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Convicted Russian spy reportedly sickened by 'unknown substance' in England

A former Russian spy is in critical condition and in a hospital's intensive care unit, following exposure to an "unknown substance," British media reports.

While authorities would confirm only that a man and woman were found unconscious on a Salisbury mall bench Sunday afternoon, the media has identified the man as Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former Russian spy. He once served in Russia's military intelligence, retiring in 1999; in 2004, he was arrested in Moscow and confessed to being recruited by British intelligence in 1995, sharing information on Russian agents throughout Europe in exchange for more than $100,000, The Associated Press reports. He was convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison, but was pardoned and released in 2010 as part of a U.S.-Russian spy swap.

Police said the man and woman did not have any visible injuries and did appear to known one another. Authorities have warned the public not to jump to conclusions on the matter, but it does bring to mind the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who was poisoned at a London hotel in 2006 after drinking tea laced with polonium-210. Keir Giles, director of the Conflict Studies Research Center in Cambridge, told AP that he "would be surprised if this were not linked back to Russia in some direct way," and said that since the poisoning of Litvinenko, several opponents of the Russian government have died in Britain under mysterious circumstances.