Sergei Skripal

Sergei Skripal
Native name
Сергей Викторович Скрипаль
Born
Sergei Viktorovich Skripal

(1951-06-23) 23 June 1951 (age 67)
Spouse(s)Lyudmila Skripal (c. 1952/1953–2012), née Koshelnik[2]
Children
  • Alexandr Skripal (1974–2017);[3]
  • Yulia Skripal (c. 1985–)[2]

Sergei Viktorovich Skripal (Russian: Серге́й Ви́кторович Скрипаль, IPA: [sʲɪrˈɡʲej ˈvʲiktərəvʲɪtɕ skrʲɪˈpalʲ], born 23 June 1951) is a former Russian military intelligence officer who acted as a double agent for the UK's intelligence services during the 1990s and early 2000s.[4] In December 2004, he was arrested by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) and later tried, convicted of high treason, and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He settled in the UK in 2010 following the Illegals Program spy swap.

On 4 March 2018, he and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting him from Moscow, were poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.[5][6] As of 15 March 2018,[7] they were in a critical condition at Salisbury District Hospital. The poisoning is being investigated as an attempted murder.[6] He holds both Russian and British citizenship.[8] On 21 March 2018 Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said that Sergei Skripal is also a Russian citizen.[9][10] [7]

On 29 March, Yulia was reported to be out of critical condition, 'conscious and talking'.[11] A week later, on 6 April, Skripal was said to no longer be in a critical state.[12] He was discharged on 18 May.[13]

Life and career

Sergei Skripal was born in Kaliningrad,[14] Kaliningrad Oblast on 23 June 1951.[15] His father worked for a land improvement contractor, while his mother was employed with the local Council of Deputies.[16] He grew up in the town of Ozyorsk, also in Kaliningrad Oblast.[14]

Education, Military intelligence

In 1972, Skripal completed the military engineering school in Kaliningrad named Zhdanov, located in the village of Borisovo (formerly Kraußen (Königsberg))[16] with the qualification of a sapper-paratrooper.[17] He then studied at the Moscow Military Engineering Academy. He then served in the Soviet Airborne Troops and was deployed to Afghanistan during the Soviet–Afghan War under the command of Boris Gromov.[18]

Skripal was co-opted to the military intelligence (GRU) from the Airborne Troops.[17] In the early 1990s, he was posted as a GRU officer at the embassy in Malta.[15] In 1994, he obtained a position in the military attaché′s office in Madrid, Spain.[15][17] According to the FSB and other sources, in 1995, in Spain, he was recruited to British intelligence by British intelligence agent Pablo Miller, who was posing as Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo.[19][20] According to intelligence sources cited by The Times in March 2018, Skripal was first spotted for potential development as an asset by Spanish intelligence but was approached by the British recruiter around July 1995 and was given the codename 'Forthwith'.[21] According to the FSB, Pablo Miller was also involved in efforts to recruit other Russian assets and was in contact with Alexander Litvinenko.[22]

In 1996, due to his diabetes,[15] Skripal was sent back to Moscow, where he went on to work in the GRU headquarters and for a while was acting director of the GRU personnel department.[17] Skripal held the rank of colonel when he retired, due to his inadequate health condition, in 1999.[15] He continued to make trips to Spain, where he had a house near Málaga at his disposal, provided by his handlers.[21]

According to Russian prosecutors, he began working for the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) in 1995 and passed on state secrets, such as the identities of Russian intelligence agents. After his retirement, he worked in the Household Department of the Russian foreign ministry, while continuing to work for MI6.[23][24][25] He was alleged to have blown the cover of 300 Russian agents.[26]

From 2001, Skripal worked in the Ministry of Municipalities of the Government of Moscow Oblast.[17]

Arrest and conviction

In December 2004, Skripal was arrested outside his house in Moscow′s Krylatskoye District shortly after returning from Britain.[27] In August 2006, he was convicted under Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code (high treason in the form of espionage) by the Moscow Regional Military Court in the trial conducted behind closed doors.[27] Prosecution, which was represented personally by Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky, argued for a 15-year sentence – instead of the 20-year maximum under Article 275 – in recognition of mitigating circumstances such as his cooperation with investigators.[28][27] Skripal was sentenced to 13 years in a high-security detention facility; he was also stripped of his military rank and decorations. The affair was not revealed to the public until after he was sentenced in August 2006.[29] Skripal's lawyers appealed the sentence,[30] which was upheld by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court on 30 November 2006.[31]

