A CHURCH in Salisbury will host a “service of cleansing and celebration” after the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in the city last month.
St Thomas’s, in the centre of Salisbury, will hold the service at 3 p.m. on Sunday, metres away from the site of the bench where the Skripals were found outside the Maltings shopping centre. The Rector of St Thomas’s, the Revd Kelvin Inglis, said that the service would end with a procession to the spot where the pair were found.
The Skripals are believed to have been poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, and the fallout from the attack on them has resulted in the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the UK and its allies, since the Government concluded that it was “highly likely” that the blame lay with Moscow (News, 16 March, 23 March). More than 20 countries around the world expelled Russian diplomats: the UK required 23 to leave; and the United States, 60.
On Tuesday, it was reported that Ms Skripal had been discharged from hospital, and that Mr Skripal was also making good progress and would leave “in due course”.
Salisbury District Hospital’s medical director, Dr Christine Blanshard, said that Ms Skripal’s being discharged was not the end of her treatment, but marked a “significant milestone”.
The Times reported on Wednesday that Ms Skripal had refused consular help from the Russian Embassy. The embassy posted on Twitter on Tuesday: “We need urgent proof that what is being done to her is done on her own free will.”
The police officer who was severely affected by the nerve agent, DS Nick Bailey, was allowed to leave hospital three weeks ago.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is expected to announce the results of its investigation into the attack this week, but will stop short of identifying the source.
Mr Inglis said: “We shall gather in thanksgiving for the work of the services involved, in prayer for those affected, and in looking forward to the future of our fine city.
“While we feel rightly outraged at this act, I have seen no sense that the city wishes anything but friendship with the Russian people and better relations between our governments.”
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, said on Tuesday: “In this season of Easter, which the Church celebrates for 50 days, this feels like an affirmation of the Christian story — that good ultimately triumphs over evil, truth over deception, and life over death. Salisbury was built on that Christian story 800 years ago, and it still centres the city today.”