LONDON (AP) — The Latest on the second case of nerve agent poisoning in England (all times local):

6 p.m.

British police have confirmed that a man and woman critically ill from nerve-agent poisoning were exposed to the toxin by handling a contaminated item.

The finding bolsters the theory that Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley may have stumbled across traces of the Novichok nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The Skripals spent weeks in critical condition after being attacked in the southwest England city of Salisbury in March. Sturgess and Rowley collapsed in Amesbury, a few miles away, on Saturday. They are in critical condition in Salisbury District Hospital.

The Metropolitan Police force said Thursday that "following further tests of samples from the patients, we now know that they were exposed to the nerve agent after handling a contaminated item."

Detectives have cordoned off several sites in Amesbury and Salisbury as they search for the source of the contamination.

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2:45 p.m

The Russian Foreign Ministry is calling on British Prime Minister Theresa May to end "intrigues and games with chemical agents," referring to a second poisoning case with the nerve agent Novichok in southwest England.

Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova is also urging London to allow Russia to investigate the March poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, along with British investigators.

Zakharova told reporters Thursday that "this government and specifically its leadership will one day have to apologize to Russia and the international community."

Police say a British couple in their 40s was poisoned by the same lethal toxin developed by the Soviet Union that almost killed Skripal and his daughter in March.

Britain says Russia was behind the March attack on the Skripals. Moscow strongly denies that.

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1:25 p.m.

Britain's interior minister says the nerve agent that poisoned an English couple is the same variety as that used against former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, but it's not clear whether the two samples came from the same batch.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid says scientists at Britain's defense research lab are certain "this is the exact same nerve agent from the Novichok family" as the one that poisoned Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March.

He said "we cannot attribute this to the same batch at this point" but scientists are investigating.

Britain blames Russia for the Skripals' poisoning. Moscow denies involvement.

Detectives are investigating whether the latest victims were exposed to Novichok left over from the Skripal poisoning, possibly in a Salisbury park.

Javid said "it's completely unacceptable" for British parks "to be dumping grounds for poison."

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12:10 p.m.

A Russian lawmaker has described a second case of poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok in southern England as part of British efforts to tarnish the Russia-hosted World Cup and fuel tensions ahead of a planned U.S.-Russian summit.

Sergei Zheleznyak, a member of the parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the poisoning of a couple in Amesbury on Saturday is "a continuation of an anti-Russian PR hysteria that British authorities are trying to create."

Zheleznyak noted that "this is happening amid a quite strong positive emotional wave from British fans who came to Russia to support their team during the World Cup." He added that a positive perception of Russia ran contrary to the official narrative and blamed British authorities for presenting what could have been a drug overdose as another Novichok poisoning.

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11:45 a.m.

Residents in the small town in southwestern England where a second case of poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok has been reported say they're worried about the potential for more contamination.

Michelle Jordan, a local resident in Amesbury, says she's had to tell her two children not to touch anything when they go to the park and to wash their hands. She says that she hopes authorities "can just find, find some answers and clear things up for us so we can get back to normal."

Authorities had tried to eliminate any traces of the chemical weapon after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March in the nearby city of Salisbury. Authorities said Thursday they believe two new victims, who were hospitalized in critical condition Saturday, were not directly targeted but sickened as a consequence of the previous attack.

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11:35 a.m.

The Kremlin's spokesman says Russia is concerned with a second case of nerve agent poisoning in England, emphasizing that Russia has nothing to do with either case.

British police said Wednesday that a couple in their 40s were in critical condition after being poisoned by the same Soviet-designed agent that nearly killed former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. Britain blamed Russia for the March poisoning — an accusation Moscow vehemently denied.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday that "Russia has categorically denied and continues to categorically deny the possibility of any kind of involvement to what was happening there."

Peskov noted Britain has rejected Russia's offer for a joint probe, adding that "the British side has not presented any evidence of Russia's involvement in this, besides unfounded accusations."

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11:30 a.m.

Russian lawmakers have speculated that a second case of poisoning by the nerve agent Novichok in England could be traced back to a British source.

British police said Wednesday that a couple got critically ill, poisoned by the same Soviet-designed agent that nearly killed former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. Britain blamed Russia for the Skripals' poisoning — an accusation Moscow fiercely denied.

Nikolai Kovalyov, a lawmaker and the ex-chief of Russia's FSB domestic security agency, told the Interfax news agency that the new poisoning may have been caused by "a psychologically unstable British researcher" who could have stolen the lethal toxin from a chemical lab. He didn't offer any evidence to back his allegations.

Another lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, also pointed finger in Britain's direction, tweeting: "Something is rotten in the United Kingdom."

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10:25 a.m.

British officials investigating a second case of poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok in southwestern England say they suspect the victims were not directly targeted but sickened as a consequence of the previous attack.

Police announced late Wednesday that specialists have determined that a couple in their 40s were poisoned by the same lethal toxin — developed by the Soviet Union — that almost killed Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. The new victims are both critically ill in the same hospital that treated the Skripals.

"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.

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07:45 a.m.

British officials are seeking clues in the rush to understand how two Britons were exposed to the military-grade nerve agent Novichok.

The country's chief counterterrorism police officer says specialists have determined that the couple in their 40s were poisoned by the same lethal toxin — developed by the Soviet Union — that almost killed a former Russian spy and his daughter in March.

It is not clear if the new victims were intentionally targeted.

The man and woman are critically ill in England's Salisbury District Hospital, where Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were previously treated.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is chairing a meeting of the British government's COBRA emergency committee on Thursday morning.