The Russian double agent poisoned along with his daughter in Salisbury, England last weekend is linked to former British Spy Christopher Steele, reports The Telegraph.
Col Sergei Skripal - who is currently in intensive care after he and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a suspected nerve agent - was recruited by MI6 while working at the British embassy in Estonia, according to Russian intelligence services.
When Russia discovered that Skripal had allegedly been paid $100,000 by MI6 to expose undercover Russian intelligence agents in 2006 - the same year Russian double-agent Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison. In 2010, however, Skripal was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 US spies - after which he moved to the UK and befriended an employee of Christopher Steele.
The Telegraph understands that Col Skripal moved to Salisbury in 2010 in a spy swap and became close to a security consultant employed by Christopher Steele, who compiled the Trump dossier. -Telegraph
A recently deleted LinkedIn account revealed that the British security consultant is based in Salisbury, and his employer is Orbis Business Intelligence - Steele's firm. Steele notoriously assembled a series of memos containing anti-Trump opposition research to Fusion GPS, the first seventeen of which were compiled into the unverified "Trump-Russia" dossier which the FBI relied on to obtain a spy warrant against a Trump campaign associate.
21 people were hospitalized last week when Yulia Skripal reportedly opened a "gift from friends" as they ate in a restaurant. UK counterterrorism police and domestic security agency MI5 are investigating why the Russian double-agent was targeted seven years after his release from a Russian penal colony. Of note, Skripal's son, Alexander, died last year at the age of 43.
Was Skripal still working as a double agent?
If, as The Telegraph posits, Skripal assisted Steele in compiling the dossier - which notably relies on senior Russian officials, despite Steele never having traveled to Moscow - according to testimony by Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, it could explain the motive behind the assassination attempt in Salisbury town centre.
Valery Morozov, a former construction magnate who fled Russia after revealing corruption, claimed last night that Col Skripal, 66, was still working, and remained in regular contact with military intelligence officers at the Russian embassy. That would raise the possibility that he was still feeding intelligence to people in this country.
Mr Morozov said that, as a result, he had decided to steer clear of Col Skripal for his own safety. He told Channel 4 News: “If you have a military intelligence officer working in the Russian diplomatic service, living after retirement in the UK, working in cyber-security and every month going to the embassy to meet military intelligence officers – for me, being a political refugee, it is either a certain danger or, frankly speaking, I thought that this contact might not be very good for me because it can bring some questions from British officials.” -Telegraph
Authorities are trying to piece together the movements of both Sergei and Yulia Skripal, who lives in Moscow but was due for a visit - believed to mark the birthday of Skripal's deceased son.
Skripal had reportedly asked his housekeeper to clean his daughter's room on Monday, Feb. 26 in advance of her visit. Her travel plan may have activated the assassination attempt.
Security services now suspect that when Miss Skripal flew out of Moscow, her departure triggered a “red flag” with a hit squad that was being dispatched to assassinate Col Skripal. It is thought that Miss Skripal was being targeted along with her father in a clear message that “traitors” are not tolerated by the Kremlin.
It is not clear when Miss Skripal landed in the UK, but sources suggest the Russian team sent to kill her father was probably a day behind her. -Telegraph
While Russian media has warned "traitors" after Skripal's poisoning, British lawmakers have suggested Moscow will have committed a "brazen act of war" against Britain if Russia is found to be behind the attack.
British intelligence suspect that the attempted assassination would have been made earlier, but weather conditions from a massive snowstorm dubbed the "Beast from the East" delayed the hit squad.
The snow may have deterred father and daughter from venturing out, while it also would have put in doubt the assassination squad’s likely escape from the UK. With flights cancelled and delayed at Heathrow, they risked arrest if they were stuck in the UK.
By Sunday afternoon – and with Miss Skripal on the brink of returning to Moscow – the assassination squad had little room for manoeuvre and were forced into action in broad daylight in the middle of a busy shopping precinct. -Telegraph
“It now looks as though they got desperate by Sunday afternoon and decided to strike,” reported a confidential source.