LONDON: Britain is considering offering poisoned Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia new identities and a fresh life in the United States in an attempt to protect them from further murder attempts, the Sunday Times newspaper reported.
It said officials at the MI6 intelligence agency have had discussions with their counterparts in the CIA about resettling the victims poisoned last month in the English city of Salisbury.
“They will be offered new identities,” it quoted an unidentified source as saying.
The paper said its sources believed Britain would want to ensure their safety by resettling them in one of the so-called “five eyes” countries, the intelligence-sharing partnership that also includes the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
“The obvious place to resettle them is America because they’re less likely to be killed there and it’s easier to protect them there under a new identity,” it quoted what it called an intelligence source familiar with the negotiations as saying.
“There’s a preference for them to be resettled in a five-eyes nation because their case would have huge security implications,” the source added.
Britain’s Foreign Office had no immediate comment on the report. Relations between Russia and Britain have plunged to their lowest in decades since the pair were found slumped unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on March 4.
Yulia, a Russian citizen, had arrived in Britain only the day before to visit her father, who has been living in Britain for some seven years. Both were found by Britain to be suffering from the effects of poisoning by a nerve agent but they are now recovering in hospital.
Britain blamed Russia for the poisoning, calling it attempted murder, and asked Moscow to explain what happened but Russia denies any involvement and has suggested Britain itself carried out the attack to stoke anti-Russian hysteria.
The attack prompted the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War as allies in Europe and the United States sided with London’s view that Moscow was either responsible or had lost control of the nerve agent.
Moscow has hit back by expelling Western diplomats, questioning how Britain knows that Russia was responsible and offering its rival interpretations, including that it amounted to a plot by British secret services.