Police were called to the hospital where former double agent Sergei Skripal is being treated for exposure to a toxic nerve agent after a Russian TV news crew snuck in to film a report.
Officers from Wiltshire Police said they asked two men, who they believed to be news reporters, to leave Salisbury Hospital after receiving a call from security staff at just after 5am this morning.
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No arrests were made, but a spokesperson for the hospital condemned the “appalling behaviour” of the Russian journalists in a statement shared by the National Union of Journalists.
They said the reporters had approached staff “in the middle of the night with no warning and without asking for any permission”.
Online footage, shared on the Sun and Mail Online websites, shows the pair were from Russia’s Ren TV station and tried to speak with two medical staff while also filming in the hospital’s corridors.
At one point the reporter says a sign on a door to the ward where Skripal is being treated for exposure to chemical agent Novichok, was the “only protection from this lethal substance”, according to The Sun.
The paper says the sign actually reads: “Caution: Slippery floor surface.”
The hospital spokesperson said: “Our staff, who have been rightly lauded for their recent efforts, working tirelessly to give all of our patients high quality care, deserved better.
“We would like to reiterate that any attempt to harass, intimidate or cause distress to any of our staff or patients is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
“We understand the worldwide interest in this story and we have been very open and accommodating to members of the press from around the world.
“Yesterday, for example, we allowed journalists on site for over six hours, yet these individuals made late night attempts to trespass and harass NHS staff.
“We are a busy hospital and make no apology for putting the needs of our patients first.”
The National Union of Journalists has also condemned the incident and said it would be “alerting” the Russian Union of Journalists, an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists, about it.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “Journalists need to act responsibly and sensitively when covering stories at hospitals.
“The NUJ’s code of conduct says journalists must not intrude into anybody’s private life or cause grief or distress, unless there is an overriding public interest.
“I glad to hear that the vast majority of reporters covering the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal from Salisbury hospital have acted responsibly, but the behaviour of the Russian reporters who gained access to the hospital without permission and spoke to staff cannot be condoned.”
Wiltshire Police told the Sun: “Wiltshire Police were called by security staff at Salisbury District Hospital shortly after 5am this morning.
“Officers attended and spoke to two men in the reception area, who were believed to be news reporters. They were asked to leave the hospital and did so. No arrests were made.”
Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, was discharged from hospital this week having also been exposed to the Novichok in the attack on 4 March, which has strained relations between Britain and Russia.
Ren TV is owned by National Media Group, run by former Russian gymnast Alina Kabaeva, who a known supporter of Vladimir Putin.
Picture: The Sun