08 Mar 2018
Russian spy: Nerve gas used to kill Sergei Skripal
Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33) were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on Sunday.
They were deliberately targeted with a nerve agent.
The two, along with a police officer who first reached the scene, are said to be in coma.
Considering it's a rare nerve agent, usually manufactured in specialist government labs, the suspicion inevitably falls on Russia.
Who is Sergei Skripal?
Colonel Sergei, a retired Russian military intelligence officer, was jailed for 13 years by Russia in 2006.
He was convicted for disclosing identities of Russian intelligence agents working undercover in Europe to MI6, UK's secret service.
Later, in 2010, he was one of the prisoners released in a prison swap at Austria's Vienna.
Since then, Sergei has kept a low-profile as a Salisbury resident.
What are the various conspiracy theories?
Cops are investigating whether Sergei was unwittingly poisoned after his daughter opened a "gift from friends." The assassins may have slipped the deadly sarin nerve gas as Yulia prepared to fly from Moscow.
Another theory is that the gas was sprayed on their face. CCTV captured a woman with a scarlet bag before Sergei collapsed.
One more possibility is that their drinks were spiked.
This "attempted-murder" is reminiscent of the fate of other Putin-baiters
Notably, Russian President Putin's enemies have systematically been eliminated earlier.
In 2006, another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko collapsed in London. He ingested a radioactive isotope polonium 210. He died three weeks later; an enquiry revealed that his assassination was reportedly ordered by Putin.
Alexander Perepilichnyy, exiled Russian banker, and Boris Berezovsky, Putin's friend-turned-foe, were also found dead under suspicious circumstances in UK.
How will this affect UK-Russia relations?
Now, already-tense UK-Russia relations might get strained further.
UK's foreign secretary Boris Johnson bellowed that "Russia is now a malign and disruptive force."
In response, Russia denied any involvement; instead, it accused British of fostering anti-Russian sentiments.
Earlier, UK strongly opposed Russia's annexation of Crimea, military support for Syrian President Assad and cyber-attacks on UK infrastructure. It backed tough economic sanctions against Russia.
How could US president Trump get dragged in this incident?
Police are apparently investigating the links between Sergei and Christopher Steele, former British spy who compiled the explosive dossier on US President Donald Trump. The dossier provides details about the alleged collusion between Trump and Russian government for the US elections.
Separately, in early-1990s, when Sergei was passing information to MI6, Steele was in Moscow. He also headed the investigation into Litvinenko's poisoning.