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Russian who spied for UK in critical condition after exposure to toxin: reports

FILE - This is a Aug. 16, 2005 file photo of the main entrance of Salisbury District Hospital, in Salisbury, England.
Tim Ockenden/PA via AP, File
Sergei Skripal was reportedly sentenced to 13 years in prison by a Russian court on treason charges

A Russian national who was convicted of spying for the United Kingdom is in a critical condition after he was exposed to a toxic substance, British media outlets reported on Monday.

Police in the southwest England region of Wiltshire have declared a "major incident" and a couple were suspected of being exposed to an "unknown substance."

Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Craig Holden said that on Sunday afternoon "two people -- a man aged in his 60s, & a woman aged in her 30s -- were found unconscious on a bench," in a shopping center in the city of Salisbury.

The man was identified by the BBC and other media outlets on Monday evening as Sergei Skripal, who was reportedly jailed by a Russian court for 13 years in 2006 after being convicted of passing information to the UK's foreign intelligence service, MI6.

He was granted asylum in UK after a "spy swap" between Moscow and London, The Telegraph newspaper reported.

Salisbury Hospital's emergency department is closed to all but "acute" patients, the hospital wrote on its Twitter account.

A cordon around the scene of the duo's discovery remained in place on Monday evening as police appealed for any witnesses to come forward.

A woman who saw them slumped on the bench told the BBC they "looked so out of it".

In 2006 a former Russian spy who defected to the United Kingdom, Alexander Litvinenko, died after being exposed to polonium.

A British inquiry into the death said Russia's President Vladimir Putin "probably approved" the killing and identified two Russians, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitri Kovtun, as the prime suspects. 

AFP contributed to this report. 


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