Russian ex-spy poisoning: British diners told to wash possessions | News | DW | 11.03.2018
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Russian ex-spy poisoning: British diners told to wash possessions

British authorities have advised up to 500 Salisbury pubgoers to wash their clothes and belongings after traces of nerve agent were found. Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal was attacked in the English town last week.

Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said Sunday that traces of a nerve agent used in an attack on Sergei Skripal were discovered in a pub and restaurant the Russian ex-spy had visited with his 33-year-old daughter.

Davies said up to 500 people who had visited The Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant were asked to wash their clothes and other belongings as a precaution.

British authorities are treating the March 4 attack on Skripal, 66, and his daughter, Yulia, as attempted murder. The two remain in a critical condition in the hospital.

"There has been some trace contamination by the nerve agent in both The Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury," Davies said.

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"I am confident this has not harmed the health of anyone who was in The Mill pub or Zizzi's. However, some people are concerned long-term exposure to these substances may, over weeks and particularly months, give rise to health problems," she added. 

Davies went on to advise guests of the pub or restaurant to wash the clothes and possessions they wore or carried while in the establishments.

Read more: UK says it is too early to pin blame in Skripal poisoning

Police detective Nick Bailey also fell ill after the attack. He is still hospitalized, but he has recovered enough to sit up and engage with his family, according to British Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Over 250 members of the UK counterterrorism police were working on the investigation into the poisoning of the Russia-born double agent Skripal. The probe was proceeding with "speed and professionalism," according to Rudd.

Read more: Spy assassinations: The top five deadly poisons

Russian involvement?

The police identified over 200 witnesses and were looking into over 240 pieces of evidence linked to the case, Rudd told reporters after chairing a meeting of the UK government's Cobra emergency committee on Saturday.

However, she said it was "too early" to apportion blame for the attack on Skripal and his daughter.

The UK government deployed around 180 soldiers, including chemical warfare experts, to various locations around Salisbury. A local restaurant and a pub remain closed, and forensic teams were collecting evidence from Skripal's home.

Many have speculated that Russia was behind the poisoning of Skripal, who served as an officer of the Russian military intelligence service in the mid-1990s when he was recruited by British MI6 spies.

Read more: Russia denies knowledge of Sergei Skripal poisoning in Salisbury

Skripal was arrested in Russia in 2006 and convicted of "high treason." However, he was delivered to the UK in 2010 after a spy swap.

British papers reported that the London government was mulling over retaliatory measures against Russia in case the theory of Moscow's involvement is confirmed. UK Prime Minister Theresa May could announce sanctions "as soon as Monday," according to the Daily Telegraph.

shs, dj/sms  (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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