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Wed, 07 Mar 2018 13:52 - Updated Wed, 07 Mar 2018 13:52

Britain's top ministers meet on mysterious illness of Russian double agent

SALISBURY - British investigators will update an emergency response committee of senior ministers on Wednesday about a mystery substance that struck down a former Russian double agent and his daughter.

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Sergei Skripal, once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found slumped unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the southern English city of Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.

Both remain critically ill in intensive care.

“The focus at this time is to establish what has caused these people to become critically ill,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer, said.

“This investigation is at the early stages and any speculation is unhelpful at this time,” said Rowley.

Counter-terrorism police are leading the investigation and Britain’s military research laboratory at Porton Down is trying to identify the substance which caused Skripal, 66, and his daughter to collapse.

The suspected poisoning prompted Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to say on Tuesday that if Russia were behind the incident then Britain could look again at sanctions and take other measures to punish what he cast as a “malign and disruptive” state.

Russia denied any involvement, scolded Johnson for “wild” comments and said anti-Russian hysteria was being whipped up intentionally to damage relations with London.

A source close to the investigation said that Russian involvement in the Skripal poisoning was just one of the versions being looked at by counter-terrorism investigators with assistance from the MI5 domestic intelligence agency.

Police said new cordons had been added near Solstice Park, a business park, in the nearby town of Amesbury. They have sealed off the area of Salisbury where Skripal was found as well as the Zizzi pizza restaurant where they dined and the Bishop’s Mill pub where they had a drink.

Some emergency workers were treated after the incident and one remains in hospital,REUTERS.

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