Double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are fighting for life after an apparent assassination attempt, which has invited comparisons to the FSB murder of Alexander Litvinenko in a London hotel in 2006.
The woman found unconscious on a shopping centre bench in southern England next to Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal, has been confirmed as his daughter.
Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33), were exposed to an “unknown substance” in Salisbury on Sunday and are in a critical condition.
Parallels to Litvinenko assassination
British counterterrorism police are leading the investigation into the suspected poisoning, which has drawn comparisons to the assassination of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
Just like Skripal, Litvinenko was a Russian spy who had been paid by British intelligence service MI6 for information.
He fled to the UK, but suffered a slow and painful death after drinking tea laced with highly radioactive polonium-210 in a Mayfair hotel.
The inquest revealed the hit was carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), and that it was “probably approved” by Putin. Indeed, Litvinenko accused Putin directly on his deathbed.
Skripal was a former Russian military intelligence colonel, who was convicted in 2006 of revealing the identities of Moscow agents working undercover in Europe to MI6.
But he was later handpicked by the Brits for refuge in the UK, as part of a high-profile spy swap agreed upon by Washington and Moscow in 2010.
In the trade, 10 of the FSB’s deep-cover agents arrested in the US (including glamour spy Anna Chapman) were returned to Russia, in exchange for four double agents that had been working with the western intelligence agencies.
Anna Chapman was deported from the US on charges of espionage https://t.co/tKrBSzNT0B
— The Times of London (@thetimes) March 6, 2018
Despite being set up with a new life in England, a relative of Skripal revealed he always believed he was doomed.
The relative told BBC Russia: “From the first day he knew it would end badly, and that he would not be left alone.”
Yulia is believed to be one of the few family members Skripal has left, after his wife Liudmilla died in 2012, and son Alexandr passed away last year.
Mystery surrounds both cases. His wife’s official record states the cause of death was cancer, and this is backed up by the family’s cleaner, however a neighbour alleges she was actually killed in a car crash.
Alexandr (43) is said to have died in a car accident, while travelling to St Petersburg with his girlfriend, however BBC has reported that liver failure was responsible, and the family was suspicious about the cirucmstances.
Russia goes on the attack
Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson vowed to “respond robustly” if there is evidence of Kremlin involvement in the apparent assassination attempt.
Johnson said the case had “echoes” of the Litvinenko murder, and then said, “No attempt to take innocent life on UK soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished.”
In response, the Russian embassy has accused the UK of demonising the nation with unfounded accusations.
“The media are swiftly launching a new phase of the anti-Russian campaign ongoing in the UK. Readers are offered various speculations which ultimately lead to a vilification of Russia,” its statement read.
The media are swiftly launching a new phase of the anti-Russian campaign ongoing in the UK.
“Although UK law enforcement agencies have not given any substantive comments on this incident, media reports create an impression of a planned operation by the Russian special services, which is completely untrue.
“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.”