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UK deploys military in Russia spy attack probe

AFP  |  London 

requested military assistance in investigating a attack on a former Russian double agent as speculation mounted today about how could respond if a were to blame.

Police extended the cordon around the modest suburban home of in Salisbury, the quiet city in where he and his daughter were found slumped on a bench on Sunday.

The pair remain unconscious in a critical but stable condition, while Nick Bailey, one of the first police officers on the scene, is now sitting up and talking after initially being admitted to intensive care.

With police also hurt in the attack, pressure is intensifying on to find and punish the culprits.

The involvement of "a British citizen, especially a policeman, requires the immediate and strong involvement of the British authorities," Chatham House told AFP.

Around 21 people have been treated, according to Kier Pritchard, for

"A number of those have been through the hospital treatment process, they're having blood tests, they're having treatment in terms of support and advice," he added.

Authorities are racing to find the source of the used against 66-year-old Skripal, who came to Britain in 2010 as part of a swap, as politicians warned it bore the hallmarks of an attack by

National counter-terrorism police, who are leading the investigation, announced on Friday that they had requested assistance from the military "to remove a number of vehicles and objects from the scene".

"Military assistance will continue as necessary during this investigation," they added, with media reporting that more than 100 personnel may be involved.

During a visit to the site on Friday, called the attack "outrageous" but urged people to "give the police the space they need to really go through the area carefully, to do their investigation".

In response to questions over Russia's possible involvement, May has said that "if action needs to be taken then the government will do that".

Possible responses include the expulsion of some of Russia's 58 diplomats, some kind of boycott of or an increased British military presence in

floated the idea of deepening sanctions against Russian officials, but Britain would have to persuade its international partners.

has reacted angrily to the accusations it was involved, with on Friday dismissing them as baseless "propaganda".

On Thursday, however, Russian state TV presenter had appeared to deliver a veiled warning, saying: "Don't choose England as your future country of residence... whether you are a professional traitor to the motherland or whether you hate your country in your spare time."

- A deadly gift?

Boulegue said it would be "extremely difficult" to pinpoint who committed the attack, and that the response could be a lot more complicated if it turned out that internal factions were responsible.

"It is possible that it is related to the elections in or that it is part of a battle between the elites within the security services, to send messages either to the English or to the Russian elites," he said.

Police have cordoned off the bench where the pair were found, as well as an Italian restaurant and a pub they visited before their collapse.

The also sealed off the grave of Skripal's wife, Liudmila, who died in 2012 from cancer, as well as the memorial stone of his son, Alexander, who was cremated last year after reportedly dying of liver problems.

newspaper said police were probing whether Skripal's daughter, who arrived in Britain from last week, may have inadvertently brought in the as a gift.

Skripal was a former in Russian military intelligence who was jailed in his country for betraying agents to Britain's MI6 secret service.

He was pardoned in 2010 before being flown to Britain as part of a high-profile swap involving and the

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

First Published: Fri, March 09 2018. 17:55 IST