London: British detectives were scrambling on Thursday to uncover who poisoned a Russian former double-agent and his daughter with a nerve agent, as doctors battled to save their lives and that of a policeman who also fell ill after coming to their aid.
Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to Britain in a 2010 spy swap, is in a critical condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a ben-ch outside a shopping centre on Sunday.
The brazen poisoning in Salisbury is being linked with Russia by British politicians and the media, sparking an angry response in Moscow. On Thursday, British police confirmed for the first time that a nerve agent was used and that their probe was now an attempted murder investigation. “Sadly, in addition, a police officer, who was one of the first to attend the scene is now also in a serious condition in hospital,” Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley told reporters.
Scientific tests by government experts have identified the specific nerve agent used “which will help identify the source”, he added, declining to reveal the exact substance.
British media reports suggest the three victims are seriously ill. Britain’s Sky News, quoting sources, said all three victims are in a coma. The Times newspaper, quoting a senior unnamed British government official, said Skripal’s condition was thought to be particularly severe. “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). They are hopeful that she might be able to pull through.” The paper added that the police officer’s condition was thought to be “less severe”.