Sites across the centre of Salisbury remain cordoned off more than a month after Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found unconscious on a bench in the city centre. They were later found to have been poisoned by Novichok, a nerve-agent linked to the Russian government. On Sunday, the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam, will lead a “service of cleansing and celebration” in the parish church of St Thomas’, not far from where the Skripals were found.
Mr Skripal, 66, a former Russian military intelligence officer who acted as a double agent for the UK’s intelligence services, remains in hospital in Salisbury; but is reported to be responding to treatment and is no longer in a critical condition. His 33-year-old daughter Yulia was released from hospital this week and is said to be living with police protection. British authorities have said that a “military grade nerve agent” called Novichok, was used in the attack. The international community has laid the blame for the attack on the Russian government. More than 150 Russian diplomats working in 29 countries, as well as NATO and the UN, have been expelled.
Police and security service investigations continue into the attack; and several sites in and Salisbury remain cordoned off, with a large presence of police and counter-terrorism officers, more than a month after the attack took place. Now, the Bishop of Salisbury and the Rector of the Parish in which the Skripals were found, are inviting members of the public to a special service to celebrate the community life of the city. The service, at St Thomas’ Church at 3 pm on Sunday 15 April, will include “prayers for cleansing as close to the site as possible, in order to symbolically reclaim the city for the common good.”
The Rector of St Thomas’, the Revd Kelvin Inglis, said: “the service will bring together city leaders and representatives, members of the business community and local people, together with leaders and members of the emergency and public services. 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.
“At the conclusion of the service, we shall go in procession to near the site where the Skripals were found for a ceremony symbolically to ‘reclaim’ our city for the common good
“Our service will include hymns and prayers from both Russia and this country, as well as from the Christian Bible that been the grounding of both of our cultures.
“While we feel rightly outraged at this act, I have seen no sense that in the city wishes anything but friendship with the Russian people and better relations between our governments.”
Bishop Nicholas added: “in this season of Easter, which the Church celebrates for fifty 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.”