Belfast Telegraph

Lord Trimble demands a ‘more robust’ response over Russian spy attack

By Trevor Mason

Former first minister Lord Trimble urged the Government to be “more robust” in its pursuit of those who tried to murder ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal than it was with those who killed Alexander Litvinenko.

Former double agent Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia continue to fight for their lives in hospital after being targeted with a nerve agent.

Mr Skripal (66) was found along with his 33-year-old daughter on a bench in The Maltings in Salisbury, Wiltshire, after police were called by a concerned member of the public at around 4.15pm on Sunday.

Many — including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson — have compared the attempted murder to the killing of Litvinenko, a Russian dissident who was fatally poisoned with radioactive polonium in London in 2006.

Conservative peer Lord Trimble, a former Ulster Unionist leader, said the initial response to the murder of Litvinenko had been “quite inadequate”, leading some to believe Britain was seen by the perpetrators to be a “soft touch”.

He told the House of Lords yesterday: “We will have to be even more robust in our response this time than might have been the case if we hadn’t had that not-so-good example before us.”

The police officer who rushed to the aid of Mr Skripal is “very anxious” as he recovers in hospital, his chief constable said.

Wiltshire Police named the officer as Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who is still in a serious condition following the attack.

Police thanked well-wishers for their support for the officer, while the force’s temporary chief constable Kier Pritchard said: “I have just left the bedside of our officer and family in hospital. Conveyed all our thoughts and wishes, an amazingly courageous officer.”

He said that DS Bailey, who joined the force in 2002 and was commended in 2016 for his work on a rape investigation, was “well liked, well loved, a massively dedicated officer”. The praise was echoed by Prime Minister Theresa May, who said the events served as a “stark reminder” of the dangers faced by emergency staff.

Mr Pritchard continued: “He’s well, he’s sat up.

“He is not the Nick that I know but of course he’s receiving a high level of treatment. He’s in the safe hands of the medical professionals working in Salisbury District so I’m very confident he’s getting the best professional support that he can.

“Of course he’s very anxious, he’s very concerned. He did his very best on that night.”

It comes amid a flurry of activity in Salisbury, where police sealed off the gravestone of Mr Skripal’s wife Liudmila, who was buried in 2012, and the memorial stone of his son, Alexander, who was cremated last year.

They are located at separate sites in the London Road Cemetery with each guarded by a police officer.

Hundreds of investigators, led by counter-terror police, are working to find out who is responsible for what is feared to be a sophisticated plot amid heightened tensions between Britain and Russia.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the use of a chemical weapon on UK soil was a “brazen and reckless act”.

Belfast Telegraph

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