A man and woman left critically ill in Wiltshire, UK were exposed to novichok, the same nerve agent that nearly killed ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, police said.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45, fell ill in on Saturday in their home in Amesbury, just 8 miles (13 km) from the Salisbury home of Skripal.
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner for Counter Terrorism, Neil Basu, confirmed in a statement that scientists at Porton Down laboratory established the pair were exposed to the military-grade nerve agent novichok. Sturgess and Rowley remain in hospital in critical condition.
The UK’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Thursday he chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency Cobra committee.
Speaking at the House of Commons, he said there was “no significant risk” to the public from the novichok poisoning, but warned people to avoid picking up “unknown objects.”
He also said Russia must explain exactly what happened.
“The eyes of the world are currently on Russia, not least because of the World Cup,” he said.
Initially, police believed the two Britons had fallen ill after taking cocaine or heroin.
Basu warned of an increased police presence in the area with officers wearing protective equipment, similar to scenes in Salisbury earlier this year. About 100 detectives from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network are working on the investigation.
Basu added, “I must say that we are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to. The possibility that these two investigations might be linked is clearly a line of enquiry for us.
“It is important, however, that the investigation is led by the evidence available and the facts alone and we don’t make any assumptions.”
Britain holds Russia responsible for the poisoning of the Skripals in March.
Russia, which is currently hosting the soccer World Cup, has denied any involvement in the March incident and suggested the British security services had carried out the attack to stoke anti-Moscow hysteria.
The UK security minister, Ben Wallace, told the BBC’s “Today” programme, “The Russian state could put this ‘wrong’ right. They could tell us what happened, what they did and fill in some of the significant gaps that we are trying to pursue.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he did not know who Ben Wallace was but said Russia had offered Britain its assistance in investigating the previous nerve agent attack and had been rebuffed.
A senior government source said it was believed there was cross-contamination of the same batch of nerve agent involved in the Salisbury attack, rather than a secondary attack, according to the Press Association.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said that her thoughts are with the victims of Salisbury.
“Once again the public is having to contend with the consequences of two people being exposed to a nerve agent and I would like to personally thank local businesses and residents for their cooperation,” she said, according to Sky News.
She added, “The message from Salisbury is clear—it is very much open for business. The government will continue to provide every support to the local community.”- Epoch Times