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 Russian ex-spy Skripal might have been poisoned for feeding British agents secrets on Putin crony, - NYT

Sergei V. Skripal, the former Russian spy targeted in a nerve agent attack this spring, fed Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service information about a 1990s-era corruption scheme that reached all the way up to Nikolai P. Patrushev, a top Russian intelligence chief and close ally of Vladimir V. Putin, a new book contends.

As reported by Censor.NET citing The New York Times, Mr. Skripal said this in interviews last year with Mark Urban, the BBC’s diplomatic and defense editor, who was researching a book about post-Cold War espionage.

The information on high-level graft was sensitive, Mr. Skripal said. A naval officer who worked in Russia’s military intelligence service alongside Mr. Skripal, who like him had been caught passing information to Western security services, was found dead in 2004, apparently strangled, in a military hospital after an interrogation by Russian intelligence agents, Mr. Skripal said.

The official explanation was suicide, but several of his fingers had been cut off, in a grisly and unmistakable message.

British intelligence concluded that Mr. Skripal had been spared the same fate because, during Russian interrogations, he had not mentioned the web of corruption leading to Mr. Patrushev, then the head of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the K.G.B. Mr. Patrushev has stepped down from that post, but remains close to Mr. Putin, serving as general secretary of Russia’s security council.

The interviews with Mr. Skripal, excerpted in Mr. Urban’s book, "The Skripal Files: The Life and Near Death of a Russian Spy," to be published on Tuesday in the United States, do not answer the question of why Mr. Skripal was targeted, but they do paint the fullest picture to date of his life as a Russian spy and a British informant.

Deeply disillusioned by the Soviet collapse and disgusted by President Boris N. Yeltsin, he avoided swearing a new oath of loyalty to the Russian Federation, Mr. Skripal told Mr. Urban.

Then in 1992, he requested an audience with a general in the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence service, and tried to hand in his resignation, explaining that he "didn’t want to serve the new government." But the service was so desperate for qualified officers that they did not accept his resignation and offered him a plum assignment in Madrid.

Four years later, as an informant for Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, known as MI6, he passed on information about systematic graft in the Madrid headquarters of the G.R.U., as Soviet-era discipline relaxed. He told MI6 the identity of certain officers who were overcharging for procurements and inventing fictitious budget items, then distributing a cut to senior officers who served as their protectors.

Britain used Skripal’s information to help Spanish intelligence recruit the naval officer — the man who, in 2004, was found strangled in his hospital bed. Mr. Skripal’s MI6 handlers offered to remove him from Russia, the book claims, but Mr. Skripal decided to return to Russia, where, two months later, he was arrested.

During about 10 hours of interviews with Mr. Urban, in a house stocked with the jigsaw puzzles and model ships of an aging, solitary man, Mr. Skripal said he was afraid to attract attention by being quoted in the book.

"It’s because of Putin," he told Mr. Urban. "You see, we are afraid of Putin."

Mr. Urban, who has covered Britain’s security services for 30 years, frequently presents the thinking of intelligence officials without naming them. A portion of the book is told from the perspective of the MI6 officer who recruited Mr. Skripal, who is identified with a pseudonym.

Mr. Urban does not settle on one theory as to why Mr. Skripal, a relatively obscure figure, was targeted for such a spectacular attack. But one theory in the intelligence world is that Russian hit men were unable to locate their first choice — Col. Aleksandr Poteyev, deputy head at the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service’s American section, who in 2010 blew the cover of 10 Russian undercover spies living as Americans.

The C.I.A. spirited Mr. Poteyev out of Russia in July 2010 — the very week that then President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia had visited Washington for a smiley public meeting with President Barack Obama — and then broke the news to Moscow that 10 of its undercover spies had been betrayed by a Russian officer.

Mr. Putin, as a young man, had served in a role similar to Mr. Poteyev’s, providing support to undercover agents stationed abroad. He seethed with anger when asked about the betrayal, at one point saying at a national news conference, "How will he be able to look in the eyes of his children, the pig?"

Mr. Urban suggests that Russian intelligence services may have had trouble finding Mr. Poteyev, who had been resettled under an assumed identity by the F.B.I., and then "moved down the list" to other former agents deemed traitors who were easier to find — like Mr. Skripal, who lived openly in Salisbury.

As reported, Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, 67, and daughter Yulia Skripal, 34, were hospitalized in critical condition after they were found unconscious on a bench in the Wiltshire city on March 4 but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital. The UK government says they were poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia called Novichok and PM Theresa May said she believed Moscow was "culpable."

A couple who authorities said found the perfume bottle after it was discarded by the attackers fared worse: Charlie Rowley recovered after treatment in the hospital but his partner, Dawn Sturgess, 44, died on July 8.

In an interview to the state-funded RT, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the two Russians charged with perpetrating nerve agent attack in British Salisbury have claimed they were visiting the town's "famous" cathedral as tourists.

Petrov and Boshirov have been charged with attempting to murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripaland his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March by spraying Novichok nerve agent on the handle of their door. Scotland Yard have said these names are probably aliases.

A UK government spokesman rubbished the men's claims as "obfuscation and lies", while John Glen, the Conservative MP for Salisbury and South Wiltshire, called the statements "not credible".

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia knew the real identity of two men accused by British prosecutors of trying to murder Skripals and that they were civilians with nothing criminal about them.

Russia adamantly denies involvement in the poisoning, which had added to severe strains in ties between Russia and the West.

Putin's declaration came seven days after British authorities announced that they had charged two Russian men, identified as Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with carrying out the poisioning on March 4.

They accused the pair of smuggling the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume flask and smearing some of the substance on the front door of Sergei Skripal's home in the English city of Salisbury, where the former GRU officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

Источник: https://censor.net.ua/en/n3089151