U.K. Officials: Poisoned Door Handle Points To High-Level Plot

Investigators believe assassin smeared nerve agent on door handle of Sergei Skripal's home.

Sergei Skripal
Police officers search the home of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury who was found critically ill on a bench with his daughter on March 4 and were taken to hospital sparking a major incident on March 8, 2018 in Wiltshire, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
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British officials have zeroed in on the theory that an assassin smeared a nerve agent on the door handle of Sergei Skripal’s home. The prospect of such a risky and sensitive operation leads officials to believe that it is unlikely to have been undertaken without approval from the Kremlin.

Investigators’  current theory is that an assassin working on behalf of the Russian government, walked up to Skripal’s house on a quiet street in Salisbury on March 4 — the day that the former Soviet spy and his daughter, Yulia, were found ill on a park bench. (Skripal, considered a critic of President Vladimir Putin, was freed in a spy swap with the United States in 2010.)

He is still in critical condition and unresponsive. However, Yulia is conscious and talking, reports BBC. The nerve agent is incredibly potent, meaning the task could have only been carried out by trained professionals familiar with chemical weapons. Both British and American officials are skeptical that independent actors could have carried out such a risky operation or obtained the nerve agent without approval at the highest levels of Russian government. Officials are now turning to the question of whether Putin himself was aware of or ordered the attack, though there is currently no evidence so far of his direct participation. Russia has denied involvement in the poisoning.

British and American officials are also struck by the symbolism of the attack on Skripal. He could have easily been shot or killed in a staged accident, but instead, the assassins knew the nerve agent would be identified and knew it would be linked to Russia. That means, The New York Times writes, that this was meant to send a “chilling message” to others who would think of cooperating with or defecting to the West.

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