Britain is holding an emergency Cabinet meeting on Thursday (July 5) over a couple who were left critically ill after being exposed to the same nerve agent used on a former Russian spy earlier this year. 
Home Secretary Sajid Javid will be chairing the talks in London, as counter-terrorism police lead an investigation into the incident in Amesbury, a village in southwest England.  
The poisoned pair, a local 44-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man, were hospitalised after being found unwell on Saturday in Amesbury, just kilometres away from Salisbury where ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked in March.
“I have received test results from Porton Down (military research centre) which show that the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok,” Neil Basu, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, told reporters.
Britain has accused Russia of poisoning the Skripals with Novichok – a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military during the Cold War – in what is the first known offensive use of such a chemical weapon on European soil since World War II.
Russia has denied any involvement in their poisoning.
British counter-terrorism police are now leading the investigation, though Basu said it was unclear how the two people came into contact with the nerve agent or whether they had been specifically targetted.
“I don’t have any intelligence or evidence that they were targeted in any way,” Basu said. “There is nothing in their background to suggest that at all.”
Amesbury is located 11km north of Salisbury, where Skripal – a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain’s MI6 foreign spy service – and his daughter were found slumped unconscious on a bench on March 4.
Around 100 counter-terrorism officers are working on the case and police have cordoned off at least five different areas, including a park and a property in Salisbury, as well as a pharmacy and a Baptist church community centre in Amesbury.
The March attack prompted the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War as allies in Europe and the United States sided with Prime Minister Theresa May’s view that Moscow was either responsible or had lost control of the nerve agent.
Mystery surrounds the attack and the motive is unclear, as is the logic of using such an exotic nerve agent which has overt links to the Soviet military during the Cold War.
Russia, which is currently hosting the soccer World Cup, has denied any involvement in the March incident and suggested Britain had carried out the attack to stoke anti-Moscow hysteria.
Moscow also hit back by expelling Western diplomats, questioning how Britain knows that Russia was responsible and offering rival interpretations, including that it amounted to a plot by British secret services. Russian officials questioned why Russia would want to attack an ageing turncoat who was pardoned and then traded in a Kremlin-approved 2010 spy swap.


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