Up to 180 troops are being sent to the city where Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned last Sunday. They will help with the removal of contaminated items linked to the crime.
The police and defence ministry have confirmed they will be sending Armed Forces personnel to Salisbury in order to handle items in the area where Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found slumped on a bench last Sunday. They are both still in intensive care after reportedly being exposed to a nerve agent. The British government has not released any further information.
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Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, one of the first officers to respond, was also left seriously ill. He is now “talking and engaging,” authorities say.
It is now understood that Bailey was poisoned at Skripal’s home, according to Sky News. That has led to the theory that Skripal and his daughter had been poisoned at the ex-MI6 agent’s house in Christie Miller Road, and not the restaurant Zizzi where they dined before collapsing.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “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 public should not be alarmed and the public health advice remains the same.
“The military has the expertise and capability to respond to a range of contingencies. The Ministry of Defence regularly assists the emergency services and local authorities in the UK. Military assistance will continue as necessary during this investigation.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has said the Armed Forces have “stepped up to support the police” in the investigation into a “dreadful incident.” The case has sparked a diplomatic row between Russia and the UK, amid widespread speculation the Kremlin is responsible for the attack. Williamson has claimed Russia poses an “ever greater threat.”
According to the Times, Prime Minister Theresa May is a step away from naming Russia as the chief suspect in the attempted assassination. May is also reportedly making plans to punish Russia by imposing sanctions against it and sending more troops and jets into Europe, the Sun reported quoting unnamed Whitehall sources.
Russia, however, has labelled the coverage of Skripal’s poisoning as hysterical propaganda. Moscow has reiterated it is prepared to cooperate with a British investigation. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia is blamed for everything that goes wrong on the planet, and noted that no facts had been presented to suggest any Russian involvement.
“What we see is only news reports… saying that if it is Russia, then a response is going to be given that Russia is going to remember forever. That is not serious.
“This is propaganda plain and simple, and it is trying to raise tensions,” Lavrov said. “If someone wants us to engage in an investigation – be that on the poisoning of the UK subject or the rumours about alleged interference in the electoral campaign of the US – if you really need our assistance, then we will be willing to contemplate this possibility if we have the necessary data and facts.
“But in order to have a serious conversation… you have to use the official channels,” Lavrov said.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd visited the scene in the Wiltshire city on Friday morning. In contrast to her cabinet colleague Williamson and the Tory leader, Rudd showed caution in making allegations against Russia before there is any evidence. She said: “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.”
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