British Police Say A Second Officer Was Exposed To Novichok
By RFE/RL August 15, 2019
British detectives said on August 15 that a second police officer was contaminated with a banned Soviet-era nerve agent that was used to target a former Russian spy last year in Salisbury, England.
The military-grade chemical agent known as Novichok was found in the blood sample of another officer who wished to remain unidentified, British police said in a statement.
"The officer displayed signs at the time of the incident that indicated exposure to a very small amount of Novichok," the statement said.
It makes him the sixth confirmed person to be exposed to the nerve agent since March 2018 when former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia fell ill after encountering it.
Two suspected members of Russia's GRU military intelligence service are wanted by British authorities for carrying out the attack.
The officers were identified as Anatoly Chepiga and Aleksandr Mishkin -- both of whom denied taking part in the attack, saying instead they were visiting England to admire church architecture, according to interviews they gave Russian state-controlled TV.
Moscow denies involvement and said news of a second officer being affected "lacks all credibility."
"First…it is unclear why we find out about this important fact only a year and a half after the incident," the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom said, as cited by TASS.
"The name of the allegedly injured police officer is undisclosed, while earlier the British side was glad to announce the names of persons responding to the incident, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey," it said.
Bailey required hospital care but returned to active duty two months after the attack.
The second Wiltshire police officer showed signs at the time of having been exposed to a tiny amount of Novichkok, the BBC reported. He sought medical treatment and returned to work shortly afterward.
Dawn Sturgess died after high levels of exposure in June 2018 in nearby Amesbury. She and her partner, Charles Rowley, were contaminated when they came into contact with a perfume bottle that British police believe the Skripals' attackers had discarded.
Rowley became severely ill but recovered.
A joint investigation by the British-based open-source investigation group Bellingcat and the BBC's Newsnight program in July alleged that a third Russian GRU officer was involved in the Skripal attack.
Examining telephone metadata logs, they concluded that the poisoning was supervised and coordinated in London by Denis Sergeyev, an active duty GRU major general.
"The involvement of a GRU major general would indicate the unusually high importance of the operation," Bellingcat said.
With reporting by AFP, AP, and the BBC
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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