Published: Sun, March 11, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

Russian spy attack: British troops deployed to assist nerve agent probe

Russian spy attack: British troops deployed to assist nerve agent probe

Almost a week has passed since father and daughter were found unconscious on a public bench in Salisbury in southern England last Sunday.

The police identified over 200 witnesses and were looking into over 240 pieces of evidence linked to the case, Rudd told reporters after chairing a meeting of the United Kingdom government's Cobra emergency committee on Saturday.

Mr Skripal, 66, was convicted by the Russian government of passing secrets to MI6, but given refuge in the United Kingdom in 2010 as part of a "spy swap".

During a visit to Salisbury on Friday, Amber Rudd, Britain's home secretary, warned against jumping to conclusions.

Kier Pritchard, temporary chief constable of Wiltshire police, which covers Salisbury, told Britain's Sky News on Thursday that "multiple" police officers and members of the public had been assessed by medics: "A number of those had been through the hospital treatment process, there have been blood tests and they're having treatment in terms of support and advice".

Analyst Mathieu Boulegue of the Chatham House think tank said 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.

Rudd said the discovery of a nerve agent from the investigation meant the incident was therefore being treated as attempted murder. "At the moment, our priority is going to be the incident, which is why I'm here". The official cautioned that the investigation was still in its early stages. "Does the West needs proof to blame Russian Federation?"

Rudd led Saturday's talks and briefed senior cabinet ministers, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, on the police investigation. "We are accused of everything bad that happens in the world by our Western partners", Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said at a news conference Friday. The spokesman said Johnson's comments were an attempt to politicize the affair, and attacked the media for aiding the United Kingdom government's efforts.

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At far right is Chief of Staff Reince Priebus , with White House counsel Donald McGahn, second from right. McGahn is a critical witness in the Russian Federation investigation.

Russian Federation has denied responsibility for the attack, which comes seven years after Mr Skripal was released from the country as part of a spy swap with the US.

Over 250 members of the United Kingdom counterterrorism police were working on the investigation into the poisoning of the Russian-born double agent Sergei Skripal.

Police have also cordoned off an Italian restaurant and a pub they visited before their collapse. Skripal's wife, Lyudmila, 59, died in 2012 of uterine cancer, according to records from the National Health Service.

He was later released as part of a spy swap with the US. Police have sealed off both graves, the UK's Press Association reported, but it was unclear on Friday why.

Britain offers wealthy Russians many attractions - but for some former spies and foes of President Vladimir Putin, it has become lethal.

A detailed United Kingdom inquiry later concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin probably approved the operation by Russian agents to kill Litvinenko.

Bob Seely, a Conservative lawmaker and member of the foreign affairs select committee, said the United Kingdom should be cautious about apportioning blame but said circumstantial evidence did raise suspicions of Russian involvement.

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