Cold War was Anna Chapman (pictured)
He pleaded guilty at his trial and co-operated with investigators, reports said at the time.
He was stripped of his rank of colonel and his state medals and ordered to spend his prison term in a high-security penal camp.
He was sentenced in 2006 and was later pardoned in 2010 when he was one of four prisoners Moscow swapped for spies in the US.
He was released together with the three other individuals serving time in Russian prisons in exchange for ten Russian spies arrested by the FBI.
A year after his release he is believed to have bought a house in Sailsbury.
Ms Chapman was arrested at a New York police department precinct when she turned in a fake passport an undercover FBI agent had given to her.
As the daughter of a Russian diplomat, she became the most recognisable of the ten agents.
Nicknamed ‘the spy with the Louis Vuitton bag’, Mr Skripal exposed a huge network of Russian military spies working across Europe taking extraordinary risks to pass secrets to MI6.
The FSB caught him passing his intelligence to the infamous MI6 James Bond-style ‘spy rock’ – a fake stone packed with receiving equipment – in a Moscow park.
Russian secret services exposed the rock in 2006, revealing how agents walked past it transmitting their data to the rock via a hidden hand held device.
One official said after his conviction: ‘His activities caused a significant blow to Russia’s external security.’
A still from footage of Mr Skripal spying for Britain which was used against him in Russia
Russian loathing for Mr Skripal is highlighted by claims from Russian secret services historian Nikolai Luzan that the double was responsible for disclosing to MI6 the names of around 300 GRU staff members and other ‘agents’ including those working abroad.
Luzan referred to him Mr Skripal in a 2014 interview as ‘this bastard – I’m not scared to use this word’.
‘Just imagine what muck this man did to other people’ – due to his treachery.
There has been no official confirmation of the 300 figure from the GRU.
State-run TV in Russia even compared him to the legendary Cold War agent Soviet double agent Oleg Penkovsky, who spied for Britain and the United States during the height of the Cold War.
Following his release Col Skripal underwent a debriefing in London following his exchange in the historic spy swap involving femme fatale Anna Chapman
Penvosky was shot by a firing squad in 1963 and is regarded as one of the most effective spies of all time.
Mr Skripal and a woman were found slumped on a bench in a busy shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday.
He is critically ill along with the woman, 33, after they were both found at The Maltings shopping centre in a case that immediately drew parallels to the poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko.
Before this he was believed to be living at an address on Christie Miller Road in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
He had been living at the address with his wife Liudmila until she died in recent years.
‘It bears all the hallmarks of a Russian attack’: Senior MP demands new sanctions to the Kremlin’s ‘soft war’ on Britain after suspected spy attack
A senior MP yesterday said a suspected attempt to kill a Russian ex-spy bears ‘all the hallmarks’ of a Kremlin attack.
Tom Tugendhat said if proven the possible poisoning of Sergei Skripal, 66, would be a new escalation in a ‘soft war’ by Russia against the UK.
The chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee said new sanctions should be imposed against Russia if it was proven the Kremlin ordered the attack.
Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said if proven the possible poisoning of Sergei Skripal, 66, would a new escalation in a ‘soft war’ against the UK
The warning comes after shadow defence secretary Diane Abbott warned ministers not to allow ‘London and the Home Counties to become a kind of killing field for the Russian state’.
WHAT SANCTIONS COULD BE IMPOSED ON RUSSIA?
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat called for a new range of sanctions if it is proven Russia is behind a suspected assassination attempt in London.
He revived calls for a ‘Magnitsky List’ to be set up in Britain.
It would mirror US laws imposing travel bans on senior Kremlin officials responsible for the death of Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky in a prison in 2009.
UK ministers have repeatedly refused to pass a similar law, but has imposed financial sanctions on several senior Russian figures.
Further sanctions could see UK assets owned by Kremlin officials seized and travel bans on more individuals imposed.
The intent is to stop the ruling elite in Moscow travelling freely and keeping money abroad while Putin operates with little restraint.
British relations with Russia have been chilly since President Vladimir Putin was suspected of personally ordering the attack on Litvinenko.
Former cabinet minister John Whittingdale said it was possible the existing sanctions were failing to deter Russia ‘from carrying out further assassinations on British soil’.
The comments came as Boris Johnson pledged to speak with Home Secretary Amber Rudd after calls for a fresh police investigation into 14 deaths in the UK that have been linked to Russia.
Mr Whittingdale, the former culture secretary, told MPs: ‘It is almost exactly four years since the annexation of the sovereign territory of Ukraine in Crimea by Russia.
‘It is two years since the public inquiry concluded that President Putin almost certainly approved the murder of Alexander Litvinenko.
‘Is it not clear, therefore, that existing sanctions are failing to deter Russia, possibly even from carrying out further assassinations on British soil.
‘And that the time has come to impose far tougher sanctions against targeted individuals associated with President Putin’s regime.’
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday repeated warnings of the military threat from Russia, warning Putin had ‘hostile intent’ toward Britain.