Release and life in UK

On 9 July 2010, Skripal, along with three other Russian nationals imprisoned for espionage, was freed as part of a spy swap for the ten Russian agents arrested in the United States as part of the Illegals Program,[32][33][34] after being pardoned by the then President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev.[35] The UK government insisted on Skripal being included in the swap.[17]

Skripal moved to Salisbury, Wiltshire, where he purchased a house in 2011.[36] According to British security officials, Skripal continued to provide information to the UK and other Western intelligence agencies for a period after 2010.[26]

Skripal's wife died in 2012 of disseminated endometrial cancer. His daughter returned to Moscow in 2014 and worked in sales.[17] His son died aged 43 in March 2017, in unknown circumstances, on a visit to Saint Petersburg;[37] Skripal's older brother died within the two years before the poisoning.[2][38] Both Skripal's wife and his son are buried in a cemetery local to Salisbury.[39]

In May 2018, the New York Times reported that Skripal, though retired, was "still in the game." While living in Britain he had travelled to former Communist countries, meeting with intelligence officials of the Czech Republic and Estonia, most likely discussing Russian spying techniques.[40] In June 2016 he travelled to Estonia to meet local spies.[41] Russia exile Valery Morozov told Channel 4 News Sergei Skripal was still working and in regular contact with military intelligence officers at the Russian Embassy.[42][43][44]

It was reported that Skripal was a close confidant of Christopher Steele, the British ex-spy who compiled the controversial Trump–Russia dossier.[45][46].

On 28 September 2018, the news magazine Focus reported, referring to a statement of a senior official from NATO's Allied Command Counter-Intelligence Unit (ACCI) in Mons, that until 2017 Skripal worked for four intelligence agencies of NATO countries. Skripal not only traveled, accompanied by MI6 officials to Prague, where he contributed information about the active Russian spy network, some agents Skripal knew from his active service. He provided information to the Estonian secret service in Tallinn, which enabled them to identify three active Russian undercover operatives. Skripal also worked with the Spanish secret service Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, informing the agency about the Russian organized crime in the Spanish region of Costa del Sol. All the trips were organized and approved by the British foreign intelligence service, MI6.[47][48]

Poisoning

On 4 March 2018, Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, who was visiting from Moscow, were found "slipping in and out of consciousness on a public bench"[49] near a shopping centre in Salisbury by a doctor and nurse who were passing by.[50][51] Paramedics took them to Salisbury District Hospital where medical staff determined that the pair had been poisoned with a nerve agent.[52][53][citation needed] The police declared a major incident as multiple agencies were involved.[54] Following the incident, health authorities checked 21 members of the emergency services and the public for symptoms;[55][56] two police officers were treated for possible minor symptoms, said to be itchy eyes and wheezing, while a third, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who had been sent to Sergei Skripal's house, was in a serious condition.[57][58] As of 11 March 2018, Bailey remained seriously ill but stable.[59] By 22 March 2018, he had recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital.[60] As of 15 March 2018, Skripal and his daughter remained critically ill.[7] On March 29, Yulia was reported to be out of critical condition, 'conscious and talking'.[11]

On 6 March, it was agreed under the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network that the Counter Terrorism Command based within the Metropolitan Police would take over the investigation from Wiltshire Police. Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, head of Counter Terrorism Policing, appealed for witnesses to the incident following a COBR meeting chaired by Home Secretary Amber Rudd.[39]

On 12 March 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May identified the nerve agent used in the attack as a Russian-developed Novichok agent and demanded explanation from the Russian government.[61][62] Two days later, May said that Russia was responsible for the incident and announced the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation.[63]

In mid-March 2018, Russia said that its diplomats were denied access to both Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who is a Russian national.[64] On 31 March 2018 the BBC reported that the UK was considering the Russian Embassy's request, 'in line with its obligations under international and domestic law.'[65]

On 6 April, Victoria Skripal, the cousin of poisoned Yulia, has been denied a UK visa to visit her relatives in hospital in Salisbury. This was done after reports that she was being coached by Moscow to discredit Yulia.[66] The official reason for the refusal: There was no evidence that Victoria had previously visited Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK; At the moment Sergey Skripal could not receive guests; There was no certainty that Yulia Skripal wanted to meet Victoria. In addition, at the moment Victoria was unemployed and had no money in her bank account.[67]

On 7 April, the hospital reported that Sergei Skripal was improving rapidly and was no longer in a critical condition, two days after the improvement had been reported in Moscow following a phone call from his daughter.[8][68]

On 18 May 2018, Sergei Skripal was discharged from the hospital. The Director of Nursing said that further treatment will be provided outside the hospital and that treating the Skripals had been "a huge and unprecedented challenge".[13]

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