The Impressionist.

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Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a park bench, but why?

How did this all start?

Wiltshire police received a telephone call at 4:15pm on Sunday the 4th of March. The caller alerted them to two people acting strangely.

Sergei Skripal was found with his daughter Yulia Skripal outside The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury. Both were unconscious, but had no visible injuries.

The pair were taken to Salisbury District Hospital, where they’re currently in a critical condition. But what does this mean?

A critical condition is where the patient’s vital signs are unstable and not inside of normal limits. They might be unconscious and, broadly, things aren’t looking good.

What happened to Skripal and his daughter?

Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner said they were exposed to a nerve agent in what’s believed to be a case of attempted murder.

Who is Sergei Skripal?

Skripal was born in the Soviet Union on the 23rd of June 1951. He worked as part of the Russian military intelligence unit called the GRU.

During a placement in Europe its alleged he was approached by the British intelligence services. Its claimed that he revealed the identities of Russian undercover operatives to the British for money.

Skripal was arrested in 2004 by the Federal Security Service (The FSB, Russia’s main intelligence agency) on suspicion of treason. The FSB believed that Skripal had been ‘turned’ by MI6 in 1995 and had been in contact with agents from Britain at the Moscow embassy.

In a secret military trial, Skripal confessed to selling the identities of Russian agents to MI6. A lot of the agents he betrayed were ‘deep cover’ spies based in Britain and Europe. He apparently received over $100,000 paid into a Spanish bank account.

In 2006 Skripal was jailed for 13 years but was pardoned by then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010 as part of a spy swap.

So far Russian officials have denied having anything to do with Skripal’s poisoning with a nerve agent.

So, what is a nerve agent?

They’re a type of chemical which affects the nervous system. Usually they’re a colourless liquid but can also come in aerosol form. They can be inhaled, ingested or swiped on the skin or clothes.

What is the nervous system?

Essentially, the body uses the nervous system to communicate. The brain and spinal cord work together as the central nervous system (CNS). The CNS uses electronic pulses to communicate with a network of nerves around the body. Nerve cells pick up what’s going on in the outside world and tell the brain. The CNS then tells relevant parts of the body how to react.

How do nerve agents work then?

Basically, a nerve agent stops the nervous system form communicating properly, causing the body to become over stimulated. This can result in many complications including spasms, muscle paralysis and suffocation.

Who has been affected?

Police have confirmed a total of 21 people have so far received medical treatment after Skripal was allegedly poisoned.

Among those is Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was one of the first on scene to help Skripal. Sergeant Bailey remains in a serious condition, but he’s now able to talk.

What’s happening now?

The Metropolitan Police’s counter terrorism unit has called in the military to help with the removal of any items which may have been contaminated at the scene.

The police’s investigation is ongoing, with Skripal’s car now being examined. Salisbury cemetery where Skripal’s wife and son are buried has also been cordoned off. Police are trying to identify a man and a woman who were seen very close to where Skripal and his daughter were found.