Poisoned police officer caught in nerve agent attack on ex-spy now able to talk
A British police officer who was harmed by a nerve agent used in an attack on a Russian ex-spy is now able to talk to people, although his condition remains serious.
- A British officer has been in a critical condition since being exposed to the same nerve agent as Sergei Skripal
- Britain's interior minister Amber Rudd says he is no longer in intensive care
- Russia denies any involvement in the incident
Former double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on Sunday on a bench in the southern English city of Salisbury and have been in a critical condition in hospital since then.
An unnamed police officer who was at the scene was also hospitalised.
"I heard this morning from the head of counter-terrorism policing that he [the police officer] is at least engaging with, [and] talking to people, but that doesn't mean that his situation isn't serious," Interior Minister Amber Rudd said during an interview on BBC radio.
"It remains serious. He's not in intensive care but it is a serious situation."
Ms Rudd, who declined to give any further details on the exact nature of the nerve agent used, said Britons should keep a cool head in reacting to the attack and wait for conclusive evidence about what happened.
She said the authorities would have a plan to respond to the attack, once the facts were known.
"The use of a nerve agent on UK soil is a brazen and reckless act. This was attempted murder in the most cruel and public way," Ms Rudd later told Parliament.
"But if we are to be rigorous in this investigation, we must avoid speculation, and allow the police to carry on their investigation.
"We will respond in a robust and appropriate manner once we ascertain who was responsible."
Earlier, police confirmed a nerve agent was used to deliberately poison Skripal and his daughter.
"This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent," Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said in a statement.
He declined to give specific details, but said police believed they were specifically targeted.
While Mr Rowley would not say any more about the investigation, a US security source speaking on condition of anonymity said the main line of police inquiry was that Russians may have used the substance against Skripal in revenge for his treachery.
Skripal betrayed dozens of Russian agents in dealing with British intelligence before his arrest by Russian authorities in 2004.
He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 after a secret trial, and in 2010 was given refuge in Britain after being exchanged for Russian spies caught in the West as part of a Cold War-style spy swap at Vienna airport.
On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said if Moscow was behind the incident then Britain could look again at sanctions and take other measures to punish Russia, which he cast as a "malign and disruptive" state.
Russia denied any involvement, scolded Mr Johnson for "wild" comments and said anti-Russian hysteria was being whipped up intentionally to damage relations with London.
"It's very hard not to assess this [speculation] as provocative black PR designed to complicate relations between our two countries," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow.