New UK nerve agent victims likely not targeted: UK police

New UK nerve agent victims likely not targeted: UK police
In this file photo taken on March 08, 2018 members of the emergency services in green biohazard encapsulated suits arrive to afix the tent over the bench where a man and a woman were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, southern England, after the tent became detached. (AFP)
Updated 05 July 2018

New UK nerve agent victims likely not targeted: UK police

New UK nerve agent victims likely not targeted: UK police
  • Britain's health minister: The poisoning of two Britons with the Novichok nerve agent looks like an unfortunate after effect of the attempted murder in March of a former Russian agent and his daughter.
  • The incident is not being treated as a deliberate murder attempt at the moment.

AMESBURY, England: British officials investigating a second poisoning case with the nerve agent Novichok in southwest England said Thursday they suspect the victims were not directly targeted but sickened as a result of the March attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter.
Police say specialists have determined that a British couple in their 40s who visited the city of Salisbury were poisoned by the same lethal toxin — developed by the Soviet Union — that almost killed Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the same English city in March.
The new victims are now both critically ill in the same hospital that treated the Skripals. British Prime Minister Theresa May has blamed Russia for the first poisoning attack — an assertion the Kremlin denies.
The unexplained poisoning of two British citizens with no immediately apparent link to Russia has raised public health concerns in Salisbury, where a massive decontamination effort took place after the Skripals were poisoned.
Police have cordoned off a home in nearby Amesbury and other places that the latest victims visited, including a church, a pharmacy and a park in Salisbury, near where the Skripals were found.
"The working assumption would be that these are victims of either the consequence of the previous attack, or something else, but not that they were directly targeted," security minister Ben Wallace told the BBC. "That is part of the anger I feel about the Russian state (in the Skripal case) ... that they chose to use clearly a very, very toxic, highly dangerous weapon."
Britain's interior minister said the nerve agent was the same variety as that used against Skripal and his daughter, but it's not clear whether the two samples came from the same batch.
"What we are clear on ... is that this is the exact same nerve agent from the Novichok family," Home Secretary Sajid Javid said. "We cannot attribute this to the same batch at this point. Scientists will be looking into that. I am also told that may not even be possible."

Meanwhile, Moscow accused Britain Thursday of playing "dirty political games" after London demanded answers from Russia over the second poisoning case. 
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also said London would have to apologise for its handling of the two poisoning cases and its accusations against Moscow.
"We urge British law enforcement not to get involved in dirty political games that certain powers in London have already begun and instead finally cooperate with Russian law enforcement in their investigations," she said at a briefing.
"I am sure that for everything that Theresa May's government has stirred up, this government and its representatives will have to apologise to Russia and the international community," she said.
"As is tradition in Britain, it will happen later but it will happen."

(With agencies)