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Key Salisbury site reopens to public after nerve agent clean-up operation

Press Association logoPress Association 26/05/2018 By Press Association Reporters

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Businesses in the Maltings area of Salisbury are preparing to reopen as the city takes a “massive step” in its recovery from the nerve agent attack.

Wiltshire Council said the thoroughfare would be open from 8am on Saturday, nearly 11 weeks after the incident that thrust the cathedral city into the centre of a global diplomatic crisis.

Police cordons at the Maltings shopping centre Salisbury (Andrew Matthews/PA) © Provided by The Press Association Police cordons at the Maltings shopping centre Salisbury (Andrew Matthews/PA) Defra announced it had handed back the area from Government control on Monday after an “extensive clean-up”.

Alistair Cunningham, head of the council’s recovery effort, said the reopening of the shopping precinct represents a “massive step the recovery for this beautiful city”.

Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned in Salisbury along with her father, Russian spy Sergei Skripal, speaks to Reuters in London, Britain, May 23, 2018.  REUTERS/Dylan Martinez © Reuters Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned in Salisbury along with her father, Russian spy Sergei Skripal, speaks to Reuters in London, Britain, May 23, 2018. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez “It has always been a priority to reopen this main economic thoroughfare, which takes visitors and shoppers from the main car parks to the city centre past the shops in the Maltings that have been directly affected,” he said.

“The Maltings site has undergone thorough testing and clean-up work by world-class specialists, and the public can be reassured that any traces of nerve agent that may have been present have been removed and the site presents no risk to public health.

SALISBURY, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Members of the military work in the Maltings shopping area, close to the bench where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill seven weeks ago, on April 25, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The area around the bench where the couple collapsed is one of nine sites to be cleaned in an operation that is likely to take several months. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) © Getty SALISBURY, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Members of the military work in the Maltings shopping area, close to the bench where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill seven weeks ago, on April 25, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The area around the bench where the couple collapsed is one of nine sites to be cleaned in an operation that is likely to take several months. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) “I would urge people to visit and support the businesses in the Maltings, and the rest of Salisbury as the city recovers and gets back to normal.”

Businesses in the Maltings and around Salisbury have been adversely affected by the incident as some shoppers avoided the area over health and safety concerns.

SALISBURY, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Members of the military work in the Maltings shopping area, close to the bench where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill seven weeks ago, on April 24, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The area around the bench where the couple collapsed is one of nine sites to be cleaned in an operation that is likely to take several months. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) © Getty SALISBURY, ENGLAND - APRIL 24: Members of the military work in the Maltings shopping area, close to the bench where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill seven weeks ago, on April 24, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The area around the bench where the couple collapsed is one of nine sites to be cleaned in an operation that is likely to take several months. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious from the effects of the military nerve agent Novichok on a bench in area on March 4.

Swathes of the city were sealed off as investigators moved in before a massive decontamination operation began.

SALISBURY, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Signs are displayed outside The Mill restaurant and pub as members of the military work in the Maltings shopping area nearby, close to the bench where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill seven weeks ago, on April 25, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The area around the bench where the couple collapsed is one of nine sites to be cleaned in an operation that is likely to take several months. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) © Getty SALISBURY, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Signs are displayed outside The Mill restaurant and pub as members of the military work in the Maltings shopping area nearby, close to the bench where Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill seven weeks ago, on April 25, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The area around the bench where the couple collapsed is one of nine sites to be cleaned in an operation that is likely to take several months. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images) Last week, ministers praised the “resilience” of Salisbury residents in the face of disruption, which they blamed on “Russia’s reckless actions”.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said police had released all sites for decontamination, except for the Skripal house, and the priority was making the sites safe so “Salisbury can get back to normal”.

Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack on the Skripals, and on Friday Vladimir Putin questioned the UK’s explanation around their poisoning.

The Russian president said the version of events “is not possible” as victims of a military grade agent would have died “immediately”.

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