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UK races to find source of poison used against Russia ex-spy

AFP  |  London 

British detectives today scrambled to find the source of the used in the attempted murder of a Russian former double-and his daughter.

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.

A also fell ill after coming to their aid but is showing signs of recovery, according to

"The two targets are still in very serious condition, the is talking and is engaging so I'm more optimistic for him, but it's too early to say," she told ITV1's Good Morning Britain.

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

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

"Police are now in a position to confirm that their symptoms are a result of exposure to a nerve agent," said the

"Scientific tests by government experts have identified the specific used which will help identify the source."

newspaper reported on Thursday that Skripal's condition was particularly severe, quoting a senior unnamed

"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)."

Police have cordoned off an Italian restaurant and a pub that the pair are believed to have visited.

A diner in the restaurant told that Skripal had eaten there on Sunday, and that he was in an agitated state.

"He was going absolutely crazy, I didn't understand it and couldn't understand them," the witness said.

"He didn't seem ill physically but perhaps mentally ill with the way he was shouting."

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

told British television on Thursday that Russia was "becoming an ever-greater threat". tweeted that "I do not see how we can maintain diplomatic relations with a country that tries to murder people on British soil."

However, the called for "cool heads" while the police investigated.

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".

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.

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

confirmed the government might consider a boycott by British officials and dignitaries of in Russia if it were found to have been involved.

Multiple British reported Wednesday that would now not attend the tournament, citing royal sources.

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 before being flown to Britain as part of a high-profile swap involving Russia and the in 2010.

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

First Published: Thu, March 08 2018. 15:05 IST