United Kingdom military aiding spy probe; Russian Federation says it's not to blame

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia

Moscow has reacted angrily to the accusations it was involved, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday dismissing them as baseless "propaganda".

Skripal, who was shown wearing a track suit in a cage in court during his sentencing, was jailed for 13 years in 2006.

Skripal was given refuge by the United Kingdom as part of a spy swap in 2010 after he was convicted in Russian Federation of passing secrets to the MI6.

One of the Russian spies exchanged for Skripal was Anna Chapman, who was feted as a hero by Moscow on her return. Unfortunately, it wasn't so! Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter were exposed to what police said was an unknown substance in the city of Salisbury.

The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the incident and said anti-Russian hysteria was being whipped up by the British media.

The Times reported that police are probing whether Skripal's daughter, who arrived in Britain from Moscow last week, may have inadvertently brought in the nerve agent as a gift. Now, they are fighting for their lives.

Authorities are racing to find the source of the nerve agent used against 66-year-old Skripal, who came to Britain in 2010 as part of a spy swap, as politicians warned it bore the hallmarks of an attack by Russian Federation.

"This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent", said Mark Rowley, head of the Metropolitan Police counterterror force.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd with Wiltshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Kier Pritchard and MP for Salisbury and South Wiltshire John Glen
Image Home Secretary Amber Rudd with Wiltshire Police at the scene

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Tuesday that it was "too early to speculate" about what had happened to Skripal and his daughter, but noted that Britain would "respond appropriately and robustly" if the Russian government were found responsible.

Surprisingly, the police personnel - who rescued Sergei and his daughter - became unwell.

"Of course, he still remains in a serious, but stable, condition, but I am deeply relieved to have visited him and spoken with him in person". Although there is no evidence of a widespread health hazard to the public, the local authorities have closed a restaurant temporarily as a precautionary measure. He died agonizingly slowly after drinking tea at a London hotel that was laced with radioactive polonium-210.

Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer, was convicted in his home country in 2006 of spying for Britain and released in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

Marina Litvinenko noted the similarity in the murder of her husband and the attack on Skripal.

Mary Dejevsky, a former foreign correspondent, said she was shocked at "how far people have gone in implicating Russian Federation before there is the slightest bit of proof". He must have thought he was safe. Relations suffered further from Russia's annexation of Crimea and its military backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against rebels trying to topple him.

According to Transparency International, a Berlin-based anti-corruption lobbying and research organization, large amounts of the Russian state-backed money controlled by Putin-connected oligarchs flow through British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories in the Caribbean and then is transferred to the British capital. He apparently sees positive electoral gain from this kind of activity.

Bill Browder, a financier who has campaigned to expose high-level corruption in Russian Federation, told British lawmakers this week that the "inadequate" response to Litvinenko's assassination likely emboldened Moscow.

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