Poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent that authorities still know little about, two victims and a police officer remain critically ill in hospital after being attacked in Salisbury on 4th March.
66-year-old Sergei Skripal and his 33-year old daughter, Yulia, were found by members of the public.
Skripal was formerly an intelligence officer for the Russian military. He acted as a double agent for the UK’s intelligence services.
After being imprisoned in Russia, he was released as part of a spy exchange and settled in England.
Eye witnesses said following the attack Sergei Skripal was “rigid and immobile”, while Yulia Skripal was “unconscious” and had “lost control of her bodily functions”.
Authorities now believe the two victims were attacked with nerve agents, chemical compounds that block nerve cells. They come in gas or liquid form and can have other effects including breathlessness, changes to blood pressure and heart rate, excessive sweating, and can even induce coma.
Theresa May has suggested the attack was instigated by the Russian government, and has received backing from political leaders in America, Canada, France and Australia.
May has based her accusations on Russia’s capability to produce the nerve agent in question, as Russia is the only country known to be able to manufacture Novichok agents.
Novichok is formed when two non-fatal substances are combined, meaning the poison is easy to transport and store without being detected by the authorities.
Previously, the Russian government is thought to have sponsored assassinations of former Russian intelligence agents, including that of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.
In a statement from Moscow, the Russian government said they were ‘willing to co-operate’ with UK to find out what happened to the Skripals.
Recently, Moscow has said that the UK government is using “propaganda war tools to influence an uninformed and impressionable public” and that there are “no facts” to suggest that the attack was initiated by Russian officials, “only allegations”.
Spy Exchange: our survey
A survey was conducted at CCHSG, questioning whether countries should exchange imprisoned spies.
73% of participants believed countries should exchange spies, with a common reason being that “all countries have a secret service” and that is sensible for them to “negotiate the release of prisoners if possible”.
Of the 18% who disagreed, 15% thought that the spies were untrustworthy and therefore should not be granted citizenship. Of the 9% who did not come to a definite conclusion, 6% reasoned that it would depend on whether or not the spies posed a threat to the public.
Furthermore, 97% of participants said that spies who were involved in a spy exchange should receive better protection from the government. Some said spies should be granted new identities in order to protect them from attacks.
From the survey, it is evident that CCHSG students and teachers broadly support the spy exchange, and do not feel Sergei Skripal’s British citizenship was a contributing factor to his attack.
As further details of the case emerge, tensions continue to escalate between the UK and Russia. Since the Russian government has not admitted to having any knowledge of the attack, the UK has expelled 23 Russian diplomats.