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Was Skripal Still Spying?

Czech official gets fired over statements on Novichok, as reports suggest Sergei Skripal briefed Western intelligence agencies on Russian spying activities.

15 May 2018

Sergei Skripal (pictured), the Russian double agent who was recently poisoned with a chemical agent in Britain, was “still in the spy game,” and that might have been the reason why Russia tried to eliminate him, The New York Times wrote on Monday.

 

According to the Times, Skripal has met with Czech intelligence officers more than once since 2012 and travelled to Estonia in 2016 to meet with spies working for Russia’s Baltic neighbor.

 

Skripal, who worked for the Russian intelligence agency GRU up until 1999, allegedly travelled to many of Great Britain’s allies to brief their secret services on Russia’s spying operations. The trips were approved of, or even facilitated by the British authorities, the Times reported, on the basis of conversations with European officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

 

The Czech weekly Respekt already reported this past weekend on Skripal’s visit to Prague six years ago. “At least once, in 2012, Skripal visited Prague and though he only stayed for a short time, his trip was a benefit to the local secret services,” Respekt wrote, cited by the Prague Daily Monitor.

 

Czech Foreign Minister Martin Stropnicky told RFE/RL that Skripal’s secret meetings with Czech agents took place “on the normal basis of cooperation” between British and Czech intelligence services. Stropnicky said he had no knowledge of the details of the information provided by Skripal.

 

The New York Times says that there is no way to know for certain whether Russia knew about Skripal’s activities or if that might have been a reason for Russia to poison him.

 

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were hospitalized on 4 March, after they were found unconscious on a bench in a shopping mall in Salisbury, Skripal's new hometown. It was later established that they had been poisoned with the chemical nerve agent Novichok. London accuses Russia of the attempt on Skripal’s life, while Moscow has denied the allegations. Great Britain and its allies expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats and suspected intelligence agencies from their countries in a retaliatory move.

 

 

  • Czech President Milos Zeman recently said that his country had produced and stored a type of Novichok “in insignificant amounts.” Russia seized on that remark to claim that the nerve agent could have been produced by any of several countries. Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis denied that the substance made in the Czech Republic was the same as that used to poison Skripal.

 

  • Yesterday, Czech Defence Minister Karla Slechtova fired the director of the Military Research Institute, Bohuslav Safar, over his statements on Czech experiments with Novichok, which Zeman had mentioned. Babis denied that he had asked Slechtova to dismiss Safar, the Prague Daily Monitor reports, citing the Czech News Agency, CTK.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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