A former Russian double-agent is critically ill after being exposed to an unknown substance in Wiltshire.

Sergei Skripal, 66, was found unconscious on a park bench at the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon accompanied by a woman in her 30s. The pair were rushed to A&E and are now in intensive care at Salisbury District Hospital.

The substance has not been identified and police are investigating whether a crime has been committed.

Authorities have cordoned off the city centre while public health teams in full hazmat suits worked to decontaminate the streets.

The retired military general was jailed for 13 years in 2006 for sharing Russian secrets with the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6. He pleaded guilty to treason and working for the British throughout the 1990s and selling the identities of Russian military agents working undercover in Europe to MI6 for an alleged $100,000.

He was granted refuge in the UK after a “spy swap” between the US and Russia in 2010, where Moscow released four prisoners in return for the US releasing 10 Russian spies.

In a statement, Temporary Assistant Chief Constable Craig Holden said: “Yesterday afternoon, at approximately 4.15pm, Wiltshire Police received a call from a member of the public who was concerned for the welfare of two people.

“The two people – a man aged in his 60s, and a woman aged in her 30s – were found unconscious on a bench in The Maltings in Salisbury.

“Police officers, as well as colleagues from the ambulance and fire services attended the scene and cordons were put in place.

Police have asked anyone with information to call them immediately on 999.

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