Different Locations, Same Poison
Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, were found unconscious on June 30 after falling ill that morning in their house in the town of Amesbury, Wiltshire County. Amesbury is located seven miles (11 km) from the town of Salisbury, where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were allegedly poisoned with an A234 nerve agent roughly four months ago.
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid claimed that all the places the Skripals visited after being exposed to the poison had been decontaminated and "had undergone vigorous testing" prior to being reopened to the public. He also shared that the Amesbury couple didn't go to any of the places visited by the Skripals.
Amesbury, as well as Salisbury, is located close to the military's Porton Down laboratory. This facility conducted the analysis in both the Skripal case and the recent poisoning, claiming to have determined that the victims of both attacks were exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent, also known as A234. However the lab couldn't say whether the substance that poisoned the Amesbury couple, was from the same batch as the one allegedly used on the Skripals.
Apart from running such tests, the highly secretive military lab was historically tasked with working on nerve agents; both developing and finding antidotes to them. More than once the facility's work has led to contamination of the territory with hazardous agents.
Different Circumstances, Similar Symptoms
The first theory proposed after the Amesbury couple was discovered stated that they had fallen victim to a contaminated batch of drugs, such as heroin or crack. A similar verdict was also issued after the Skripals were found unconscious in Salisbury. Later, after tests at the Porton-Down laboratory, the medical diagnosis was switched to poisoning by the A234 nerve agent. Both Sturgess and Rowley are now undergoing treatment in the same Salisbury hospital, where earlier both Skripals were cured.
UK Security Secretary Ben Wallace has claimed that the Amesbury couple was not linked to the Skripal incident and that they were not targeted. He stated that "a contamination by Novichok" had taken place. In the case of the Skripals, the British government suggested that a significant amount of this nerve agent had purportedly been dispensed close to the doorstep of their home. It is still unclear how and where the Amesbury couple was exposed to the A234 nerve agent that caused symptoms similar to the Skripals.
"Low Risk to Public"
UK Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies told journalists on June 4 that a public health risk "remains low," but still warned citizens to be careful about "unknown or already dangerous objects such as needles and syringes."
What UK and Kremlin Officials are Saying
UK Secretary for Security Ben Wallace stated that the official investigation will eventually reveal the truth, but still urged Russia to come up with information about the Amesbury poisoning, hinting at Moscow's culpability.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has demanded that Moscow explain "exactly what has gone on" and slammed the use of chemical weapons as "barbaric and inhumane."
On June 5 British Prime Minister Theresa May stated that police will "leave no stone unturned" looking for explanation on how two people on Amesbury were exposed to a Novichok nerve agent. She added that the news of the poisoning is "deeply disturbing."
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded to the latest statements by reminding the UK that Moscow had suggested back in March to cooperate during the investigation into the Skripal poisoning and that London didn't take up that offer. Peskov noted that news of the Amesbury incident was "disturbing" and said that such events are cause for "deep concern."
What Happened in Salisbury in March 2018
Former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned and found unconscious in the British city of Salisbury in March 2018. The UK declared that the substance used in the attack was similar to the Novichok-class of nerve agents developed in the former Soviet Union.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of organizing the attack, although the official investigation into the incident is still ongoing. Despite that, the UK went on to expel 23 Russian diplomats as a punitive measure.
Russia has denied all the accusations and suggested conducting a joint investigation, as well as demanding consular access to its citizens. However, the request and suggestion have been ignored. In response to the British move Moscow expelled diplomats from those countries that joined London's punitive measure and ordered the British Council to halt its activities in Russia.
Yulia and Sergei Skripal regained consciousness in April and were eventually released from the hospital. Their fate remains unknown. Sergei's daughter Yulia has released one public video, asking for privacy after the incident. Since then no further information on them has been forthcoming. The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed skepticism over the statement, pointing out that it sounded like it was translated from English to Russian and thus stage managed by the UK. Several British media outlets suggested that Yulia was in hiding at one of the UK's military bases.