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Salisbury Novichok poisonings: A timeline of events

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 15/06/2020 Ewan Somerville

Salisbury was a Wiltshire city marked by its cathedral spire and rich medieval history, but little else.

But on March 4, 2018, and for months afterwards it was the epicentre of a national emergency and an international crisis.

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a park bench - and trails of a nerve agent were littered across the city.

We take a look back at the key events that have unfolded since.

a police car parked in a parking lot: The scandal caused international shockwavs in relations between Russia and the West (Getty Images) © Provided by Evening Standard The scandal caused international shockwavs in relations between Russia and the West (Getty Images)

March 2018

March 4: Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, are found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury.

March 7: Police say a nerve agent was used to poison the pair and the case is being treated as attempted murder.

March 8: Then home secretary Amber Rudd says a Wiltshire Police officer, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, is seriously ill in hospital.

March 12: Prime Minister Mrs May tells the House of Commons the nerve agent is of Russian origin and the Government has concluded it is “highly likely” Russia is responsible for the poisoning.

March 14: Mrs May tells MPs the UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats, calling the incident an “unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the UK”.

a woman looking at the camera: Russian spy 'poisoning': Sergei and Yulia Skripal were left fighting for life in hospital (PA) © Provided by Evening Standard Russian spy 'poisoning': Sergei and Yulia Skripal were left fighting for life in hospital (PA) a group of people wearing military uniforms: Military personnel wearing protective suits after the Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal (Getty Images) © Provided by Evening Standard Military personnel wearing protective suits after the Novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal (Getty Images)

March 15: Leaders of Britain, the US, Germany and France issue a joint statement blaming Russia for the attack.

March 17: Russia announces the expulsion of 23 UK diplomats and says it will shut down the British Council and British Consulate in St Petersburg. Many other countries followed suit, with the US expelling 60 diplomats.

March 22: DS Bailey is discharged from hospital but says life will “probably never be the same”.

March 26: Britain’s allies announce more than 100 Russian agents are being sent home from 22 countries, in what Mrs May calls the “largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history”.

March 28: Scotland Yard reveals Mr Skripal and his daughter first came into contact with the nerve agent at his home.

April and May 2018

April 3: The head of the Porton Down military research facility says his scientists have not verified that the nerve agent used in Salisbury came from Russia. A week later, Salisbury District Hospital announces that Ms Skripal has been discharged.

a man in a military uniform: Military teams carrying out decontamination work in Salisbury on behalf of Defra (PA) © Provided by Evening Standard Military teams carrying out decontamination work in Salisbury on behalf of Defra (PA)

April 17: The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs reveals the Novichok used to attack the Skripals was delivered in a “liquid form”.

May 18: it was announced that Mr Skripal had been discharged from hospital after more than two months of treatment.

Eight days later - after nearly three months shut - businesses in the Maltings area of Salisbury reopen following the attack.

June, July and August 2018

June 30: Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley fell ill at a flat in Muggleton Road in Amesbury, eight miles from Salisbury, and were taken to hospital.

Wiltshire Police warned of the dangers of contaminated drugs on July 2 after the couple fell ill. Detectives believed they may have taken heroin or crack cocaine. The pair were in a serious condition at Salisbury District Hospital.

July 4: Police declared a “major incident” after revealing Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley had been exposed to an “unknown substance”, later confirmed to be Novichok.

The following day, the new home secretary Sajid Javid accused the Russian state of using Britain as a “dumping ground for poison” and demanded an explanation from the Kremlin for the two episodes.

Forensic investigators in hazardous material suits and gas masks began searching the building where Ms Sturgess lives.

Alexander Vladimirovich Yakovenko et al. standing in a room: Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko shakes hands with Charlie Rowley (AP) © Provided by Evening Standard Russian Ambassador to the UK Alexander Yakovenko shakes hands with Charlie Rowley (AP)

July 8: Ms Sturgess died in hospital after being exposed to Novichok. Scotland Yard launched a murder investigation over her death.

Mr Rowley regained consciousness and told reporters he was lucky to be alive.

Police revealed the Novichok that poisoned them was from a small bottle found in Mr Rowley’s home.

In August, Russia denounced the imposition of “draconian” new US sanctions after the administration concluded Moscow was responsible for the Salisbury attack.

September 2018

September 4: The Independent investigator the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirms the toxic chemical which killed Ms Sturgess was the same nerve agent as that which poisoned the Skripals.

September 5: Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service said there is sufficient evidence to charge two Russians, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with offences including conspiracy to murder over the attack. Mrs May reveals that the UK believes they are agents from the GRU military intelligence service.

a person standing in front of a building: Russian nationals Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov seen at Salisbury train station on March 3 (PA Wire/PA Images) © Provided by Evening Standard Russian nationals Ruslan Boshirov and Alexander Petrov seen at Salisbury train station on March 3 (PA Wire/PA Images)

Russian President Vladimir Putin says there is “nothing criminal” about Petrov and Boshirov. Downing Street insists they are GRU officers “who used a devastatingly toxic illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country”.

Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service say there is sufficient evidence to charge two Russians, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with offences including conspiracy to murder over the attack. Mrs May reveals that the UK believes they are agents from the GRU military intelligence service.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said there is “nothing criminal” about Petrov and Boshirov. Downing Street insists they are GRU officers “who used a devastatingly toxic illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country”

a woman who is smiling and looking at the camera: Dawn Sturgess died in July after being exposed to Novichok near Salisbury (PA) © Provided by Evening Standard Dawn Sturgess died in July after being exposed to Novichok near Salisbury (PA)

January 2019

The European Union imposed sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on Russians blamed for the attack.

March 2019

The Ministry of Defence announces Salisbury is to be declared decontaminated of Novichok after an almost year-long military clean-up of 12 sites.

A year on from the attack, it emerged that intelligence services investigated “increased” and “unusual” activity at the Russian embassy in London in the days before and after the Novichok poisoning.

Theresa May et al. walking down a street: Theresa May condemned the attack (pictured in Salisbury on the first anniversary) (PA) © Provided by Evening Standard Theresa May condemned the attack (pictured in Salisbury on the first anniversary) (PA)

June 2019

In a frosty meeting at the G20 summit in Osaka on June 28, Theresa May condemned Vladimir Putin’s “irresponsible” actions as the Salisbury attack dominated the conversation.

The Prime Minister was stony faced as she shook hands with the Russian president before talks in which she told him the use of the Novichok nerve agent in the Wiltshire city was a “truly despicable act”.

June 2020

The flat where Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess fell ill is set to be demolished after lying in a 'semi-derelict' state since her death two years ago.

The BBC prepares to air a three-part drama on the scandal named The Salisbury Poisonings, which will be shown over three consecutive nights from June 14-16.

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