Suspected nerve-agent attack in U.K. an “appalling, reckless crime”

Nerve agents such as sarin are highly toxic chemicals that disrupt the nervous system and shut down bodily functions.

The substance used on 4 March was likely to be rarer than sarin or VX nerve agents, the BBC reported on 8 March, citing an unnamed source.

Skripal was arrested in Moscow in December 2004 and convicted by a Moscow military court in August 2006 of “high treason in the form of espionage.”

He was found guilty of passing the identities of Russian intelligence agents working undercover in Europe to Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, in return for $100,000.

Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) alleged he had begun working for MI6 while serving in the army in the 1990s.

The incident in Salisbury has drawn comparisons with the 2006 death of former Russian security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in London.

A British inquiry has concluded that the Russian government was behind Litvinenko’s death and that President Vladimir Putin “probably approved” the killing. Russia has denied any involvement.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has warned that any involvement of a foreign government in the incident in Salisbury would not go “unpunished.”

Johnson told Parliament on March 6 that Britain might step up sanctions against Russia if it finds that Moscow was involved. He also suggested that Britain could reconsider its participation in the soccer World Cup in Russia this summer.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused British politicians and journalists of using the case to drive “anti-Russian” sentiment and disrupt relations between London and Moscow.

Relatives of Skripal were quoted in the British media as saying that some of his family members died in recent years under mysterious circumstances.

They told the BBC Russian Service that the ex-spy believed that “Russian special services might come after him at any time.”

Skripal’s son Sergei, 44, died on a visit to Russia last year of an unknown illness, The Times newspaper reported, while The Guardian reported that Skripal’s wife died from cancer shortly after her arrival in Britain in 2012.

The Times reported that Yulia Skripal lived in Britain in 2010 after her father was released in a spy swap with Russia, but she later moved back to Moscow and was working for PepsiCo Russia. She returned to Britain to visit her father last week, it said.

This article is published courtesy of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty