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British police hunt culprit in Russian ex-spy's poisoning

AFP  |  London 

British detectives were scrambling today to uncover who poisoned a Russian former double-agent and his daughter with a nerve agent, as doctors battled to save their lives and that of a who also fell ill after coming to their aid.

Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 swap, is in a critical condition in hospital along with his daughter after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre on Sunday.

The brazen poisoning in the southwestern English city of is already being linked with by British politicians and the media, sparking an angry response in

Yesterday, confirmed for the first time that a was used and that their probe was now an attempted murder investigation.

"Sadly, in addition, a police officer, who was one of the first to attend the scene is now also in a serious condition in hospital," told reporters.

Scientific tests by government experts have identified the specific used "which will help identify the source", he added, declining to reveal the exact substance.

British suggest the three victims are seriously ill.

Britain's Sky News, quoting sources, said all three victims are in a coma. newspaper, quoting a senior unnamed official, said Skripal's condition was thought to be particularly severe.

"The feeling is that he is not going to make it out of this," the source told the newspaper. "I think it could be more positive (for Yulia). They are hopeful that she might be able to pull through."


The paper added that the police officer's condition was thought to be "less severe".

Other emergency services personnel who treated the pair required medical treatment at the time but have not been admitted to hospital.

called for "cool heads" over the poisoning amid swirling speculation.

Police say they are keeping an open mind about what happened, but has alluded to

He noted the "echoes" with the 2006 poisoning in of former Russian and Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, which Britain has blamed on

accused British politicians and journalists of whipping up anti-Russian sentiment, with Kremlin telling reporters the story "was straight away used to boost an anti-Russian campaign in the media".

Zakharova earlier said Johnson's comments were "wild".

Meanwhile, hundreds of counter-terrorism detectives are working "around the clock" to create a timeline of the victims' movements, with "many hours" of CCTV under review, police said.

Investigators believe Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter were in city centre for several hours before they were found slumped on a bench.

They reportedly had lunch at a pizza restaurant, Zizzi, and visited a pub in before being discovered outside the shopping centre, where onlookers said they appeared "out of it".

An anonymous witness who was in the pub, which has been closed by police, told the yesterday that Skripal was there behaving erratically and at one point shouting loudly.

Rowley appealed for information from those in Salisbury on Sunday.

"Your memory of that afternoon and your movements alone could help us with missing pieces of the investigation," he said.

reported police are probing whether Skripal's daughter, who arrived in Britain from last week with "gifts from friends", may have inadvertently brought the into the country.

The paper previously said investigators would also examine the 2012 death of Skripal's wife from cancer, and that of his 44-year-old son last year in St Petersburg, reportedly from liver problems.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, March 08 2018. 10:05 IST
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