Police think the nerve agent used in the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal was extremely rare

Sergei Skripal in Moscow in 2006.

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Sergei Skripal in Moscow in 2006.
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Thomson Reuters

  • The nerve agent used to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal was likely to be extremely rare, a well-placed source told the BBC.
  • Skripal and his daughter collapsed in a Salisbury shopping mall on Thursday. They remain in critical condition in hospital.
  • A police officer, who was poisoned while responding to the case, is now “talking and engaging.”

The nerve agent used to poison ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal was likely to be extremely rare, police sources have said.

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the substance before they collapsed in a Salisbury shopping mall on Sunday, police said on Wednesday. They have classified the case as attempted murder.

While London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley did not specify the type of nerve agent used, the BBC has quoted a well-placed source as saying that the poison used was likely extremely rare.

According to the source, the nerve agent was likely rarer than sarin gas, which was used to kill 13 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995 and is believed to have been used in the Syrian war.

The source also said the agent used was not VX, which was used last year to assassinate Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Investigators have identified the nerve agent used on the pair, but are not making it public at this point.

It remains unclear when the two were exposed to the agent. A witness at Zizzi, the restaurant where they were eating before they collapsed, told the BBC that Skripal “seemed to lose his temper” and “just started screaming at the top of his voice, he wanted his bill and he wanted to go.”

A CCTV image showing Sergei Skripal buying groceries near his Salisbury home on February 27, 2018.

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A CCTV image showing Sergei Skripal buying groceries near his Salisbury home on February 27, 2018.
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ITV News

Skripal was convicted of passing Russian state secrets to British intelligence between 1995 and 2004, before being pardoned and sent to Britain in a spy exchange in 2010.

A police officer who was poisoned and critically injured while tending to the Skripals is now “talking and engaging,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd told ITV’s “Good Morning Britain” programme on Thursday morning. She added that it was too early to comment on the Skripals’ chances of recovery.

Luke Harding, a Guardian reporter who previously lived in Russia, tweeted that it “now looks highly likely he [Skripal] was a victim of a state plot.” Russia has vehemently denied any involvement.