By Jamie Ducharme
July 5, 2018

Russian officials are already denying any connection to a second incident of Novichok poisoning in the Salisbury area of England.

Shortly after police confirmed on Wednesday that a couple in their 40s were critically ill after being exposed to the same nerve agent that nearly killed former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March, the Russian embassy in the Netherlands tweeted a forceful denial of involvement.

“How dumb they think [Russia] is to use ‘again’ so-called ‘Novichok’ in the middle of the FIFA World Cup and after the special session of the CSP…,” the tweet reads.

The Russian state has been blamed for the first poisoning incident, a claim it has denied. But British security officials have said the latest case likely was not the result of direct targeting, and rather a ripple effect from the first incident. Highly lethal Novichok, which works by suppressing an enzyme involved in nervous system function, is designed to evade detection and typical protective measures.

“The working assumption would be that these are victims of either the consequence of the previous attack, or something else, but not that they were directly targeted,” security minister Ben Wallace told the BBC.

Wallace did add, however, that he is “waiting for the phone call from the Russian state — the offer is there.”

The man and woman poisoned on Wednesday are reportedly being treated at the same hospital where the Skripals were in intensive care months ago. Officials are also working to decontaminate the area in hopes of avoiding any additional exposures.

Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com.

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