British authorities confirmed that the Russian-made nerve agent, Novichok, had been used to poison two people Saturday in Amesbury, England.
The British Home Secretary has demanded that Russia explain how a nerve agent that only its government reportedly had access to has shown up a second time on British soil.
British counterterrorism experts are working with police, but this incident has not been declared as a terror attack.
What are the details?
The victims were identified as Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, both in their mid-40s, according to the report. The two were dating and had reportedly been at a function Saturday afternoon at Amesbury Baptist Church. Later that day, at their shared home, Sturgess collapsed. Soon afterward, Rowley also started experiencing symptoms. Both are now in critical condition.
At first, police suspected a drug overdose, which is why it took days before the story hit the international news. They later confirmed that it was the nerve agent Novichok.
This comes just four months after former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were targeted and poisoned by Novichok that had been deposited on the door of Sergei Skripal’s home in Salisbury, England. Salisbury is about 8 miles from where Sturgess and Rowley lived.
What hasn’t been determined yet is how and why these two people were poisoned. Since Skripal was a double agent who had supplied MI6 with Russian secrets, it was obvious early on why he may have been a target for Russian assassins.
At this point in the investigation, Sturgess and Rowley appear to have been two regular British citizens with no apparent connection to Russia, the report said.
Another unknown at this point is where exactly the two came into contact with Novichok. British police have blocked off multiple locations that Sturgess and Rowley may have visited, to prevent additional people from becoming victims.
Now that British investigators have determined that the agent used was Novichok, they are now trying to determine whether or not it’s from the same batch.
However, Home Secretary Savid Javid said that while they had concluded that “the exact same nerve agent” was used in this case, authorities “cannot attribute it to the same batch at this point.” He also stressed that it was possible that they would never be able to determine whether or not the Novichok was from the same batch.
Why are British authorities accusing the Russians?
Novichok was originally developed by Russian government scientists during the Cold War. Since the Russian government originally had the only samples of this, British authorities, including Prime Minister Theresa May, have concluded that there can only be two options: either Russia is behind the attacks or they let their custom-made nerve agent fall into the hands of someone else.
The Russians have denied these claims, and have accused the U.K. of staging the entire thing just to make Russia look bad.
Javid has called on Russia to explain how Novichok showed up in Amesbury. He said it was “completely unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets,” and warned about towns in the U.K. becoming “dumping grounds” for nerve agents.