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3 still in hospital over nerve-agent attack – British officials

LONDON – Three people remain hospitalized after a nerve-agent attack on an ex-Russian spy last Sunday in the southern English city of Salisbury, as around 18 people have had medical treatment due to the poisoning incident, British police said on Friday.

Officials said ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, are still in the hospital reportedly in critical but stable condition. A British police officer identified as Sgt. Nick Bailey, who tried to help Skripal and his daughter, while already manifesting progress, is still confined in an English hospital.

Wiltshire Acting Police Chief Kier Pritchard told Sky News on Thursday that “a number” of those 21 people who sought treatment got blood tests, support, and hospital advice.

This undated handout photo provided by Wiltshire Police on Thursday, March 8, 2018, shows Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. Whoever attacked Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy, with a rare nerve agent is guilty of a “brazen and reckless act,” and Britain will respond without hesitation when it becomes clear who is responsible, the country’s security minister said on Thursday. Skripal and his daughter are in critical but stable condition at a hospital in Salisbury. A police officer who came to their aid is in a serious condition, though he is conscious and talking, officials say. He was identified on Thursday as Sgt. Nick Bailey. (Wiltshire Police via AP)

The United Kingdom has vowed strong action against whoever was responsible for the “brazen and reckless” act.

A Russia expert in Britain said that “Russia was the most likely story” for explaining who was behind the nerve agent attack.

But Sam Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London, cautioned against assuming it was the result of direct orders from the Kremlin.

Greene told Sky News that “Russia does seem like the most likely story” given “the fact that we have seen things like this before.”

Greene also said that even if the attack was planned in Russia, it may not have been ordered by the Kremlin.

According to Greene, “a lot of these things are being done by people operating at sort of an arm’s length’s distance from the command and control structure.”

The global chemical weapons watchdog said it is in touch with authorities in Britain about the use of the rare nerve agent in Sunday’s attack.

In a brief written statement, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said “the recent report that two people became seriously ill in the United Kingdom as a result of exposure to a nerve agent is a source of great concern.”

The organization, based in The Hague, did not immediately return a call on Thursday seeking more details on the nature of its communication with Britain authorities.

Personnel in hazmat suits walk away after securing the covering on a bench in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, England on Thursday, March 8, 2018, where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill by exposure to a nerve agent on Sunday. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has told the House of Commons that enormous resources are being used to determine who is responsible for poisoning the 66-year-old Skripal, and 33-year-old Yulia, who were found unconscious on a bench in the city of Salisbury on Sunday.

Authorities said investigation into the incident is focusing on three sites — Skripal’s home, a pub, and a restaurant.

But Rudd declined to say if she believed Russia was behind the attack. However, she said Britain would “if it is appropriate, attribute it to somebody. If that is the case, then we will have a plan in place.”                     /kga

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