'Unknown substance' leaves two people in critical condition in England

Armed British police officers stand on duty outside Parsons Green underground tube station in west London on 15 September 2017

The case is eerily similar to that of Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter, Yulia, who are still recovering after lengthy treatment.

Counter-terrorism officers are now involved in the investigation of an incident near the southwestern English city of Salisbury which has left two people in critical condition, London's police force said on Wednesday.

British investigators have descended upon a small English town to find out how two seemingly random individuals were exposed to the same Soviet-era nerve agent that almost killed a former Russian double agent and his daughter earlier this year.

Police did not name the couple, but friends have identified the man as Charlie Rowley and the woman as Dawn Sturgess. Russian Federation denied any role in the attack on Mr Skripal, a former spy for the United Kingdom, or his daughter but were widely believed by Western powers to be behind them.

TRT World 's Sara Morice reports.

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said the government's emergency response committee had met to discuss the incident and that May and ministers were being regularly updated on the developments.

"I'm waiting for the phone call from the Russian state", he said.

The two victims are both British nationals local to the area, according to police in Wiltshire, the county in which Amesbury is located.

Chemical tests are now being carried out on the unknown substance at the government's weapons laboratory at Porton Down, the Press Association reports. Britain has notified the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). They've also said that, unlike the Skripals, the couple was not deliberately targeted with the Soviet-era nerve agent, which acts rapidly to slow the heart and restrict airways. They did not elaborate.

The statement from Wiltshire Police came only a month after police from 40 departments in England and Wales returned home after months of working on the Skripals' poisoning.

Russian Yulia Skripal, who suffered from a nerve agent in the British town of Salisbury, wants to come to Russia, her cousin Viktoria Skripal said on Thursday after a telephone conversation with Yulia. "We're working extremely hard to try to understand the circumstances, the chronology". Police were then informed of the pair's condition. However, further testing is now ongoing to establish the substance which led to these patients becoming ill.

Health chiefs said the risk to the public was low, repeating their earlier advice that the public should wash their clothes and use cleansing wipes on personal items. The British Home Secretary has demanded that Russian Federation explain how a nerve agent that only its government reportedly had access to has shown up a second time on British soil.

"That means that if a container or a surface was contaminated with this material it would remain a danger for a long time", Sella said.

Basu said police had not found any items which showed signs of contamination and officers were piecing together a "very detailed examination of their movements... to determine where they might have been exposed".

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