NOVICHOK: Timeline of key movements of the two victims released by police

A police officer stands at a cordon at Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury

A police officer stands at a cordon at Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury

Police said they had established that the couple, who remain in a critical condition in hospital, were exposed to the nerve agent after "handling a contaminated item". Since the Russian government originally had the only samples of this, British authorities, including Prime Minister Theresa May, have concluded that there can only be two options: either Russia is behind the attacks or they let their custom-made nerve agent fall into the hands of someone else. He said: "It is completely unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets, or for our streets, our parks, our towns, to be dumping grounds for poison".

The man and woman are now critically ill in England's Salisbury District Hospital, where the Skripals were previously treated.

Security minister Ben Wallace has demanded the Russians reveal "what happend" in Salisbury but President Putin's regime has denied any involvement in the Novichok attack.

"The eyes of the world are now on Russian Federation, not least because of the World Cup", he said.

A police officer guards a cordon at a residential address in Amesbury, southern England, July 5, 2018, where police reported a man and woman were found unconscious after contact with the nerve agent Novichok.

The home secretary said he was "comfortable" the "exact same nerve agent" had been used in both the Salisbury and Amesbury poisonings - but added it was not yet known if they were from the same batch.

"I have received test results from Porton Down (military research centre) which show that the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok", Neil Basu, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer, told reporters.

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The Kremlin said Russian Federation had offered Britain its assistance in investigating the nerve agent attack and had been rebuffed. "We can not attribute this to the same batch at this point".

Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said there was "no reason to think it's connected with matters of last month".

We can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal. They've also said that, unlike the Skripals, the couple was not deliberately targeted with the Soviet-era nerve agent, which acts rapidly to slow the heart and restrict airways.

Authorities initially believed the pair had taken a bad batch of heroin or crack cocaine.

"It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on", he said, noting the global focus on Russia as it hosts the football World Cup.

But the exposure of two British citizens to such a risky nerve agent will stoke fears that Novichok could be lingering at sites around the ancient English city of Salisbury.

The Russians have denied these claims, and have accused the United Kingdom of staging the entire thing just to make Russia look bad. Doctors say they don't know the long-term prognosis for their health. "They are the ones who could fill in all the clues to keep people safe".

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