A shopping precinct which was one of the key locations during the investigation into the nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Salisbury could reopen this weekend.
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found collapsed on a bench near The Maltings shopping precinct in Salisbury on Sunday 4th March. They had been poisoned. The Skripals were admitted to Salisbury District Hospital for medical treatment after coming into contact with a toxic substance, later revealed to be the military-grade nerve agent Novichok.
The Maltings area was one of a number of locations to be locked down and cordoned off for forensic examination, decontamination, and as a public safety measure. It has been shut for about two and a half months.
The Maltings area has been released from Government control by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), having been found to be of 'no risk to public health'. The location has undergone extensive cleaning and testing by specialist teams. The city council say they are hoping to reopen it to the public this weekend.
Preparations to reopen The Maltings walkway and the businesses on the site are underway. The owners of firms on the site which have been closed since March will be able to go into their premises to restock.
This week the Salisbury recovery co-ordinating group - in conjunction with Wiltshire Council, Salisbury City Council, and The Maltings Shopping team -will repair and clean the area with work including repairs to brickwork, grass cutting and some refurbishment ahead of the site being reopened to the general public.
Alistair Cunningham from the Salisbury Recovery Group said that there are no plans to replace the bench where the Skripals collapsed, but options are being considered by the city council including the placing of an art installation in the area.
Mr Cunningham also said that around £250,000 has been given to local businesses which saw their revenues drop by about 80% in the immediate aftermath of the nerve agent attack.
Wiltshire Council said that other potentially affected sites including the nearby Zizzi restaurant and The Mill pub are being cleaned by specialist teams. DEFRA is overseeing the work based on specialist advice from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), Public Health England (PHE), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Home Office. Specially trained MOD personnel are supporting the clean-up operation. The Skripal house remains under police investigation.
Yulia Skripal was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital on Tuesday 10th April, while her father, Sergei, was released from hospital on Friday 18th May. They have been taken to a secret location in the UK.
Meanwhile, a Russian television channel has interviewed a woman it claims is Sergei Skripal's mother. Speaking on Russia's Channel One on Monday 21st May, the woman said that she had not spoken to her son since he was admitted to hospital and appealed for the British authorities to allow him to telephone her. However, neither the British authorities, nor the only member of the Skripal family known to still be in Russia have ever mentioned that Mr Skripal's mother is still alive.