Police Say Russian Spy Found Unconscious In UK Was Poisoned With Nerve Agent
Scientists have confirmed the poison used was a nerve agent
Police have confirmed that the former Russian spy and an MI6 double agent who was found outside a UK shopping center in Salisbury, was poisoned with nerve agent.
Sergei Skripal, 66, who is in a critical condition, was deliberately poisoned with a nerve agent in a case police are treating as attempted murder according to Scotland Yard’s assistant chief commissioner.
Scientists have confirmed the poison used was a nerve agent, which detectives believe Sergei and Yulia Skripal where specifically targeted, leaving them critically ill in hospital.
The former spy was granted refuge in the UK eight years ago following a 'spy swap' between the United States and Russia
The Guardian reports: The medical and chemical evidence and the effects on the victims point to a sophisticated nerve toxin. The best known are VX and sarin.
Although further details are awaited, the suspicion in Downing Street will be that the Kremlin has carried out another brazen assassination operation on British soil. Moscow will furiously deny involvement, but Theresa May will have to consider how the government might respond should the scientific evidence point to Russia and its multiple spy outfits.
Scientists at Porton Down have assisted in the investigation, which is being led by Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, SO15, with significant help from the intelligence agencies.
The investigation comprises multiple strands. Among them is whether there is any more of the nerve agent in the UK, and where it came from.
Chemical weapons experts said it was almost impossible to make nerve agents without training. “This needs expertise and a special place to make it or you will kill yourself. It’s only a small amount, but you don’t make this in your kitchen,” one said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer at the UK’s chemical, biological and nuclear regiment, said: “This is pretty significant. Nerve agents such as sarin and VX need to be made in a laboratory. It is not an insufficient task. Not even the so-called Islamic State could do it.”
Decontamination work has been undertaken to make areas feared to have been affected by the suspected nerve agent safe. More details about what British investigators know is expected to be announced later on Wednesday.
One former senior Foreign Office adviser suggested the Kremlin was taking advantage of the UK’s lack of allies in the US and EU. He said the British government was in a “weaker position” than in 2006 when two Kremlin assassins poisoned the former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko with a radioactive cup of tea.
The adviser said the use of nerve agent suggested a state operation, adding that its deployment in the centre of a sleepy cathedral city on a Sunday afternoon was “brazen”. “It says a lot about how seriously [the Russians] take us that they feel able to do something like this,” the ex-adviser said.
He added: “The Soviets used to use bespoke toxins in their assassination programme. They require a lot of capacity in research and development. You need to produce, manufacture and store them.”
Sources close to British intelligence said further toxicology tests would be key in the days ahead. They warned that other factors or triggers may have been involved.
There was renewed activity in Salisbury on Wednesday afternoon as around a dozen police cars, fire engines and ambulances arrived in the city centre. Attention was focused on Sarum House, next door to the restaurant Zizzi, one of the locations sealed off by police. A dark-haired woman was escorted out by police officers and put in an ambulance.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.
It has emerged that the pair had been in the city centre since 1.30pm, almost three hours before they collapsed. Police are keen to obtain any video footage from shoppers or visitors to Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.
The Metropolitan police said that due to the “unusual circumstances” its counter-terrorism unit would lead the investigation.
On Wednesday the Met issued a fresh statement on the incident. “At approximately 4.15pm, a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping centre, Salisbury,” it said.
“They are currently being treated at hospital for suspected exposure to an unknown substance. Both remain in a critical condition in intensive care. We are not releasing details of the man and woman who are critically ill.
“Wiltshire police, along with colleagues from the ambulance and fire services, attended the scene and cordons were established, which remain in place. It has not been declared a terrorist incident and we continue to keep an open mind as to what happened.
“Cordons are now in place at a further scene near Solstice Park in Amesbury. This is linked to the investigation and is a precautionary measure.”
It is understood that this part of the operation relates to emergency vehicles involved in taking Skripal to hospital.