Russian ex-spy in coma after exposure to nerve agent

Elisa Mosse
Mars 8, 2018

"Russia's being assertive, Russia's being more aggressive, and we have to change the way that we deal with it because we can't be in a situation in these areas of conflict where we are being pushed around by another nation".

A nerve agent is believed to have been used to critically injure 66-year-old Sergei Skripal and 33-year-old Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on Sunday (March 4).

In an interview with UK breakfast show Good Morning Britain, Rudd declined to speculate on who might be responsible.

Under conditions in which the NATO powers, including Britain, are seeking to utilise any pretext to justify their ongoing encirclement of Russia's border, Putin authorising the murder of two people on the streets of the UK would be a propaganda gift to his opponents. British media have reported that his daughter, who lives in Russia, was visiting her father and may have simply been in the wrong place when he was attacked.

The pair were found unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury on Sunday (Monday NZ Time), triggering a police investigation that is being led by counterterrorism detectives.

"Something's not right there, maybe it's the climate, but in the past few years there have been a lot of strange occurrences there with a terrible outcome". On Wednesday evening, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley announced that Skripal and his daughter were subjected to an attack by a "nerve agent", with it being classified as a case of "attempted murder".

Earlier, she said the nerve agent used was "very rare" and denied the UK's response was soft.

It remains unclear who is responsible for poisoning the pair, but the attack has stoked tensions between Britain and Russia amid suspicions of state responsibility.

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"We need to keep a cool head and make sure that we collect all the evidence we can, and we need to make sure that we respond, not to rumour, but to all the evidence that they collect, and then we need to decide what action to take".

Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England, said the evidence did not suggest any wider danger to the public.

"But let's give the police the time and space to actually conduct their investigation", she added, in her first comments on the attack since police said on Wednesday a nerve agent was used.

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Police officers outside The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, U.K.

The Russian embassy in London told reporters it had not received substantive details about the case, which it said was "rather worrying".

Skripal, 66, was convicted of passing secrets to the British intelligence service MI6, but was given refuge in the UK in 2010 as part of a "spy swap".

Counter-terror police are working to unravel what is now feared to be a sophisticated chemical weapons plot targeting a Russian spy and his daughter.

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"He is (a) regular customer, he is so kind and he seems to me an educated person".

Despite their extreme toxicity, Dr Sella said the agent posed "very little risk" to the public.

Nerve agents are chemicals that disrupt the messages sent by the nerves to the body's organs. Some known forms of nerve agents include VX and sarin. Exposure to potent doses can result in death.

A source familiar with the investigation told the BBC that it was likely to be rarer than the Sarin gas thought to have been used in Syria and in an attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.

The half-brother of North Korean President Kim Jong-un was killed by a nerve agent in an attack in Malaysia last year.

The incident has uncomfortable echoes of the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian ex-spy who was murdered in 2006 after his tea was spiked with radioactive polonium.

A British inquiry concluded that Litvinenko was targeted for assassination by the Russian intelligence services.

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