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Key Salisbury site reopens to public after nerve agent clean-up operation

The Maltings was sealed off after Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious there on March 4.

Businesses in the Maltings area of Salisbury are preparing to reopen as the city takes a “massive step” in its recovery from the nerve agent attack.

Wiltshire Council said the thoroughfare would be open from 8am on Saturday, nearly 11 weeks after the incident that thrust the cathedral city into the centre of a global diplomatic crisis.

Defra announced it had handed back the area from Government control on Monday after an “extensive clean-up”.

Alistair Cunningham, head of the council’s recovery effort, said the reopening of the shopping precinct represents a “massive step the recovery for this beautiful city”.

“It has always been a priority to reopen this main economic thoroughfare, which takes visitors and shoppers from the main car parks to the city centre past the shops in the Maltings that have been directly affected,” he said.

“The Maltings site has undergone thorough testing and clean-up work by world-class specialists, and the public can be reassured that any traces of nerve agent that may have been present have been removed and the site presents no risk to public health.

“I would urge people to visit and support the businesses in the Maltings, and the rest of Salisbury as the city recovers and gets back to normal.”

Businesses in the Maltings and around Salisbury have been adversely affected by the incident as some shoppers avoided the area over health and safety concerns.

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Yulia Skripal the daughter of Russian spy Sergei Skripal (Dylan Martinez/PA)

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious from the effects of the military nerve agent Novichok on a bench in area on March 4.

Swathes of the city were sealed off as investigators moved in before a massive decontamination operation began.

Last week, ministers praised the “resilience” of Salisbury residents in the face of disruption, which they blamed on “Russia’s reckless actions”.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said police had released all sites for decontamination, except for the Skripal house, and the priority was making the sites safe so “Salisbury can get back to normal”.

Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the attack on the Skripals, and on Friday Vladimir Putin questioned the UK’s explanation around their poisoning.

The Russian president said the version of events “is not possible” as victims of a military grade agent would have died “immediately”.

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