RAF spooks intercepted a message to Moscow saying ‘the package has been delivered’ shortly after Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia were poisoned, it has been reported.
It is understood the information was central to the intelligence package shared with Britain’s allies before more than 100 Russian diplomats were expelled from countries across the world.
The British Government has repeatedly said it is ‘highly likely’ Russia was behind the attacks in Salisbury despite scientists at military research site Porton Down being unable to confirm that the Novichok nerve agent came from Moscow.
According to the Sunday Express, intelligence ‘insiders’ revealed two messages sent from Syria to Moscow were intercepted at an RAF listening post in Cyprus on March 3 and 4.
two messages sent from Syria to Moscow were intercepted at an RAF listening post in Cyprus
The message on March 4, the day of the poisoning, included the phrase ‘the package has been delivered’ and that two people have ‘made a successful egress’.
A Flight Lieutenant then flagged the message intercepted the previous day following the attack on the Skripals, although its contents have not been revealed.
Spies at the Governments intelligence headquarters the GCHQ in Cheltenham were then given the information as they put together a dossier on the poisoning.
It comes as the Mail on Sunday revealed the agent used to poison former Russian agent Mr Skripal and his daughter was specially designed to take 'four hours to kill them' so their assassins could flee Britain.
Security sources said the Russians developed a less powerful ‘boutique’ Novichok that could be absorbed through the skin to help their agents avoid capture.
Novichok is normally administered in gas form and kills its victims within minutes.
This adjustment to the nerve agent, made after exhaustive scientific tests conducted at a secret Russian scientific establishment, proved a crucial flaw in the double murder bid.
While it allowed the would-be murderers to escape, it also gave doctors and scientists time to identify the Novichok and treat the patients with antidotes.
Sergei, who had previously been given just a one percent chance of survival by his family, is now in a stable condition – while Yulia is recovering so fast she could soon be discharged.
MI6 officials and the CIA are said to have discussed giving them a secret life in the US.
Sergei Skripal has British citizenship, but his Russian daughter could be given political asylum by Britain in the meantime.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was left in a serious condition after rushing to the aid of the Skripals after they collapsed and was also treated by the same medical team, was released from hospital last month.
The Skripals are also understood to be providing police and the Security Services with vital information that could lead to the culprits being identified.
The account provided by security sources challenges claims from Moscow that its nerve agent could not have been used in the Salisbury attacks because it is too toxic for anyone to survive exposure to it.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson accused Jeremy Corbyn of being ‘the Kremlin’s useful idiot’ last night for refusing to blame Russia for the nerve agent attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
The Foreign Secretary claimed the Labour leader was playing ‘Putin’s game’ by refusing to say ‘unequivocally... that the Russian state was responsible’.
The Russian embassy has accused the Foreign Office of failing to explain why a relative of the Skripals was denied a visa to visit them.
Government sources told the Mail that the visa was refused over fears that Miss Skripal’s cousin Viktoria was being used as a pawn by the Kremlin.
Yulia has also said she does not want Viktoria to visit her, and has rejected demands from the Russian embassy that it provide consular support to her and her father. (The Daily Mail)