180 troops arrive in Salisbury to investigate poisoning of former Russian spy

The poisoning has shaken the normally sleepy town of Salisbury in southwestern EnglandMore

Those branded enemies of the Russian state have sometimes died mysteriously overseas, and the Skripal case echoes the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who was poisoned in London in 2006 with radioactive polonium-210.

About 180 troops including some with chemical expertise have been sent to the city to remove ambulances and other vehicles involved in the incident and other objects, Britain's ministry of defense and police said.

Britain has said it will respond robustly if evidence shows Russian Federation was behind the attempted murder.

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was part of the initial response by authorities, is also in a serious condition. "People have been so kind and he has expressed that he will never forget that kindness".

Police have not released details about the specific nerve agent used in the attack.

British authorities suspect the Russian government is behind the attack, the Washington Post reports.

Noting it was "highly likely" that the officer, Bailey, was exposed to the same nerve agent as the Russian pair, she said Britain "will act without hesitation as the facts become clearer". "At the moment, our priority is going to be the incident, which is why I'm here".

Officials have also cordoned off an Italian restaurant and a pub Skripal and his daughter visited before their collapse, as well as a cemetery where Skripal's wife, Lyudmila, is buried and where there is also a memorial headstone for his son, Alexander.

Dressed in hazardous-material suits, the investigators began collecting evidence at Skripal's house in the city and erected a blue forensic tent around the grave of the son. Entrances to the cemetery were closed off.

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".

Western intelligence services consider Russian Federation a leading suspect based on previous attacks that used a similar substance and method, a Western intelligence official told CNN. "It's too early to say how far and wide this investigation will stretch".

If a Moscow link were proved, it would plunge relations between the West and Russian Federation to a new low.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed Britain's warnings of retaliation were propaganda and not serious.

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

The sophisticated nature of the assassination attempt has led to speculation that the Russian government may have been behind the poisoning.

The incident in Salisbury has drawn comparisons with the 2006 death of former Russian security agent Aleksandr Litvinenko in London.

A detailed United Kingdom inquiry later concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin probably approved the operation by Russian agents to kill Litvinenko.

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