The Russian double agent attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury was close to a consultant who worked with the firm of former British spy Christopher Steele, it was reported today.
Sergei Skripal, who is fighting for his life in hospital after the incident on Sunday, is said to have been close to an unnamed intelligence expert who carried out work for independent security firm Orbis Business Intelligence.
Orbis was founded by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who was behind a notorious and controversial dossier on Donald Trump, which claimed Moscow had compromising information on the US President.
Russian double agent Sergei Skripal (left) was close to a consultant who had worked for Orbis Business Intelligence, the firm of former British spy Christopher Steele (right), it was reported
Police remain in the park in Salisbury where Mr Skripal and has daughter were found after being attacked with a powerful nerve agent on Sunday
Mr Skripal and the Orbis consultant had become close and were both based in the south of England, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The paper suggested that Skripal’s association with Orbis and, indirectly, the Trump dossier could have been a motivation behind the attack on him.
There are conflicting reports about whether Skripal was retired from the world of espionage.
From his time in Russia’s military intelligence apparatus, he would have excellent knowledge of the country’s tactics and potential contacts.
Who is ex-British agent Christopher Steele?
Christopher Steele was one of MI6’s top Russia experts, having spent a number of 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, it was claimed this week. It was reported that Mr Steele may be helping police with their investigation.
The Times reported this week that he was still giving lectures on KGB tactics.
And another Russian exile, Valery Morozov, told Channel 4 News last night that Skripal remained in contact with military intelligence officers at the Russian Embassy.
A spokesman for the Russian Embassy said they are not aware of communication between Skripal and staff.
Skripal is a former colonel in Russian military intelligence and was responsible for unmasking dozens of Russian secret agents undercover in Europe.
In 2006, he was sentenced to 13 years in a Russian labour camp after being convicted of passing invaluable Russian secrets to the UK.
In July 2010, he was one of four spies exchanged for ten Russian agents deported from the US in an historic swap involving red-headed ‘femme fatale’ Anna Chapman.
Since then, he has moved to Salisbury and lived an apparently unremarkable life in Wiltshire cathedral city, joining a £10-a-year Railway Social Club, drinking in local pubs and spending a reported £40-a-week on lottery scratchcards.
Police yesterday revealed he and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting from Moscow, were attacked with a nerve agent on Sunday. Both remain in the critical condition.
Yulia Skripal is understood to be a businesswoman who has worked for Nike and Pepsico
Russian exile Valery Morozov told Channel 4 News he met Sergei Skripal several times and claims he was in regular contact with military intelligence officers at the Russian Embassy
Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, the head of counter-terrorism policing, revealed on Wednesday that the incident was being treated as attempted murder and the pair had been ‘targeted specifically’.
He declined to specify the nerve agent or how it was administered.
He said: ‘Having established that a nerve agent was the cause of the symptoms, leading us to treat this as attempted murder, I can also confirm that we believe the two people who originally became unwell were targeted specifically.
‘Our role now of course is to establish who is behind this and why they carried out this act.’
Hundreds of detectives, forensic officers and analysts are working on the case, which has drawn comparisons to the poisoning of former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko on British soil in 2006.
Police seen putting on protective suits and gas masks in preparation to carry out further investigation work, in Salisbury
What was Trump ‘dirty dossier’ and what did it say?
The 35-page dossier on Trump caused an international scandal when it emerged just over a year ago.
It made unsubstantiated and far-fetched claims that the President watched prostitutes perform a ‘golden shower’ urination show in the Presidential Suite of a Moscow hotel and that the bizarre footage was allegedly held by the Kremlin’s blackmail unit.
The dossier on Trump caused an international scandal last January
Lurid sex claims
The report states that in 2013 Trump hired prostitutes to urinate on the bed of the Presidential Suite at the Moscow Ritz Carlton, where he knew Barack and Michelle Obama had previously stayed.
It says: ‘Trump’s unorthodox behavior in Russia over the years had provided the authorities there with enough embarrassing material on the now Republican presidential candidate to be able to blackmail him if they so wished.’
Trump ridiculed the idea, pointing out that Russian hotel rooms are known to be rigged with cameras and describing himself as a ‘germophobe’.
The document states that Trump had declined ‘sweetener’ real estate deals in Russia that the Kremlin lined up in order to cultivate him.
The business proposals were said to be ‘in relation to the ongoing 2018 World Cup soccer tournament’.
Russia ‘cultivated’ Trump for five years
The dossier claimed that the Russian regime had been ‘cultivating, supporting and assisting Trump for at least five years’.
According to the document, one source even claimed that ‘the Trump operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin’ with the aim being to ‘sow discord’.
A dossier on Hillary Clinton
At one point the memo suggests Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov ‘controlled’ another dossier containing compromising material on Hillary Clinton compiled over ‘many years’.
Elsewhere in the document, it is claimed that Putin was ‘motivated by fear and hatred of Hillary Clinton.’
Peskov poured scorn on the claims today and said they were ‘pulp fiction’.
At one point the memo says there were reports of ‘clandestine meetings’ between Donald Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen and Kremlin representatives in August last year in Prague.
However, Trump’s counsel Michael Cohen today spoke out against allegations that he secretly met with Kremlin officials – saying that he had never been to Prague.
It has now emerged that the dossier was referring to a different person of the same name.