The East and the West have found themselves deeply polarised bringing back the memories of the Cold War era and one individual - a Russian - is responsible for this outcome. He is Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former Russian military intelligence officer who got 13 years of imprisonment in 2006 after being accused of spying for Britain.
Arrested in 2004, Skripal was convicted and pardoned latter after he passed the identities of Russian secret agents in Europe to M16, Britain's secret service. He was one of the four prisoners that Russia swapped for spies in the United States in 2010. He was later taken to the UK where he settled.
Skripal made the headlines on March 4 when he, along with his 33-year-old daughter Yulia, was found lying unconscious on a bench at a shopping centre in Salisbury, England. The duo was found critically ill and admitted to the hospital for treatment.
The local authorities probing the reason for their illness said they were exposed to "an unknown substance". In fact, two officers who dealt with the Skripals also fell ill with 'minor symptoms' and were taken to the hospital. A third emergency responder also fell ill though none of them suffered any serious health hazard.
Sergei Skripal was convicted of treason by Russia
Colonel Sergei Skripal was a respected officer during his service days and his arrest on charges of spying had left many shocked. On conviction in 2006 for high treason through espionage by a military court in Moscow, the veteran officer was stripped of all his titles and recognition.
The Russian security service alleged that Skripal had been working for the British secret services since 1995 while in service and passed on Russian state secrets in lieu of money, something he allegedly did even after retiring.
According to Russian authorities, M16 paid Skripal a whopping $100,000 for leaking state secrets to Britain since the 1990s,
Skripal pleaded guilty during his trial which received a wide publicity by the Russian media which said the penalty of 16 years was less than what the former deserved for causing damage to his country's intelligence services.
In 2010, Skripal was swapped with Russian spies released by US
In 2010, Skripal was pardoned by the then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and he was swapped along with three others with 10 Russian spies who were arrested by the FBI in the US. The glamorous Ana Chapman was one among those spies released by the US. Skripal was then given a refuge in the UK where he has been staying till the attack on him on earlier this month. He kept a low profile but reportedly did business in cybersecurity.
Mysterious deaths in the Skripal family
Sergei's wife Lyudmila died in 2012 after suffering from cancer soon after they bought a residence in Salisbury, a city in England's Wiltshire.
In 2016, Sergei's elder brother died and in 2017, his son Alexander died in Russia while spending a vacation. Sergei's daughter Yulia came to visit him from Moscow when the attack took place. She reportedly stayed with her father and late brother in Salisbury for a long time before returning to Russia because she missed the place.
Sergei Skripal's family has denied the allegations that he worked for M16 saying he was committed to his own country.