LONDON — The former Russian double agent and his daughter who were targeted with a nerve agent more than three weeks ago may have come into contact with the poison at their front door, British authorities said Wednesday.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and Yulia Skripal, 33, were found incoherent and comatose, respectively, on a park bench at an outdoor shopping center in the quiet medieval town of Salisbury on March 4.
Prime Minister Theresa May said earlier that investigators had concluded, based on forensic and scientific examination, that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the poisoning — and that the nerve agent had a signature that linked to Russia’s Novichok chemical weapons program.
“Detectives believe the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at their home address,” a spokesman for Metropolitan police said Wednesday. “Specialists have identified the highest concentration of the nerve agent, to date, as being on the front door of the address.”
Police did not say how the nerve agent was delivered, whether in person or by other means.
“Those living in the Skripals’ neighborhood can expect to see officers carrying out searches as part of this, but I want to reassure them that the risk remains low and our searches are precautionary,” said Dean Haydon, senior national coordinator for counterterrorism policing.
Haydon said 250 counterterrorism detectives continue to work the case as officers review more than 5,000 hours of CCTV and examine more than 1,350 exhibits as part of one of the largest and most complex investigations undertaken by British anti-terrorism police.
Police said traces of the nerve agent have been found at other locations in Salisbury “but at lower concentrations to that found at the home address.”
Viktoria Skripal, a relative of the victims, said their chances of survival were dim.
The prognosis “really isn’t good,” she told the BBC. “Out of 99 percent, I have maybe 1 percent of hope. Whatever it was has given them a very small chance of survival. But they’re going to be invalids for the rest of their lives.”
May condemned the poisoning as a reckless, hostile assault on British soil. She said that as many 130 people could have been exposed to the nerve agent — though only one of them, a police officer, was sickened. He was recently released from the hospital.
“This shows the utterly barbaric nature of this act and the dangers that hundreds of innocent citizens in Salisbury could have faced,” May said this week.
In the aftermath of the attack, Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats — whom May called “undeclared intelligence agents.” Russia responded in kind.
Moscow has mocked the investigation, decrying it as either rushed, bungled or the work of agents trying to make Russia look bad on the eve of the summer World Cup soccer tournament.
On Monday, the United States expelled 60 Russian diplomats as 25 additional countries collectively tossed about 100 alleged Russian spies and diplomats out of their embassies.