Crisis talks being held after Salisbury spy attack

Sergey Lavrov

Sergey Lavrov

Analyst Boulegue said that it would be "extremely difficult" to pinpoint who committed the attack, and that the response could be a lot more complicated if it turned out that internal factions were responsible.

As details of the attack on the former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, have emerged, the mood in the city of 40,000 people has changed from fascination to alarm, with no shortage of wild rumours.

Sky News Crime Correspondent Martin Brunt said police believe all three victims may have been contaminated at Mr Skripal's house in Salisbury and "ingested the poison some hours before they were taken ill".

Sergei Skripal, who passed Russian secrets to Britain, and his daughter Yulia, have been in intensive care since they were found slumped unconscious on a bench last week in Salisbury.

The attempted murder of Mr Skripal has drawn comparisons to the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko, who ingested the rare and highly radioactive Polonium 210 in London.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was to chair the meeting of the committee, known as COBRA, at 1500 GMT to receive updates on the police case, the government said.

Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said the military's presence reflected the "seriousness" of the situation, adding: "We mustn't get ahead of ourselves but we must have a robust response and it's something that we'll be discussing with our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation partners and with the forthcoming summit in Brussels in July".

The Times newspaper said British officials were talking to their United States and European counterparts about a co-ordinated retaliation, which could include "diplomatic, economic and military measures" if Moscow was behind the attack.

It is now not known why the tents have been set up, but a spokesperson for the Met Police told Metro.co.uk that there is no exhumation taking place.

The UK government today deployed chemical warfare and decontamination specialists from the military to assist the counter terror police in its probe into the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter with a deadly nerve agent.

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The pair went for a meal at the same restaurant before they were attacked with a nerve agent in Salisbury on Sunday.

Acting Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, Kier Pritchard, said he had been to visit DS Bailey.

Police said a nerve agent was used to deliberately poison the Skripals - and both are in comas fighting for their lives along with a policeman who was first on the scene.

According to previous reports by Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti, Skripal had spied for Britain as an intelligence officer during the 1990s and he had continued to communicate with British foreign intelligence agency MI6 after his retirement in 1999.

Prime Minister Theresa may called the incident "appalling and irresponsible attack".

On Friday, John Glen, a member of Parliament for Salisbury, praised the calm response of the city's residents to "an unprecedented occurrence in our country's history" but acknowledged that some were demanding "decisive action".

"You can not tolerate a government assassination on British soil - it is absolutely beyond the pale and needs a reaction", he said. In 2006, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison, and pardoned in 2010 and gave U.S. in exchange for there exposed Russian agents.

Speaking in Berlin on Thursday, Litvinenko's window, Marina, told CNN there was a "similarity of a way to assassinate" between the attack on Skripal and the case of her husband.

A British inquiry concluded Putin probably approved the killing.

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