British couple poisoned by Novichok nerve agent in Amesbury, police claim

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LONDON, July 5, 2018 (BSS/TASS)- Two British citizens in Amesbury, England, were exposed to Novichok, the same nerve agent that was allegedly used to poison former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal in March, Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism chief, Neil Basu, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Following the detailed analysis of these samples, we can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal,” Basu said.

Both man and woman are in hospital in “critical condition.” However, the counter-terrorism police chief refused to say that the nerve agent “was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to,” but did not rule out that these two incidents may be linked.

“The possibility that these two investigations might be linked is clearly a line of enquiry for us,” he said.

“There is no evidence that either the man or woman recently visited any of the sites that were decontaminated following the attempted murders of Sergei and Yulia Skripal,” Basu said.

“I appreciate that there will be a great deal of speculation as to whether this incident is linked to the events in Salisbury in March. I would add that the complex investigation into the attempted murders of Yulia and Sergei remains ongoing and detectives continue to sift through and assess all the available evidence and are following every possible lead to identify those responsible, for what remains a reckless and barbaric criminal act,” he noted.

Some 100 detectives from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network are now working on this investigation together with their colleagues from Wiltshire Police. According to police, late on June 30, a 44-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man were found unconscious in their home in Amesbury.

They were hospitalized in Salisbury, located some 13 kilometers from Amesbury. The samples from both patients were sent to Porton Down laboratory for analysis. There is no significant health risk to the wider public, according to doctors.

The Telegraph newspaper identified the two British citizens as Charles Rowley and Dawn Sturgess. On Thursday, a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergencies committee will be held and chaired by Home Secretary Sajid Javid.

Skripals case Former Colonel of Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate Sergei Skripal, who had been sentenced in Russia for spying for the UK, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4 and found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, England.

Claiming that the substance used in the attack had been a Novichok-class nerve agent developed in the Soviet Union, London rushed to accuse Russia of being involved in the incident.

Moscow rejected all of the United Kingdom’s accusations, saying that a program aimed at developing such a substance had existed neither in the Soviet Union nor in Russia.

Without providing any proof, London expelled 23 Russian diplomats and suspended all planned high-level bilateral contacts. In response, Moscow expelled the equal number of UK diplomats.

In addition, Britain’s consulate in St. Petersburg was ordered to be closed and the British Council’s operations in Russia were terminated. According to British media, Sergei and Yulia Skripal were in critical condition.

After recovering, they were discharged from hospital and are at an unknown location now. Russia’s Embassy to London had sent numerous requests but its staff members were not allowed to meet with them.

The diplomatic mission considers London’s refusal to provide consular access to Skripals as forcible detention or abduction of Russian citizens.

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