The Russia connectionSuspected nerve-agent attack in U.K. an “appalling, reckless crime”

Published 8 March 2018

The substance used on 4 March to injure an ex-Russian spy ad his daughter was a nerve agent – but the British police say it was rarer than sarin or VX nerve agents, thus making the involvement of Russian state labs in the production of the substance certain. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack on Skripal and his daughter was an “appalling and reckless crime.” Skripal’s son Sergei, 44, died on a visit to Russia last year under mysterious circumstances.

The suspected poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent was an “appalling and reckless crime,” a spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said.

Authorities said Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remained “critically ill” on 8 March, four days after they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping mall in Salisbury after stopping at a nearby restaurant and pub in the southern English city.

“It is clear that this was an appalling and reckless crime,” the spokesman told reporters, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd, meanwhile, told Parliament that the use of a nerve agent on British soil “is a brazen and reckless act” but that Britons must avoid speculating on who was behind it.

“This was attempted murder in the most cruel and public way,” said Rudd, Britain’s top police official. “But if we are to be rigorous in this investigation, we must avoid speculation and allow the police to carry on their investigation.”

Rudd said British authorities “will respond in a robust and appropriate manner once we ascertain who was responsible.”

“We are committed to do all we can to bring the perpetrators to justice, whoever they are and wherever they may be,” she said.

A police officer who was among the first on the scene was also harmed but is now awake and talking, Rudd said earlier on 8 March on British radio, adding that his condition remains serious.

“He’s not in intensive care, but it is a serious situation,” she said, but declined to give any further details on the exact nature of the nerve agent used.

Skripal, a retired Russian military intelligence colonel, was one of four prisoners released by Moscow in exchange for 10 U.S. spies in 2010, as part of a swap.

Counterterrorism officers are working to find the origin and type of the nerve agent used in the attack.

The statements from the prime minister and home secretary came after Mark Rowley, head of Counterterrorism Policing, first announced on 7 March that the illnesses were being treated “as a major incident involving attempted murder, by administration of a nerve agent.”

Rowley’s statement ended days of uncertainty about whether the incident was an attack or an accident.