Salisbury church hosts ‘From Russia With Love’ concert months after Sergei Skripal nerve agent attack

Concert organiser says she was 'not best pleased' with poster design showing Russian flag

Flora Thompson
Friday 05 October 2018 13:07 BST
Salisbury attack: Two Russian spies named as suspects in novichok poisoning case

A church in Salisbury will host a concert entitled "From Russia With Love", months after a woman died and three others were poisoned with the novichok nerve agent.

Named after the James Bond tale about a secret Russian crime organisation, the event is being promoted by posters emblazoned with the country's flag and a big love heart.

Featuring classical music from Russian composers, the performance takes place in St Martin's Church, Salisbury, on 13 October.

The concert will be held less than two miles from the home of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and not far from the bench where he and his daughter Yulia collapsed in March.

A poster advertising the event was found displayed in a car park just metres from Salisbury Cathedral - the spire of which suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov famously praised while denying any involvement in the attack. During a television interview they instead claimed they were tourists.

UK authorities believe the pair smeared the highly toxic chemical on Mr Skripal's door handle. Along with his daughter, he became critically ill after he was exposed to the nerve agent.

Three months later Dawn Sturgess died after she was poisoned by a perfume bottle containing traces of novichok in nearby Amesbury.

Gill Bolton, one of the concert's organisers and performers, said she was "not best pleased" with the poster design, admitting it was a bit "off putting". But she said no-one had complained.

The programme of concerts for the forthcoming season was planned about a year in advance and was not in response to recent events, she said, adding: "It's not really anything to do with the Skripals and that sort of thing."

The design was created by someone who did not live in the area but who took inspiration from the James Bond story of the same name, she said. In the original Ian Fleming novel, a wing of the Soviet military is tasked with assassinating western spies.

The theme was picked because Russian music was "really quite good" and organisers hoped the choice of pieces from well-known ballets would appeal to a wide audience. The music was mainly composed in the 19th century and "well before any conflict", Ms Bolton said.

Pianists will perform the work of composers including Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich.

She added: "It's a pity we chose that title. The music itself has nothing to do with it [the current events]. It's quite upbeat. I hope people have looked beyond the title and instead look at the programme of music."

News of the poster emerged as Dutch officials revealed they thwarted an attempt by the Russian military intelligence service GRU to hack the headquarters of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

US authorities also charged seven Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the organisation investigating the poisoning.

Press Association

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