World

Ex-Russian spy very ill in UK after exposure to unknown substance

ENGLAND: A former Russian double agent convicted of treason in Moscow is critically ill in a British hospital after exposure to an unknown substance.

The 66-year-old and his 33-year-old daughter were found unconscious on a bench in a shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday. Both are critically ill and in intensive care.

Britain warned yesterday it would respond robustly if Russia was shown to be behind it.

"I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on UK soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished," Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told parliament.

"While it would be wrong to pre-judge the investigation, I can reassure the House that should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility, then her majesty's government will respond appropriately and robustly."

He also said Britain would review its participation in the World Cup if Russia was involved.

"Thinking ahead to the World Cup... this summer, I think it would be very difficult to imagine that UK representation at that event could go ahead in the normal way," he said.

Mr Skripal, once a colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence service, was given refuge in Britain after he was exchanged in 2010 for Russian spies caught in the West as part of a Cold War-style spy swap at Vienna airport.

He was convicted by Russia of treason in 2006 for betraying dozens of spies to British intelligence.

The Kremlin said it was ready to cooperate if Britain asks. "Nobody has approached us with such a request," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. - REUTERS

WORLD