Police officers guard a cordon around a police tent covering the the spot where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found critically ill Sunday following exposure to an “unknown substance” in Salisbury, England, Wednesday, March 7, 2018. Britain’s counterterrorism police took over an investigation Tuesday into the mysterious collapse of the former spy and his daughter, now fighting for their lives. The government pledged a “robust” response if suspicions of Russian state involvement are proven. Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Russian spy attacked with nerve agent

Former double agent and daughter targets of attempted murder in England

A Russian ex-spy and his daughter fighting for their lives in an English hospital were attacked with a nerve agent in a targeted murder attempt, British police said Wednesday.

Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in the southwest England city of Salisbury on Sunday, triggering a police investigation led by counterterrorism detectives. Baffled police initially said the pair had come into contact with an unknown substance.

“Having established that a nerve agent is the cause of the symptoms leading us to treat this as attempted murder, I can also confirm that we believe that the two people who became unwell were targeted specifically,” Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said.

Rowley said a police officer who treated the pair at the scene was in serious condition.

Rowley didn’t say what nerve agent was suspected in the attack on Skripal, a former Russian agent who served jail time in his homeland for spying for Britain.

Sally Davies, the chief medical officer for England, said there was a low risk to the public.

Police and forensics officers continued to scour several sites in and around the cathedral city on Wednesday, three days after the attack. Police kept residents away from an Italian restaurant and a pub in the city, and cordoned off part of a business park about nine miles (14 kilometres) away near the ancient stone monument of Stonehenge. Detectives appealed for information from anyone who visited either the Zizzi restaurant or the Bishop’s Mill pub in Salisbury on Sunday.

Bemused residents saw their usually placid town, famed for its 13th-century Gothic cathedral, turned into the centre of a criminal probe with Cold War echoes.

With nerves still on edge, ambulances and emergency vehicles rushed to a building beside the Zizzi restaurant, which remains cordoned off. Witness Toni Walker said emergency services escorted two women from the building. Police and ambulance services declined to comment and it wasn’t immediately clear if the incident had anything to do with the ongoing investigation.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee, known as Cobra, to discuss the investigation, which is now in the hands of counterterrorism police.

“We need to keep a cool head and make sure we collect all the evidence we can,” Rudd said. “And then we need to decide what action to take.”

Moscow accused Britain of using the case to fuel an “anti-Russian campaign” and further strain ties with Britain.

“What happened to Skripal has been immediately used to further incite an anti-Russian campaign in Western media,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

Skripal, a former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, was convicted in 2006 of spying for Britain and imprisoned. He was freed in 2010 as part of a widely publicized spy swap in which the U.S. agreed to hand over 10 members of a Russian sleeper cell found operating in America in return for four Russians convicted of spying for the West.

He and his daughter were found collapsed on a bench near a shopping mall Sunday in Salisbury, 90 miles (145 kilometres) southwest of London. Police believe they were exposed to a substance, and a British military research facility is thought to be conducting tests to determine what it is.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told lawmakers Tuesday that if Moscow is shown to have been involved in the Skripal case, the government would act — possibly downgrading England’s participation in this year’s soccer World Cup in Russia.

While police say they are keeping an open mind about the case, it has reminded Britain of the 2006 poisoning of former spy Alexander Litvinenko.

RELATED: Trudeau affirms support of NATO after Trump brands alliance obsolete

A British inquiry into his death found that Russian agents poisoned him by lacing his tea with radioactive polonium-210 and that the killing was probably approved by President Vladimir Putin. Russia has denied any involvement in Litvinenko’s death, and this week said it wasn’t involved in Skripal’s collapse.

Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, wrote Wednesday in the Times of London that her husband’s case made clear to Britain’s emergency services that they need to act quickly when “someone suddenly falls mysteriously ill.”

“I am happy my story has raised awareness about the potential danger posed by Moscow, and this could help to save somebody’s life,” she wrote in an opinion piece.

Danica Kirka And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Local family invites the community to enjoy their Christmas light display

Kelly, Carrie, and Vincent Giesbrecht spent the last month decorating their home for the holidays

Japanese students visit LSS for cultural exchange

Ladysmith families hosted 35 students from Furukawa Gakuen High School

Campbell River mom’s iPhone containing priceless photos stolen from Victoria hospital parkade

The phone contained photos, heartbeat recordings of her late son

PHOTOS: Old Time Christmas 2019

Friday, December 6 was Ladysmith’s Old Time Christmas. Here are some of the highlights from the night

Student artwork on display in ‘Well Lit’ installation

Thoughtful Place Design, 49th Parallel, and Festival of Lights came together to showcase student art

B.C. woman charged in connection to stolen vehicle smash-up in Kamloops

Kersten Ina Peters was arrested in the Fraser Valley on Friday, Dec. 6

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Truck with body inside found at bottom of lake near Kootenay ferry

Investigators believe no foul play is expected but are unsure how the vehicle ended up in the Arrow Lakes

VIDEO: Calgary man narrowly escapes from avalanche while running at Lake Louise

Bryon Howard caught the entire wild experience on camera

PHOTOS: Competitive Christmas light display takes sarcastic turn in Princeton

Heather King of Princeton took a creative and stress-free approach to her holiday display this year

RCMP asks Kootenay cannabis shop to remove image of famous Mountie from storefront

Owner happy to comply with RCMP, but wants more information first

BC Ferries adds 170 extra sailings for the holidays

6 a.m. and 10 p.m. sailings added for busy season

Anti-money laundering agency warns casinos to watch gamers playing with bank drafts

Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, issues operational alert

Most Read