Salisbury Residents Want More Information On Nerve Agent Used Residents of Salisbury in the west of England say they are angry at delays in warning them about the potential danger from nerve agents, following the poisoning of a Russian exile in the city.
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Salisbury Residents Want More Information On Nerve Agent Used

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Salisbury Residents Want More Information On Nerve Agent Used

Salisbury Residents Want More Information On Nerve Agent Used

Salisbury Residents Want More Information On Nerve Agent Used

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/593398923/593398924" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Residents of Salisbury in the west of England say they are angry at delays in warning them about the potential danger from nerve agents, following the poisoning of a Russian exile in the city.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The United Kingdom and Russia are in quite a standoff over a case that, I mean, honestly sounds like a cold-war thriller. A Russian national who spied for Britain was poisoned, along with his daughter, using a Soviet-era nerve agent. This attack happened in the small, southern English city of Salisbury. And this poisoning is one of more than a dozen suspected hits on Kremlin critics in the United Kingdom. NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports from Salisbury.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: As the head of the Salisbury City Council, Matthew Dean thought he knew everyone in town until one Sunday last year, when he stopped at a local pub for a beer.

MATTHEW DEAN: There was this very loud, late middle-aged man with a thick Russian accent in a white tracksuit drinking vodka. And that's not the sort of thing in Salisbury that you see very much.

KAKISSIS: A little over a week ago, Dean found out the man was Sergei Skripal, a 66-year-old former Russian intelligence official. Skripal had been jailed in Russia for passing state secrets to Britain, then freed in a spy exchange. He'd lived in Salisbury since 2011. On March 4, he and his daughter Yuliya were found slumped on a park bench here. They'd been poisoned by a military-grade, Soviet-era nerve agent.

(CROSSTALK)

KAKISSIS: Retired cathedral worker Sally Smythe is having a coffee near the cordoned-off spot where the Skripals were poisoned.

SALLY SMYTHE: To see so many police on the streets and so much cordoning off was a little unnerving for the first few days.

KAKISSIS: Public health officials have now warned that hundreds of people may have been contaminated by novichok, the Soviet nerve agent used in the poisoning. Like others, Smythe is concerned.

SMYTHE: We've really received information very, very slowly and not very accurately.

KAKISSIS: Salisbury is not used to this.

JOE RIDDLE: As a run-of-the-mill week, we'll probably focus on things like parking charges in the city...

KAKISSIS: Joe Riddle is editor of the local newspaper. He says authorities have been tight-lipped.

RIDDLE: They keep saying they won't be giving a running commentary on the events as they're unfolding, so it has been difficult to get the facts that, perhaps, we would like to have got.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Yelling, unintelligible).

KAKISSIS: Down the street, there's an open-air market. Simon Stephens sells fresh-roasted coffee here twice a week.

(SOUNDBITE OF COFFEE GRINDING)

KAKISSIS: He worries about a confrontation with Russia as Britain withdraws from the EU.

SIMON STEPHENS: To me, this is just another reason for staying part of the EU because we're much stronger as a - in a bloc of other countries. Alone, I don't think we - yes, what can we do against Russia, you know?

KAKISSIS: Skripal's poisoning seems to follow a pattern of attacks on Kremlin critics who live in Britain. Reporter Jane Bradley was part of a BuzzFeed UK team that uncovered 14 suspicious deaths. The British intelligence service says they're now looking into those deaths. Bradley spoke to NPR by Skype.

JANE BRADLEY: The deaths that we covered range from supposed suicides, falling out of windows and even one case where a scientist supposedly stabbed himself with two different knives.

KAKISSIS: And yesterday, another Kremlin critic was found dead in his London home. Police are investigating. Joanna Kakissis, NPR News, Salisbury.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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