Britain has warned of a robust response if it finds evidence of Russian involvement in the collapse of a former Russian agent convicted of betraying dozens of spies to British intelligence.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, are critically ill after being exposed to what police called an unknown substance. Russia’s embassy in London has expressed concern about British media reporting of the incident, which has included suggestions that Skripal and his daughter were poisoned.
Interestingly, if Russia is behind some or all of these poisonings, it is technically legal under Russian law. In 2006, the Russian Parliament passed a law allowing the Russian President to eliminate enemies of the state overseas, according to BuzzFeed News and BBC.
Below is a list of some previous incidents in which critics or enemies of Moscow have been victims of poisoning or suspected poisoning, or have cried foul after suddenly falling ill:
A Russian colonel and his daughter hit with an unidentified substance.
Skripal, 66, was once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.
He and his 33-year-old daughter were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. Police are investigating what made them ill.
The Kremlin says it is ready to cooperate if Britain asks it for help investigating the incident, and that it has no information about it. Asked about British media speculation that Russia had poisoned Skripal, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said: “It didn’t take them long.”
A Bulgarian dissident stung with a poison-tipped umbrella.
During the Cold War, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was killed with a poison-tipped umbrella. Markov, a writer, journalist and opponent of Bulgaria’s then communist leadership, died on Sept. 11, 1978 after someone fired a ricin-laced pellet into his leg on London’s Waterloo Bridge.
According to accounts of the incident, Markov, who defected to the West in 1969, was waiting for a bus when he felt a sharp sting in his thigh. A stranger fumbled behind him with an umbrella he had dropped and mumbled “sorry” before walking away.
Markov later died of what is believed to be ricin poisoning, for which there is no antidote. Dissidents accused the Soviet KGB of being behind the killing.
An ex-KGB agent drunk green tea laced with polonium-210.
In 2016, ex-KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, 43, died after drinking green tea laced with polonium-210, a rare and potent radioactive isotope, at London’s Millennium Hotel.
Putin probably approved the killing, a British inquiry concluded in 2016. The Kremlin has denied involvement.
An inquiry led by a senior British judge found that former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoy and another Russian, Dmitry Kovtun, carried out the killing as part of an operation that he said was probably directed by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the main heir to the Soviet-era KGB.
An outspoken critic of Putin, Litvinenko fled Russia for Britain six years to the day before he was poisoned.
Later that year, Matthew Puncher, the British scientist who later found traces of polonium-210 all over London, was later found stabbed to death, according to BuzzFeed News.