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Prince William reveals he is 'not attending' World Cup 2018 in Russia amid poisoned spy scandal

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 07/03/2018
a man wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Independent Print Limited

The Duke of Cambridge has announced he will not attend the football World Cup in Russia this summer, a decision said to predate the poisoning of a former spy in Wiltshire.

Britain's attendance at the sporting event has become a political issue after former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were targeted by a nerve agent.

As president of the FA, English football's governing body, William would usually be expected to have some contact with the national team during the World Cup.

But the duke's involvement may be just a good luck phone call to manager Gareth Southgate and his squad of players after the source said of William's involvement with the tournament "there are no plans to attend".

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The source stressed the plans not to travel to Russia were made before the incident involving Mr Skripal and his daughter.

Theresa May said the Government would "look at whether ministers and other dignitaries should attend" the sporting event during Prime Minister's Questions.

Her comments came after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told MPs it would be "very difficult to imagine that UK representation" at the World Cup could "go ahead in the normal way" this summer.

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The Russian embassy has said it was "completely untrue" to suggest the country's special services were involved.

A police officer who was the first to attend the scene in Salisbury on Sunday is now also in a serious condition in hospital, Scotland Yard said on Wednesday.

Met Police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley said the case was being treated as attempted murder and that 66-year-old Mr Skripal and his daughter, 33, were deliberately targeted.

It came as footage emerged of the former Russian spy shopping for scratchcards and sausages days before he was poisoned.


(Video provided by Sky News)

AC Rowley told reporters: "In summary, this is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by use of a nerve agent. Two victims remain in a critical condition in hospital.

"Sadly a police officer, one of the first on the scene, is also in a critical condition in hospital. Wiltshire police are supporting their family.

"I can confirm the victims' symptoms are the result of a nerve agent but I will not be providing any further information at this time. 

"Public safety remains our priority and, at this moment, we do not predict a widespread health risk.

"Having established that a nerve agent is the cause of the victims' symptoms, we believe they were targeted specifically."

Mr Skripal was convicted in 2006 of passing state secrets to MI6 before being given refuge in the UK as part of a spy swap.

Prince William played a role in England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup, joining a delegation in Switzerland in 2010 which included David Cameron and David Beckham, but it ultimately failed.

Kensington Palace declined to comment.


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