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Chemical experts of UK military join Russian spy poisoning probe

About 180 British military personnel, including specialists in chemical and biological warfare, have joined the investigation into the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury.

world Updated: Mar 10, 2018 08:19 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
UK,former Russian spy,Sergei Skripal
The forensic tent covering the bench where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found is repositioned by officials in protective suits in the centre of Salisbury, Britain, on March 8, 2018. (Reuters)

Military personnel specialising in chemical and biological warfare have joined the investigation in Salisbury into the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter, who were allegedly exposed to a nerve agent by elements widely suspected to be of Russian origin.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia remained in critical condition, while police officer Nick Bailey, who was the first to go their help on Sunday and was exposed to the nerve agent, is recovering in hospital from his serious condition.

Russia has strongly denied any role in the incident.

British home secretary Amber Rudd visits the scene where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found after having been poisoned by a nerve agent in Salisbury, Britain, on March 9, 2018. (Reuters)

Scotland Yard said on Friday: “The Counter Terrorism Policing Network has requested assistance from the military to remove a number of vehicles and objects from the scene in Salisbury town centre as they have the necessary capability and expertise.

“The military has the expertise and capability to respond to a range of contingencies,” it added. It did not mention details but reports said about 180 personnel, including from the Royal Marines, were involved in the investigation.

Police officers seal off the road on which former Russian spy Sergei Skripal lives in Salisbury, Britain, on March 7, 2018. (Reuters)

Home secretary Amber Rudd, who visited Salisbury on Friday, said the condition of Skripal and Yulia remained serious. She described the incident as “outrageous”.

She said: “I understand people’s curiosity about all those questions, wanting to have answers, and there will be a time to have those answers. But the best way to get to them is to make sure we give the police the space they need to really go through the area carefully, to do their investigation and to make sure that they have all the support that they need in order to get that.”

She added, “In terms of further options, that will have to wait until we’re absolutely clear what the consequences could be and what the actual source of this nerve agent has been.”

Officials in protective suits check their equipment before repositioning the forensic tent covering the bench where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found in the centre of Salisbury, Britain, on March 8, 2018. (Reuters)

Ian Blair, who was head of Scotland Yard when another former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, was killed in London in 2006 by radiation poisoning, told BBC Radio 4 that one line of inquiry is that Skripal may have been exposed to the nerve agent in his own home.

He said: “Clearly what they’re trying to find out at the moment is how was this delivered personally. There obviously are some indications. The officer – I’m very sorry he’s been injured – has actually been to the house, whereas there’s a doctor who looked after the patients in the open who hasn’t been affected at all. There may be some clues floating around in here.”

Members of the emergency services in green biohazard suits work to affix the tent over the bench where the former Russian spy and his daughter were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, England, on March 8, 2018. (AFP)

Skripal and his daughter visited a pub and a restaurant in Salisbury on Sunday before they were found near a shopping centre. Investigators wearing protective gear were seen examining the bench that they collapsed on.

The former Russian military colonel’s house and his car were cordoned off.

Skripal was given refuge by the UK as part of a spy swap in 2010 after he was convicted in Russia of passing secrets to the MI6.

First Published: Mar 09, 2018 19:20 IST