Poisoned double agent has links to company behind the Steele dossier - report

A Russian double agent believed to have been poisoned by the Kremlin had close links to the company which compiled the infamous Steele dossier.

Sergei Skripal was once a colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence service, but had been secretly working for the UK since the mid-1990s. He was arrested by the Russians in 2004, but handed over to the UK in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

Mr Skripal was found slumped on a bench in Salisbury, where he lived, last weekend. He - and his daughter - had been poisoned with some kind of nerve agent.

Russia has denied responsibility, but it's now reported Mr Skripal was close to a security consultant who worked for Christopher Steele's company Orbis Business Intelligence.

Mr Steele is the former British spy who compiled a damning dossier on Donald Trump, which was released in full by Buzzfeed in January 2017 ahead of his inauguration as US President.

The dossier alleges collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in order to swing the US election in Mr Trump's favour. It also claims Russia is in possession of "compromising" video and audio recordings of Mr Trump, and that he hired prostitutes to urinate on a Moscow hotel bed former President Barack Obama once used.

Sergei Skripal in 2006.
Sergei Skripal in 2006. Photo credit: Getty

The Telegraph reports Mr Skripal and the unnamed security consultant both lived in Salisbury.

The report has raised the possibility Mr Skripal was targeted in reprisal for his possible involvement in the Steele dossier.

UK intelligence services suspect the assassination attempt may have been botched after the snowstorm dubbed the 'Beast from the East' got in the way. Risking arrest if they stayed in the UK too long, it's suspected the "hit squad" were forced to carry out the assassination in broad daylight.

"It now looks as though they got desperate by Sunday afternoon and decided to strike," one intelligence source told The Telegraph.

A second suspected motive for the attack is that it's a message to other double agents not to betray Russia.

Not all of the claims in the Steele dossier have been independently verified, but much of it has reportedly been confirmed.