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. 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 Programspy swap.
|Native name||Сергей Викторович Скрипаль|
|Born||Sergei Viktorovich Skripal|
23 June 1951
Kaliningrad Oblast, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
|Spouse(s)||Lyudmila Skripal (c. 1952/1953–2012), née Koshelnik|
On 4 March 2018, he and his daughter Yulia, who was visiting him from Moscow, were poisoned with what the British government claims to be a Novichoknerve agent. As of 22 March 2018, they remain in a critical condition at Salisbury District Hospital. The poisoning is being investigated as an attempted murder. He is a British citizen. Shortly after the poisoning incident, Russian officials said they had no information as to Sergei Skripal’s nationality; however, on 21 March 2018 Russian ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko said that Sergei Skripal is also a Russian citizen.
Life and career
Sergei Skripal was born in Kaliningrad Oblast on 23 June 1951. In 1972, Skripal completed the military engineering school in Kaliningrad with qualification of a sapper-paratrooper. He then studied at the Moscow Military Engineering Academy, and then served in the Soviet Airborne Troops.
Skripal was co-opted to the military intelligence (GRU) from the Airborne Troops. In the early 1990s, he was posted as a GRU officer at the embassy in Malta. In 1994, he landed a position in the military attaché′s office in Madrid, Spain. According the FSB and other sources, in 1995, in Spain, he was recruited to the British intelligence by British intelligence agent Pablo Miller, who then posed as Antonio Alvarez de Hidalgo. According to intelligence sources cited by The Times in March 2018, Skripal was first spotted for potential development as an asset by the Spanish intelligence but was approached by the British recruiter around July 1995 and was given the codename 'Forthwith'. According to the FSB, Pablo Miller was also involved in efforts to recruit other Russian assets and was in contact with Alexander Litvinenko.
In 1996, due to his poor health (diabetes), 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. Skripal held the rank of colonel when he retired, due to his inadequate health condition, in 1999. He continued to make trips to Spain, where he had a house near Málaga at his disposal, provided by his handlers.
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. He was alleged to have blown the cover of 300 Russian agents.
From 2001, Skripal worked in the Ministry of Municipalities of the Government of Moscow Oblast.
Arrest and conviction
In December 2004, Skripal was arrested outside his house in Moscow′s Krylatskoye District shortly after returning from Britain. 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. 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 co-operation with investigators. Skripal was sentenced to thirteen years in 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. Skripal's lawyers appealed the sentence, which was upheld by the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court on 30 November 2006.
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, after being pardoned by the then President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev. The UK government insisted on Skripal being included in the swap.
Skripal moved to Salisbury, Wiltshire, where he purchased a house in 2011. According to British security officials, Skripal continued to provide information to the UK and other Western intelligence agencies after 2010 for a period. Skripal's wife died in 2012 of disseminated endometrial cancer. His daughter returned to Moscow in 2014 and worked in sales. His son died aged 43 in March 2017, in unknown circumstances, on a visit to Saint Petersburg; Sergei's older brother died within the two years before Skripal's poisoning. Both Skripal's wife and his son are buried in a cemetery local to Salisbury.
On 4 March 2018, Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, who was visiting from Moscow, were found unconscious (in a catatonic state) on a public bench near a shopping centre in Salisbury by a passing doctor and nurse. Paramedics took them to Salisbury District Hospital where medical staff determined that the pair had been poisoned with a nerve agent. The police declared a major incident as multiple agencies were involved. Following the incident, health authorities checked 21 members of the emergency services and the public for symptoms; three police officers were hospitalised – two had minor injuries, while one, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who had been sent to Sergei Skripal's house, was in a serious condition. As of 11 March 2018 Skripal and his daughter remain critically ill, and Bailey is seriously ill but stable.
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 SecretaryAmber Rudd.
On 12 March 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May identified the nerve agent used in the attack as a Russian-made Novichok agent and demanded explanation from the Russian government. Two days later, May said that Russia was responsible for the incident and announced expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation.
In mid-March 2018, Russia said that its diplomats were denied access to both Sergei Skripal and his daughter, who is a Russian national.