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Sergei Skripal poisoning: What is a nerve agent?

The kind of substance that few have access to

By Philip Ball  

The area in Salisbury where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill by exposure to a nerve agent. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/PA Images

Now it is official that Sergei Skripal, the former Russian intelligence officer, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in Salisbury last Sunday (4th March) by a nerve agent, there is something of a scramble among commentators to unpack what that scary-sounding term means.

Of course, the first thing it means is that Skripal is not a victim of food poisoning or some other accidentally incurred…

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