Mar 5, 2018

Former Russian double agent ill in U.K. after exposure to unknown substance

The Red Square on the anniversary of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's death. Photo: Mladen Antonov / AFP / Getty Images

A Russian who was jailed in 2006 for spying for Britain has been hospitalized in Salisbury, England, after being exposed to an unknown substance Sunday, the BBC reports. Police declared it a major incident, and the former spy and his daughter, who were found unconscious on a bench at a shopping mall, are both in critical condition, per The Guardian.

Other Russians have died in England under suspicious circumstances: In 2006, former KGB officer and whistleblower Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive polonium in London. In 2012, whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny died from a toxin while jogging in England.

The spying backdrop: Sergei Skripal, 66, is a retired Russian military intelligence colonel.

  • He was convicted for sharing the identities of Russian intelligence agents working undercover operations in Europe with MI6, Britain’s intelligence service. Russia’s intelligence service, the FSB, claimed that Skripal had been passing the information on since the 1990s and had been paid $100,000 for it. Skripal pleaded guilty in 2006 and cooperated with investigators, per the BBC.
  • The Russian government pardoned him in 2010, and he was later released in exchange for 10 deep cover Russian spies arrested by the FBI in a U.S.-Russian prisoner swap. After the swap in Vienna, Skripal went to Britain and “kept a low profile," according to the BBC.

Go deeper: Read up on the previous incidents with a thorough BuzzFeed News investigation, here, and previous deaths of Russian diplomats abroad with Axios, here.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Skripal was found with his daughter, not his girlfriend.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
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Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.

Minneapolis will ban police chokeholds following George Floyd's death

A memorial for George Floyd at the site of his death in Minneapolis. Photo: Steel Brooks/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Minneapolis has agreed to ban the use of police chokeholds and will require nearby officers to act to stop them in the wake of George Floyd's death, AP reports.

Why it matters: The agreement between the city and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which has launched an investigation into Floyd's death while in police custody, will be enforceable in court.