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The Latest: Counterterror police lead ex-Russian spy probe

March 6, 2018
Associated Press

SALISBURY, England (AP) — The Latest on developments surrounding the former Russian spy found critically ill in the southern England town of Salisbury (all times local):

2:25 p.m.

British counterterrorism police say they are now leading the investigating into the unexplained illness of a former Russian spy, although it hasn't been declared a terrorist incident.

The Metropolitan Police says the Counterterrorism Policing Network will lead the investigation because "it has the specialist expertise" to deal with the unusual case.

The force's counterterrorism chief, Mark Rowley, says the focus is on discovering what caused the sudden illness.

He said "this investigation is at the early stages and any speculation is unhelpful at this time."

Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in critical condition after collapsing in Salisbury, England, on Sunday.


1:35 p.m.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says Britain may not participate "in the normal way" in this summer's soccer World Cup in Russia if Moscow is proven to be behind the unexplained illness of a former spy.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday.

Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons that Britain will have a "robust" response if Russian involvement is proven, including sanctions and other measures.

England was the only team from the U.K. to qualify for tournament, which is scheduled to take place in June and July.

Johnson said that if Russian involvement is proved, "it will be very difficult to imagine that U.K. representation at that event will go ahead in the normal way." He didn't elaborate.


12:50 p.m.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says that Britain will respond "appropriately and robustly" if Russian involvement is proven in the case of a former Russian spy found in critical condition in England along with his daughter.

Johnson spoke to the House of Commons on Tuesday as authorities sought to unravel why Sergei Skripal fell critically ill following exposure to an "unknown substance." Johnson confirmed that Skripal's daughter, Yulia, was with him at the time they fell ill.

Johnson says that while he was "not now pointing fingers, I say to governments around the world that no attempt to take innocent life on U.K. soil will go either unsanctioned or unpunished."


11:55 a.m.

British police say a member of the emergency services is in hospital after dealing with an incident that left a former Russian spy in critical condition.

The Wiltshire Police force says "a small number" of emergency services staff were assessed after Sergei Skripal and a woman, believed to be his daughter, were found collapsed in the city of Salisbury on Sunday.

One of them remains in hospital.

The police force says health authorities do not think there is a risk to public health.

Skripal, who is 66, and a 33-year-old woman named in the British media as his daughter Yulia, are in critical condition in intensive care in Salisbury District Hospital.

Tests are underway to try to identify what made them ill, and police have cordoned off a restaurant and a pub in the southwest England city.


11:20 a.m.

A British lawmaker who heads Parliament's foreign affairs committee says the mystery illness of former double agent Sergei Skripal "bears all the hallmarks of a Russian attack."

Conservative legislator Tom Tugendhat says "it is too early to say whether it is certain or not," but the circumstances suggest Russian involvement.

He says that would amount to "a soft war against the U.K." by Moscow.

Tugendhat says Britain should mount a robust response if it does turn out to be Russian aggression.

He says that could include travel bans, sanctions and the freezing or assets.


9:30 a.m.

British counter-terror specialists are supporting police in Salisbury after a former Russian spy fell critically ill after exposure to an "unknown substance."

Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley told the BBC that the case is unusual and that it is critical to determine what happened as soon as possible.

The incident involving Sergei Skripal, 66, immediately drew parallels to the death of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with radioactive polonium 11 years ago in London.

A woman was also found unconscious Sunday afternoon in Salisbury, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of London.

When asked about a series of suspicious Russian-linked deaths in Britain, Rowley said "we have to remember that Russian exiles are not immortal, they do all die and there can be a tendency for some conspiracy theories.

"But likewise we have to be alive to the fact of state threats as illustrated by the Litvinenko case."


8:15 p.m.

The Kremlin says Russia has not been approached to help in an investigation over how and why a former Russian spy was found critically ill in a shopping mall in a town in southern England.

British media have identified him as Sergei Skripal, 66, who was convicted in Russia on charges of spying for Britain and sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison.

Skripal, who is said to have suffered exposure to an "unknown substance" was freed in 2010 as part of a U.S.-Russian spy swap. A woman was also found unconscious Sunday afternoon in Salisbury, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) west of London.

Dimitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, said Tuesday that there has been no request for help but that "Moscow is always ready to cooperate."



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