The Russian spy who is fighting for his life after being poisoned had a ‘nose for money’ and was turned by the West when an agent recruited him to sell Spanish wine, it emerged today.
Sergei Skripal, 66, remains in a critical condition with his 33-year-old daughter Yulia after the pair collapsed on a bench after they were attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Last month only a tiny number of people knew the inside story behind the former champion army boxer who went on turn against his country.
But in just a few days he has become the most famous spy in the world whose life is being deciphered by more than 250 counter-terrorism officers desperately searching for clues.
He was born in Kiev in 1951 and it has now been revealed that he witnessed brutal fighting in Afghanistan after he was parachuted into the country when he was part of the Russian paratrooper division.
Skripal finally ended up in Spain when he became a senior GRU officer in the office of the Russian military attache in 1993.
His work in Malta earned him a strong reputation as someone was was an ‘energetic professional’ who could ‘recruit agents and extract important information’, Russian media reports.
And after moving to Spain, the Spanish intelligence service – the CNI – immediately spotted his potential as a recruit to western intelligence, reports The Times.
The CNI registered him as being someone who had a ‘nose for money’ and he was approached by a man called ‘Luis’ who was described as an ‘access agent’.
Luis suggested the pair should start a business selling Spanish wine and Skripal was told he would be paid handsomely if he could identify Russian business partners.
However, Skripal was at first unsure whether he was in fact recruiting Luis or it was the other way around.
Sergei Skripal was photographed holding his daughter Yulia next to his family members after she was born
After a short period Skripal eventually told his business partner he was a military intelligence officer – a piece of information that Luis undoubtedly knew but he replied by saying it would be useful for business.
The CNI later decided that Skripal would be better suited working for the MI6, an organisation the Spanish intelligence service had a good relationship with.
He later established a close relationship with a second agent and Skripal was given the codename ‘Forthwith’ and went on to provide detailed intelligence.
Skripal revealed inside information about GRU operations, details about active agents and names of military intelligence officers working in Russia and around the world.
Both Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured together in a Zizzi restaurant) are still in a critical condition
The former spy, who graduated from Kaliningrad’s military engineering school in 1972, was paid between $5,000 and $6,000 a meeting, reports The Times.
The type 1 diabetic is said to have held his ‘well-oiled’ meetings in bars and restaurants.
He would place the money in a Spanish bank account.
His information was shared with the CIA and sources added that he became alienated from Russia and wanted to undermine it.