Russia denies knowledge of Sergei Skripal poisoning in Salisbury

Moscow has denied knowing anything about the sudden illness of ex-spy Sergei Skripal. British authorities have confirmed that Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after exposure to an unknown substance.

Russia on Tuesday denied any knowledge of the apparent poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Britain.

The 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter were found slumped on a bench outside a shopping center in the city of Salisbury on Sunday after being exposed to an unknown substance. They are now in a critical condition.

"We see that such a tragic situation happened," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. "But we don't have information about what could be the cause, what this person did."

Peskov said British investigators had not requested Russia's help in the matter but that "Moscow is always ready for cooperation."

Europe | 09.07.2010

He said he was unaware if Skripal was still a Russian citizen. Responding to questions on speculation that Russia was behind the incident, Peskov said: "It didn't take them long."

A history of political poisonings

Sergei Skripal

Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former Russian spy, was found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the British city of Salisbury after he was exposed to what police said was an unknown substance. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the situation "tragic" but said, "We don't have information about what could be the cause, what this person did."

A history of political poisonings

Kim Jong Nam

The estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un was killed on February 13, 2018 at Kuala Lumpur airport after two women allegedly smeared the chemical nerve agent VX on his face. In February, a Malaysian court heard that Kim Jong Nam had been carrying a dozen vials of antidote for the deadly nerve agent VX in his backpack at the time of the poisoning.

A history of political poisonings

Alexander Litvinenko

Former Russian spy Litvinenko had worked for the Federal Security Service (FSB) before he defected to Britain, where he became a journalist and wrote two books of accusations against the FSB and Putin. He became ill after meeting with two former KGB officers and died on November 23, 2006. A government inquiry found he was killed by radioactive polonium-210 which it alleged the men put in his tea.

A history of political poisonings

Viktor Kalashnikov

In November 2010, doctors at Berlin's Charité hospital discovered high levels of mercury had been found in a Russian dissident couple working in Berlin. Kalashnikov, a freelance journalist and former KGB colonel, had 3.7 micrograms of mercury per litre of blood, while his wife had 56 micrograms. A safe level is 1-3 micrograms. Viktor reportedly told German magazine Focus that "Moscow poisoned us."

A history of political poisonings

Viktor Yushchenko

Ukrainian opposition leader Yushchenko became sick in September 2004 and was diagnosed with acute pancreatis caused by a viral infection and chemical substances. The illness resulted in facial disfigurement, with pockmarks, bloating and jaundice. Doctors said the changes to his face were from chloracne, which is a result of dioxin poisoning. Yushchenko claimed government agents poisoned him.

A history of political poisonings

Khaled Meshaal

On September 25, 1997, Israel's intelligence agency attempted to assassinate Hamas leader Meshaal, under orders from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Two agents sprayed a poisonous substance into Meshaal's ear as he walked into the Hamas offices in Amman, Jordan. The assassination attempt was unsuccessful and not long afterward the two Israeli agents were captured.

A history of political poisonings

Georgi Markov

In 1978, Bulgarian dissident Markov was waiting at a bus stop after a shift at the BBC when he felt a sharp jab in his thigh. He turned to see a man picking up an umbrella. A small bump appeared where he felt the jab and four days later he died. An autopsy found he'd been killed by a small pellet containing a 0.2-milligram dose of ricin. Many believe the poisoned dart was fired from the umbrella.

A history of political poisonings

Grigori Rasputin

On December 30, 1916, mystic and spiritual healer Rasputin arrived at Yusupov Palace in St Petersburg at the invitation Prince Felix Yusupov. There, Prince Yusupov offered Rasputin cakes laced with potassium cyanide but he just kept eating them. Yusupov then gave him wine in a cyanide-laced wine glasses, but still Rasputin continued to drink. With the poison failing, Rasputin was shot and killed.

'Anti-Russian provocation'

Russian MP Andrei Lugovoi, who is one of the prime suspects in the 2006 poisoning of ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, said that Britain "suffers from phobias" and may use the incident to harm Russia ahead of its March 18 elections.

"Because of the presidential elections, our actions in Syria, the situation with Skripal could be spun into an anti-Russian provocation," he told Interfax news agency.

'Putin kills traitors,' says Kremlin critic

However, a prominent critic of the Russian government told DW TV that the "obvious theory is that this was a Russian Kremlin organized assassination attempt."

Bill Browder – former hedge fund manager in Moscow and author of "Putin’s No. 1 Enemy" — claims that his own lawyer was tortured and killed by Russian authorities in 2009, and that another Russian colleague died under mysterious circumstances several years later. He also claims that a fellow campaigner for sanctions against Moscow was the victim of two near-fatal poisonings.

"The one thing you should understand about Putin is that he kills traitors," Browder told DW. "Anyone who is a traitor is meted out the harshest punishment. It doesn’t matter if they’re in a foreign country or in Russia."

Double agent: Skripal, a former member of Russia's GRU military intelligence service, was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB) for allegedly betraying dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence for money. He was sentenced to 13 years in jail but was later swapped for 10 Russian agents in a dramatic prisoner exchange at Vienna Airport in 2010.

Other family reportedly dead: Skripal then lived a relatively modest life in Salisbury. His wife died of cancer shortly after the family arriving in Britain and his son was reportedly killed in a car accident in Russia. 

The Litvinenko case: The apparent poisoning was quickly compared to the 2006 murder of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. He died in hospital after drinking tea laced with polonium-210 at a London hotel. A British judge found in 2016 that Russia's security services were behind the assassination and that it was likely approved by Putin.

aw/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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