Sergei Skripal, 66, an ex-Russian military intelligence colonel, was found unconscious Sunday on a bench in Salisbury with his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, British media reports.
Police said the pair had been exposed to an “unknown substance” while shopping in Salisbury, a city about 90 miles west of London. They are both in critical condition in a hospital in the southern English county of Wiltshire.
Who is Sergei Skripal?
Sergei Skripal is a former Russian double agent convicted of passing identities of Russian agents working undercover in Europe to MI6, the foreign intelligence service of the U.K.
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Skripal was jailed in Russia in 2006 for treason after he confessed to being recruited by British intelligence and supplying information about Russian agents. Skripal admitted to selling the names, addresses and code-names of dozens of Russian agents to MI6 over 10 years.
Skripal’s motives may have been financial: Russian prosecutors said he had been paid $100,000 by MI6 for the information, according to the Guardian.
He was freed in 2010 as part of a U.S.-Russian spy swap and moved to Britain. The spy swap included four men exchanged for 10 Russian “sleeper agents” in the United States.
Skripal worked in Russian military intelligence until at least 1999. He then transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked there until 2003, according to the Independent. After 2003, he went into business.
What happened to his family?
Sergei Skripal has endured some major deaths in his family in recent years.
Skripal’s son, 43, died last year on a visit to St. Petersburg with his girlfriend, the BBC reported. His wife, Liudmila, also died in 2012 at age 59 of “disseminated endometrial carcinoma.”
What was he doing in Salisbury?
For more than five years he has been living in a modern red-brick home close to the city center, according to the Guardian.
He “seemed like a nice chap. When he moved in he invited us all over for a housewarming party I imagine he invited the whole street,” neighbor James Puttock told the Guardian.