Skripal who had recently told police he feared for his life, was rushed to hospital after collapsing on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday.
He was found with a 33-year-old woman, who is also fighting for her life. She is thought to be a family member.
Health chiefs said the pair had been exposed to an ‘unknown substance’.
Mr Tugendhat said that if Russian involvement was proved, the Skripal case would amount to a further salvo in a ‘soft war against the UK’ conducted by Mr Putin’s administration.
‘It is too early to say whether it is certain or not, but it certainly bears all the hallmarks of a Russian attack,’ Mr Tugendhat said.
‘If it is, then I am calling for a whole-of-Government response. Too much of this has been left to the Foreign Office or the Home Office separately.
‘What needs to be done is for the whole Government to get involved in responding to what amounts to a soft war against the UK, taking in the cyber-hacking they have done and the various aggressions they have been involved in.’
Mr Tugendhat said that the eventual response to any Russian involvement in the Skripal case could include travel bans, sanctions and the imposition of Magnitsky Sanctions legislation allowing the assets of human rights violators to be frozen in the UK.
Diane Abbott (file image) demanded answers from ministers about an apparent attack on a Russian spy she said had ‘striking similarities’ to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko
Ms Abbott told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: ‘It’s important not to speculate without knowing everything it but it does bear a striking similarity to the death of Litvinenko who was poisoned by the Russian state and before that Markov who was killed bizarrely by somebody stabbing him with an umbrella with poison on the tip.
‘That was put to the Russian state and the problem with these things is sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.’
Ms Abbott added: ‘I don’t like defaulting to a red menace analysis but we can’t allow London and the Home Counties to become a kind of killing field for the Russian state.’
Ms Abbott’s intervention came as the Government remained tight lipped about the circumstances surrounding Skripal.
Julian Lewis, the chairman of the Commons defence committee, told MailOnline: ‘If a second Russian former spy has been targeted in the UK, after the reckless use of polonium to kill Mr Litvinenko, it shows that the Kremlin has not the slightest interest in a positive relationship with the West and has learned nothing from the outrage caused by its previous public act of murder.’
Chairman of the Commons defence committee Julian Lewis (left) told MailOnline a proven second case of assassination on British soil would prove Russia had learned nothing from outrage at the Litvinenko murder, while Labour’s Chris Bryant (right) called for a Government statement
Labour MP Chris Bryant, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Russia, called for a Government minister to come to the despatch box to update the Commons on what is known about the Skripal case.
Mr Bryant said: ‘We have got to be a little careful about establishing the facts – and I very much hope a Government minister will come to the chamber later today to explain what we do know – but we know Putin’s record of using excessive violence.
‘There is a long list of Putin opponents who have been bumped off around the world. The fact that this happens just before presidential elections, I would suspect, is not circumstantial.
‘We can’t be having Russian operatives bumping people off in the UK. I was very critical of both David Cameron and Theresa May in the 2010 Parliament because they kept refusing to allow a full investigation of the Litvinenko murder. It was years before Theresa May finally allowed one to happen.
‘If something similar has occurred in this situation, then we shouldn’t let the grass grow under our feet.’
‘Poisoned spy case’ echoes fate of Alexander Litvinenko – Putin critic killed by polonium-laced tea
Relations between Britain and Russia have been strained since the murder of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006, a killing which a judge said was probably approved by President Vladimir Putin.
The defector died after two agents slipped radioactive polonium 210 into his tea pot at a Mayfair hotel in central London, according to an inquiry headed by former high court judge Sir Robert Owen.
The inquiry found two Russian men – Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun – had deliberately poisoned Litvinenko by putting polonium-210 into his drink at a London hotel, leading to an agonising death.
Alexander Litvinenko died after two agents slipped radioactive polonium 210 into his tea
It said the use of the radioactive substance – which could only have come from a nuclear reactor – was a ‘strong indicator’ of state involvement and that the two men had probably been acting under the direction of the FSB.
Possible motives included Litvinenko’s work for British intelligence agencies, his criticism of the FSB, and his association with other Russian dissidents, while it said there was also a ‘personal dimension’ to the antagonism between him and Putin.
International arrest warrants issued for Mr Lugovoi and Mr Kovtun remain in force although Russia continues to refuse their extradition.
The Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, where he is said to have been poisoned
In a statement to mark the 10th anniversary of his death, Marina Litvinenko said her husband – who she called Sasha – had been an ‘extraordinary man’ whose courage in speaking out against the Russian security service, the FSB, had left an enduring legacy.
While she acknowledged Mr Putin had refused to accept the inquiry’s findings, she said it remained open for other world leaders to take action against the Russian state and that she hoped her struggle to find the truth had not been in vain.
‘It has taken 10 long years for the truth to be established and for Sasha’s dying words that President Putin was responsible for his death to be proved to be true,’ she said.
‘I know that Mr Putin’s Russia does not accept the findings of the British public inquiry and will continue to deny the truth in the face of overwhelming evidence.
