Britain’s interior minister says the nerve agent that sickened a man and a woman is the same type used in an attack earlier this year on former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
“This has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal,” Sajid Javid said Thursday. He said it is not clear at this time whether the nerve agent that poisoned the British couple, identified by friends as 44-year old Dawn Sturgess and 45-year old Charlie Rowley, is from the exact same batch used in the attack on the Skripals.
The couple was was found unconscious Saturday in Amesbury, 13 kilometers from Salisbury, where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found in March.
Security Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC on Thursday investigators believe the new exposure is a result of the March incident and not a new attack directed at Sturgess and Rowley.
The unexpected poisoning of the couple, with no known link to Russia, has raised public concerns in the Salisbury area. Health officials say the risk to the public is low.
Britain has blamed Russia for poisoning the Skripals with Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Wallace called on Russia to share information about the poisoning.
Russia has denied any involvement and instead has claimed that Britain itself was to blame for the attack, in an attempt to stoke anti-Russian sentiments.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called on British law enforcement authorities at a briefing Thursday “not to get involved in dirty political games” that “Theresa May’s government has stirred up” and demanded an apology from Britain.
Earlier Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “the British government has not presented any evidence of Russia’s involvement in this, besides unfounded accusations.”
The Kremlin also said Thursday it had offered to help Britain with the Skripal investigation, but that Britain had declined.
The incident prompted the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold war as the United States and Britain’s European allies sided with London in blaming Moscow.