Britain has sent specialist troops to the city where a Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent, defense officials said Friday.
As investigators worked to trace the origin of the unnamed substance, about 180 troops with chemical expertise deployed to remove potentially contaminated objects in Salisbury, England, reported Reuters.
The cleanup comes after Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former colonel in Russian military intelligence, and his 33-year-old daughter were found critically ill on a bench outside a Salisbury shopping center on Sunday afternoon. Police later confirmed the pair had been exposed to a rare nerve agent in a “targeted” assassination attempt.
Skripal has been living in Britain since 2010, when he was part of a prisoner exchange for 10 Russian spies arrested by the FBI. Moscow’s military court convicted Skripal of “high treason in the form of espionage” in August 2006 for passing information to Britain’s MI6 intelligence service.
The attack on Skripal and his daughter is reminiscent of the case of another Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned to death in London by Kremlin-linked agents in 2006. Several British lawmakers immediately accursed the Kremlin of being behind Skripal’s poisoning, as well, though investigators say it is still too early to attribute blame.
In Britain, it is widely believed that Moscow has targeted other members of Skripal’s family in the past. Both his brother and son died within the past two years under strange circumstances.
Skripal and his daughter both remain in serious condition, five days after collapsing, Britain’s interior minister Amber Rudd said Friday. A total of 21 people, including a police sergeant who was hospitalized in serious condition, have received medical treatment after coming into contact with the nerve agent.
Sources close to the investigation believe the chemical agent used is probably something other than Sarin or VX, the BBC reported. Researchers have also speculated the substance came from a state laboratory.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday the government will retaliate with “appropriate” measures if Russia is proved to be behind the attack. The Kremlin has denied any involvement in the incident and says the British media is using the attack to gin up anti-Russia hysteria.
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