‘But those findings are now part of history and the rest of the world understands the difference between truth and propaganda. And that is what matters to me.
‘What action world leaders will take against the ever vengeful Russian state in these dramatic times remains to be seen. I hope and pray that my struggle has not been in vain.’
Last year the scandal took a new twist when Scotland Yard detectives who investigated the Litvinenko case revealed they too had been poisoned by the Russians in an extraordinary attempt to thwart the inquiry.
The inquiry found Andrei Lugovoi (left, in 2007) and Dmitri Kovtun (right, in 2006) – had deliberately poisoned Litvinenko
Detective Inspector Brian Tarpey, who flew to Moscow to investigate, says: ‘I remember one evening my officer [a colleague who travelled with him] was complaining of stomach cramp and not being very well.
‘Next morning I accompanied him to the general prosecutor’s office. We were offered tea. I had no hesitation in accepting.
‘After we left, I started to feel a little bit uncomfortable. Not wanting to put too fine a point on it, I had the s***s.
‘I have no doubt in my mind that someone poisoned us with something like gastroenteritis.’
A poisoned umbrella tip and radioactive tea: How Russian spies have died in the UK
It was one of the most audacious acts of the Cold War which could have come straight from the pages of a spy novel.
In 1978, Georgi Markov was jabbed with an umbrella which fired a poison pellet into his leg as he crossed Waterloo Bridge in London while he waited for a bus.
He died three days later – and for almost 40 years, mystery has surrounded the whereabouts of his killer.
Georgi Markov was jabbed with an umbrella which fired a poison pellet into his leg
A replica of the umbrella that a KGB agent used in 1978 to kill the Bulgarian dissident
Ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London in 2006, a killing which a judge said was probably approved by President Vladimir Putin.
The defector died after two agents slipped radioactive polonium 210 into his tea pot at a Mayfair hotel in central London.
The 43-year-old had been an officer with the Federal Security Service (FSB), but he fled to Britain where he became a fierce critic of the Kremlin.
He died after an agonising six-day battle in hospital.
Ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned in London in 2006 when a radioactive substance was poured into his tea pot at a Mayfair hotel
Alexander Perepilichnyy, a key witness in a £140million tax fraud investigation, collapsed while jogging outside his £3million mansion in Weybridge, Surrey, in November 2012.
The Russian had ingested gelsemium – a very rare toxic plant found only in China, a coroner heard.
Tests carried out by leading botanist Professor Monique Simmonds of Kew Gardens found a chemical in Mr Perepilichnyy’s stomach that could come only from a variety of gelsemium – a known method of assassination by Chinese and Russian contract killers.
Alexander Perepilichnyy collapsed while jogging outside his £3million mansion in Weybridge, Surrey, in November 2012
A radiation expert who investigated the ‘assassination’ of Alexander Litvinenko was found dead in a mysterious suicide five months after a trip to Russia.
Matthew Puncher, 46, bled to death at his home from multiple stab wounds inflicted by two knives in his home in Drayton, Oxfordshire in May 2016.
A pathologist said he could not ‘exclude’ the possibility that someone else was involved in the death – but concluded the injuries were self-inflicted.
Radiation expert Matthew Puncher, who investigated the ‘assassination’ of Alexander Litvinenko, was found dead in a mysterious suicide in May 2016
Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his in Berkshire bathroom with a ligature round his neck in March 2013.
His friends in the secret service say he planned to give Putin evidence of a plot involving oligarchs to topple the strongman in a coup.
Theory has it that the exiled Russian tycoon was slain by Western secret services linked to the plan to overthrow the Kremlin leader.
A coroner recorded an open verdict saying he either took his own life or he was killed and the scene was staged to look self-inflicted.
Boris Berezovsky, was found dead in his in Berkshire bathroom with a ligature round his neck in March 2013 but the coroner recorded an open verdict
Bankrupt property tycoon Scot Young was the fifth member of a close circle of friends to die in unusual circumstances.
The 52-year-old suffered fatal injuries after falling from a window on to railings after being hounded over debts by Russian mafia members.
They had previously dangled him out of a window at the Dorchester Hotel, in Park Lane, threatening to drop him next time if he did not pay up, his close friend alleged.
Mr Young, who was once worth an estimated £400m, claimed to have lost his fortune when a vast Russian property deal, known as Project Moscow, collapsed in 2006.
Bankrupt property tycoon Scot Young (pictured right) suffered fatal injuries after falling from a window on to railings after being hounded over debts by Russian mafia members
Meanwhile in 2012, German Gorbuntsov survived despite being shot several times with a sub-machine gun on the Isle of Dogs in East London.
The Russian banker allegedly had evidence relevant to the attempted murder of Russian billionaire Alexander Antonov.
In 2016, former Russian double agent Colonel Alexander Poteyev, who exposed glamour spy Anna Chapman, died in the US.
Mr Poteyev had overseen the Russian sleeper agents in the US as a deputy head of the ‘S’ department of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.