Chemical warfare teams sent to Salisbury to help in spy poison case

Violet Powell
March 11, 2018

A police auto is transported in a convoy of police and military vehicles leaving Salisbury District Hospital over contamination fears.

Former double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital since they were found unconscious on Sunday on a bench outside a shopping centre in the quiet cathedral city of Salisbury.

Analyst Boulegue said that it would be "extremely difficult" to pinpoint who committed the attack, and that the response could be a lot more complicated if it turned out that internal factions were responsible.

Irina Petrova, a friend of the former double agent's daughter, said Yulia was a "normal kind of person" who had lived in the United Kingdom for five years after her father's return to Britain in a spy swap.

They both remain in hospital in a "very serious" after being poisoned with a nerve agent.

On Friday, police called in about 180 marines, soldiers and air force personnel with expertise in chemical weapons, decontamination and logistics to help with the probe and to remove vehicles that might be contaminated.

Sites that have been cordoned off include the city center bench where the two were found, a pub and restaurant they had visited earlier, Skripal's home, the graves of his wife, Lyudmila, and son, Alexander, and an industrial vehicle park.

Interior minister Amber Rudd told MPs that the "brazen and reckless" attack was "attempted murder in the most cruel and public way" but declined to single any perpetrator out.

In Salisbury, the investigation continued to move at a fast pace.

Dressed in large hazardous-material suits, the investigators began collecting evidence at Skripal's house in the town and erected a blue forensic tent around the grave of the son.

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British police extended their search for those behind a nerve agent attack on a former Russian double agent as speculation mounted Friday about how London could respond if a state actor were to blame.

However, he said, "there are not 101 likely offenders", apparently a reference to the difficulty in producing nerve agent, which would limit the number of suspects with the ability to carry out the attack.

Mr Skripal served four years of a 13 year sentence in Russian Federation after he was caught spying for MI6 and was released as part of a spy exchange in 2010, then given refuge in the UK.

Police said 21 people had been seen for medical treatment in the aftermath of the incident, but only three people were being treated.

Also in the scene were hospitalized police Sergeant nick Bailey.

On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergey Lavrov dismissed allegations of Russian involvement as "propaganda".

Sunday's attack has drawn comparisons with the case of ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with polonium at a London hotel in 2006.

Local convenience store manager Ebru Ozturk, who saw Skripal at his shop just days before the incident, told CNN that he was a "kind customer" who would usually come in once a week and buy Polish-smoked bacon and scratch-and-win lottery cards.

A British public inquiry found that Putin had probably ordered Litvinenko's murder. "Once these are established, then and only then, will an appropriate and proportionate course of action be taken", the lawmaker said.

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