An investigation has been launched to look into the death of a U.K. citizen, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess, who died after accidentally coming in contact with a long-thought destroyed Russian nerve agent called Novichok.
The chemical weapon was found in a discarded perfume bottle that Dawn Sturgess picked up, which led to the British woman’s shocking poisoning in 2018.
Her death occurred just three months after Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter barely survived a Novichok attack in Salisbury nearby.
The Soviet-era nerve agent was thought to have been destroyed in 1999 along with Russia’s chemical weapons program, until its recent bizarre reappearance in the UK.
Almost three years later, the UK government has been convinced that an investigation is paramount to discover what happened in Dawn Sturgess’ death, and to find out if Russia is illegally using banned chemical weapons once more.
“I hope this inquiry will bring comfort to (Dawn Sturgess’s family and others affected) through a greater understanding of the circumstances of Ms. Sturgess’ death and recognize the bravery and resilience of those who responded,” said UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The investigation was first put forth by Heather Hallett, the coroner for Dawn Sturgess’ death, back in September. The UK Home Secretary informed her that the inquiry should began “as soon as is reasonably possible in 2022.”
According to ABC News, in the time since Dawn Sturgess’ death in 2018, authorities in the UK have started investigating three men believed to be working for Russia’s military intelligence service.
No charges have been made against Denis Sergeev, Anatoliy Chepiga, and Alexander Mishkin, the three men accused by the UK of being Russian spies. The Russian servicemen supposedly traveled to England to target ex-spy Sergei Skripal in an unknown mission, before flying back to Moscow. UK authorities believe that the Novichok nerve agent was smeared on the ex-spy’s door handle.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied the allegations and claims that all three suspects were Russian civilians, not military intelligence service agents.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated in September that the three Russian suspects “should be handed over for justice.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel echoed his statements, telling the House of Commons to watch their movements and that the country would “take every possible step to detain and extradite them.”
The Uk will be “relentless in the pursuit of justice,” she said.
According to ABC News, the three men cannot be brought to trial in Britain as long as they remain in the Russia.
Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that she believed the UK was using the poisoning as “a tool to put pressure on our country” and that the country “decisively reject[s] all of London’s attempt to blame Moscow for what happened in Salisbury.”
In September 2020, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, showed signs of Novichok poisoning, launching the thought-destroyed nerve agent back into the news once again. This time, in Russia.
Found in his room at the Xander Hotel in Tomsk, Russia, the plastic water bottle held by the well-known Kremlin critic contained small traces of Novichok, according to independent German scientists.
“It was absolutely clear to us that Navalny was not lightly ill,” an Instagram post from his team describing the event read. “So we decided to grab everything that might hypothetically be of use and give that to the doctors in Germany.”
European Parliament later stated that they believed “The attempted assassination of Navalny was part of a systemic effort to silence dissident voices in Russia.”
The poison had been unheard of for over 19 years, according to The New York Times, after the U.S. and Uzbekistan came together in 1999 to dismantle former Soviet Union chemical weapon labs known to produce the deadly toxin.