Former Russian Spy 'Fighting for Life After' Being Poisoned In The UK
Colonel Sergei Skripal in critical condition
A former Russian spy and an MI6 double agent is fighting for his life after 'being poisoned' outside a UK shopping center according to reports.
Colonel Sergei Skripal, 66 is now in critical condition after being found unconscious on a bench in a town center in The Maltings, Salisbury, Wiltshire UK.
He was found alongside a 33-year-old woman, who is yet to be identified but is known to Mr. Skripal.
The pair now remains in intensive care at Salisbury Hospital under the supervision of experts from Public Health England's Centre for Radiation Chemical and Environmental Hazards.
The former spy was granted refuge in the UK eight years ago following a 'spy swap' between the United States and Russia.
The Mirror reports; A retired Russian military intelligence colonel, he had been sentenced to 13 years after being accused of spying for Britain and passing identities of secret agents to MI6.
At the time of his trial in 2006 prosecutors said he had been cooperating with the British secret service MI6 since the 1990s.
He was later convicted of "high treason in the form of espionage" but later pardoned and flew to Britain where he led a quiet life in Wiltshire.
An eyewitness who saw Mr Skripal, alongside a younger woman in The Maltings shopping precinct, said the pair looked "so out of it".
At a press conference on Monday evening police said that it was not a counter terrorism incident.
Colonel Skripal was recruited by MI6 in the mid-Nineties (Image: Group M / facebook)
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Freya Church told the BBC: "I had just finished training at my work and on the right hand side on a bench there was a couple, a younger girl and older guy.
"She looked like she was leaning on him, kind of passed out maybe. He was doing some strange hand movements looking up to the sky.
"I felt anxious, I felt like I should step in but they looked so out of it I wasn't sure I could have helped, so I just left them. They looked like they'd been taking something so strong."
Earlier today Salisbury Hospital announced it has shut its A&E and declared a "major incident" involving up to 10 casualties after two people who may have been exposed to the powerful opiate fentanyl were left in a critical condition.
Officials work to clear the scene where Sergei Skripal and a 33-year-old unnamed woman were found collapsed (Image: Solent News & Photo Agency)
The substance has not been formally identified by Public Health England.
Firefighters were called to the hospital in Wiltshire to decontaminate an area outside the A&E department.
Emergency personnel were wearing full-body hazardous materials protective suits at the scene, a green tent was set up and an incident response unit was on site.
It is understood that fewer than 10 people were involved in the incident - mainly members of the public - and there were no fatalities.
Dorset & Wiltshire Fire Service were called to the hospital on Monday morning to decontaminate the area outside the A&E department.
In scenes that could be straight out of a spy novel, Colonel Skripal was recruited by MI6 in the mid-Nineties during an foreign assignment in an unnamed country.
After being recruited he was paid in cash by MI6 handlers for details of Russian intelligence operartions.
The information reportedly included dates and locations of Russian agents' clandestine meetings with their Kremlin handlers in the UK - allowing British intelligence to monitor the exchanges and break up spy rings.
He was returned to the UK as part of a spy swap which saw deep cover agent Anna Chapman returned to Moscow.
Chapman, a joint British and Russian citizen, was sent back to Russia as part of the deal which secured Mr Skripal's release.
Anna Chapman was part of the Russian spy exchange with Mr Skripal (Image: AFP)
Another Russian released to the west in the spy exchange was Dr Igor Sutyagin, a expert in arms control.
Dr Sutayagin was jailed in Russia for allegations he had passed information to a British company. After his release he took a post at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London and is believed to still be resident in the UK.
Salisbury District Hospital tweeted: "Salisbury NHS is currently dealing with a major incident involving a small number of casualties, with a multi-agency response.
"We are not asking additional staff to come to site unless contacted directly."
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Later Mr Markov became seriously unwell and was admitted to hospital, where he told staff he was convinced he'd been poisoned by the KGB.
A pellet of Ricin was later found in his leg.
The hospital added: "We are advising patients to attend for their scheduled appointments unless they too have been contacted directly and asked not to.
"We are asking staff who are due to work today to come to work as normal."
It advised on its website: "Please do not attend the Emergency Department (A&E) unless extremely urgent."
Wiltshire Police said it is suspected two people were exposed to an unknown substance in Salisbury on Sunday.
Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Craig Holden said: "Yesterday afternoon, at approximately 4.15pm, Wiltshire Police received a call from a member of the public who was concerned for the welfare of two people.
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"The two people - a man aged in his 60s, and a woman aged in her 30s - were found unconscious on a bench in The Maltings in Salisbury.
"The pair, who we believe are known to each other, did not have any visible injuries and were taken to Salisbury District Hospital. They are currently being treated for suspected exposure to an unknown substance. Both are currently in a critical condition in intensive care.
"Because we are still at the very early stages of the investigation, we are unable to ascertain whether or not a crime has taken place."