UK politicians could skip World Cup in Russia

FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 file photo, Sergei Skripal speaks to his lawyer from behind bars seen on a screen of a monitor outside a courtroom in Moscow. It has been reported on Monday, March 5, 2018 by the British media that Skripal is in critical condition after exposure to 'unknown substance' in English city of Salisbury. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)
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SALISBURY, England (AP) -- Britain says that the country's politicians might not attend the World Cup in Russia if Moscow is behind the unexplained illness of a former spy.
Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia's GRU military intelligence service who spied for Britain, and his daughter are in critical condition in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday.
As part a "robust" British response if Russian involvement is proven, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told lawmakers Tuesday the U.K. could downgrade its participation in the World Cup.
Johnson said that "it will be very difficult to imagine that U.K. representation at that event will go ahead in the normal way."
The Foreign Office later clarified that the comment referred to dignitaries and officials, not the England team, which is scheduled to compete at the tournament, which starts in June.
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry has dismissed suggestions from Britain's foreign secretary that Russia might be behind the unexplained illness of a former Russian spy in England.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter are in a critical condition after collapsing in the English city of Salisbury on Sunday.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova dismissed Johnson's remarks as "wild."
British counterterrorism police say they are now leading the investigation, although it hasn't been declared a terrorist incident.
The Metropolitan Police says the Counterterrorism Policing Network will lead the investigation because "it has the specialist expertise" to deal with the unusual case.
The force's counterterrorism chief, Mark Rowley, says the focus is on discovering what caused the sudden illness.
He said "this investigation is at the early stages and any speculation is unhelpful at this time."

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