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UK police: Russian ex-spy was attacked with nerve agent

  • A police tent is framed by police tape covering the the spot where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found critically ill Sunday following exposure to an "unknown substance" in Salisbury, England, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Britain's counterterrorism police took over an investigation Tuesday into the mysterious collapse of the former spy and his daughter, now fighting for their lives. The government pledged a "robust" response if suspicions of Russian state involvement are proven. Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • Police officers guard a cordon around a police tent covering the the spot where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found critically ill Sunday following exposure to an "unknown substance" in Salisbury, England, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Britain's counterterrorism police took over an investigation Tuesday into the mysterious collapse of the former spy and his daughter, now fighting for their lives. The government pledged a "robust" response if suspicions of Russian state involvement are proven. Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • A policeman stands outside the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury, England, Wednesday. ap photo

  • This is an alleged image of the daughter of former Russian Spy Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal taken from Yulia Skipal's Facebook account on Tuesday March 6, 2018. British counterterrorism police said Tuesday that they are now leading the investigating into the unexplained illness of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, although it hasn't been declared a terrorist incident. The Skripals were taken ill in Salisbury southwest England on Sunday. (Yulia Skripal/Facebook via AP)

  • Investigators inside the Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury, England, Tuesday, March 6, 2018 near to where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was found critically ill. Britain's counterterrorism police took over an investigation Tuesday into the mysterious collapse of a former spy and his daughter, now fighting for their lives. The government pledged a "robust" response if suspicions of Russian state involvement are proven. Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP) Steve Parsons

  • Police officer secures the area as a police tent covers the the spot in Salisbury, England, Tuesday, March 6, 2018, where former Russian spy double agent Sergei Skripal and his companion were found critically ill Sunday following exposure to an "unknown substance". 66-year old Skripal, and unidentified woman companion are being treated in hospital, after they were found unconscious on the park bench.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein) Frank Augstein

  • Police officers stand outside a Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury, England, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, near to where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was found critically ill. Britain's counterterrorism police took over an investigation Tuesday into the mysterious collapse of the former spy and his daughter, now fighting for their lives. The government pledged a "robust" response if suspicions of Russian state involvement are proven. Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • A police community support officer stands inside a cordon outside The Mill pub in Salisbury, England, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, near to where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was found critically ill. Britain's counterterrorism police took over an investigation Tuesday into the mysterious collapse of the former spy and his daughter, now fighting for their lives. The government pledged a "robust" response if suspicions of Russian state involvement are proven. Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham

  • A police community support officer stands inside a cordon outside The Mill pub in Salisbury, England, Wednesday, March 7, 2018, near to where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was found critically ill. Britain's counterterrorism police took over an investigation Tuesday into the mysterious collapse of the former spy and his daughter, now fighting for their lives. The government pledged a "robust" response if suspicions of Russian state involvement are proven. Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) Matt Dunham



Associated Press
Wednesday, March 07, 2018

LONDON — A Russian ex-spy and his daughter fighting for their lives in an English hospital were attacked with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt, British police said Wednesday.

The case has further strained relations between Russia and Britain, which has said it will respond strongly if the Russian government is linked to the attack. It has overtones of a 2006 fatal attack on a former Russian spy that was blamed on the Kremlin.

In that incident, a radioactive poison was used. The choice of a nerve agent in the latest case follows the use of the banned nerve agent VX to kill the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader last year.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the southwestern English city of Salisbury on Sunday, triggering a police investigation led by counterterrorism detectives. Baffled police initially said the pair had come into contact with an unknown substance.

“Having established that a nerve agent is the cause of the symptoms leading us to treat this as attempted murder, I can also confirm that we believe that the two people who became unwell were targeted specifically,” Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said.

Police said the two “remain in a critical condition in intensive care after being exposed to the substance.”

Police have declined to speculate on who might be behind the attack. The Russian government has denied any involvement in the attack on Skripal, a former Russian agent who had served jail time in his homeland for spying for Britain before being freed in a spy swap.

Rowley said a police officer who treated Skripal and his daughter at the scene was in serious condition. He did not provide the officer’s name or specifics about his condition.

Rowley didn’t say what nerve agent was suspected in the attack. Nerve agents are chemicals that disrupt the messages sent by from the nerves to the body’s organs. They can be administered in gas or liquid form, causing symptoms including vomiting, breathlessness, paralysis and often death. Officials have not offered a prognosis for Skripal and his daughter.

With nerves still on edge, ambulances and emergency vehicles rushed to a building beside the Zizzi restaurant, which remains cordoned off. Witness Toni Walker said emergency services escorted two women from the building. Police and ambulance services declined to comment and it wasn’t immediately clear if the incident had anything to do with the ongoing investigation.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, known as Cobra. “We need to keep a cool head and make sure we collect all the evidence we can,” Rudd said. “And then we need to decide what action to take.”

Moscow officials, angered by allegations of Russian state involvement, accused Britain of using the case to fuel an “anti-Russian campaign” and further damage ties with Britain.

“What happened to Skripal has been immediately used to further incite an anti-Russian campaign in Western media,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.