World, Europe

'Ex-Russian spy, daughter attacked at their doorstep'

British police says Skripals came into contact with nerve agent at their home address

Ahmet Gürhan Kartal   | 29.03.2018
'Ex-Russian spy, daughter attacked at their doorstep' ( Tayfun Salcı - Anadolu Agency )

London, City of

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal are believed to have contacted the nerve agent that caused them to fall critically ill, earlier this month, at their doorstep, detectives investigating the case said Wednesday.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said the “detectives believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at their home address,” after detailed forensic and scientific examination.

“Specialists have identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent, to-date, as being on the front door of the address,” it said.

Skripal, 66, and Yulia, 33, were admitted to a hospital on March 4 after being found unconscious in the southern English city of Salisbury.  

Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. Before the exchange, he was serving 13 years in prison for leaking information to British intelligence.

The detectives “will continue to focus their enquiries around the home address for the coming weeks, and possibly months as the investigation continues,” the statement added.

They will also be “carrying out thorough searches in the areas surrounding this address as part of the ongoing investigation and as a precautionary measure".

“Traces of the nerve agent have been found at some of the other scenes detectives have been working at over the past few weeks, but at lower concentrations to that found at the home address,” the statement said.

The detectives will focus in and around the victims’ address, a senior coordinator for counter-terrorism policing said.

“Those living in the Skripals’ neighbourhood can expect to see officers carrying out searches as part of this but I want to reassure them that the risk remains low and our searches are precautionary,” Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon added.

“Around 250 counter terrorism detectives will continue to work around the clock on the investigation, supported by a full range of experts and partners,” the statement said.

The investigators will go through more than 5,000 hours of CCTV footage and examine over 1,350 exhibits, the police said. 

Expulsions 

The British government has accused Russia for the attack in which "a Russian-made military-grade nerve agent (Novichok) was used". 

The U.K. expelled 23 Russian diplomats following the attack.

Also, 26 western countries expelled 140 Russians in an orchestrated reaction this week, in the biggest ever single mass expulsion across the world.

Russia has denied any involvement in the Salisbury attack and has called the expulsions "an unfriendly provocative gesture".

On Wednesday, a foreign ministry statement said the behavior from the U.K. government “leads us to the idea of a possible involvement of the British special services.”

“If the Russian side is not provided with convincing evidence to the contrary, we will assume that we are dealing with an attempt on the lives of our fellow citizens as a result of a huge political provocation,” it said.

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