Europe

UK police: Ex-spy and daughter 'specifically targeted'

Metropolitan Police say a type of 'nerve agent' used in Salisbury also critically hospitalized police officer

07.03.2018
UK police: Ex-spy and daughter 'specifically targeted'

London, City of

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were “targeted specifically” in last weekend’s suspected poisoning, British police said Wednesday.

A statement from the Metropolitan Police said they “are now in a position to confirm that their symptoms are a result of exposure to a nerve agent.”

“Scientific tests by government experts have identified the specific nerve agent used,” it said, but gave no details of the nature of the substance used.

The statement added that “one police officer, who was part of the initial response, is also in serious condition and receiving intensive care.”

“This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by the administration of a nerve agent,” it added.

“We believe the two people who originally became unwell were the specific targets and are focused on identifying and finding those responsible,” the Met said.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were admitted to hospital after being found unconscious on a bench on Sunday in the southern English city of Salisbury.

Emergency services said in an initial statement that they believed the father and daughter had been exposed to an unknown substance.

Skripal was granted refuge in the U.K. following a 2010 spy exchange between the U.S. and Russia. He had been convicted of "high treason in the form of espionage" by a Moscow military court in 2006 and was sentenced to 13 years in prison after admitting to leaking information to British intelligence services.

During a weekly question session at the House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May said the investigation is ongoing, mentioning that she chaired a national security council meeting on Tuesday.

Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd on Wednesday chaired an emergency national security meeting (COBRA) -- a mechanism that brings together high-level officials usually after terror incidents -- to discuss the investigation, which the country’s counter-terrorism teams are now running.

On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it would be wrong to speculate, but the MPs "will note the echoes of the death of [former KGB agent] Alexander Litvinenko in 2006."

Litvinenko, rumored to be working for British intelligence, died shortly after drinking radioactive tea in a central London hotel. Former KGB bodyguards identified as suspects in the murder have denied any involvement.

"I can reassure the House that, should evidence emerge that implies state responsibility, then Her Majesty's government will respond appropriately and robustly," Johnson said on Tuesday in an urgent question session at the House of Commons.

On Wednesday, Russia’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that they had no information about the incident, but added: “Everything that happened to Skripal was immediately used to ratchet up anti-Russian sentiments.”

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