Report: Man Possibly Exposed to Substance Is Former Spy
British media identify the critically ill man as Sergei Skripal, 66
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2018 2:27 PM CST
In this Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 file photo, Sergei Skripal speaks to his lawyer from behind bars seen on a screen of a monitor outside a courtroom in Moscow.   (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)

(Newser) – Two people are in intensive care in the UK after potentially being exposed to an unknown substance, and British media are reporting that one of the two was a former Russian spy who was accused of spying for Britain. The Guardian reports Sergei Skripal, 66, is reportedly the man who was found unconscious on a bench in a shopping center in Salisbury on Sunday, and the BBC has background on him. Russia claimed Skripal had unmasked the identities of secret agents in Europe for MI6, allegedly pocketing $100,000 in the process. He was convicted and in 2006 sentenced to 13 years, though the BBC reports he was subsequently pardoned and then "swapped" in 2010 when he was one of four Russians traded for 10 "sleeper agents" who were operating in the US.

A separate BBC report states Skripal was granted "refuge" in the UK after the swap. Officials say the 30-something woman who was also on the bench in Salisbury is thought to have known the man. Officials aren't saying much that's concrete, describing the investigation as being in its "very early stages" and saying they're "unable to ascertain whether or not a crime has taken place." Most reports on Skripal's current alleged situation are referencing Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian spy who was poisoned in November 2006 in London after drinking tea spiked with radioactive polonium; he died "in agony" 23 days later, as the Guardian puts it; the paper notes that incident chilled relations between Britain and Russia for years.

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