Russian nationals named as suspects in Salisbury Novichok poisoning

Geraldine Edwards
September 6, 2018

Sergei Skripal - a former Russian agent who had been convicted in his homeland of spying for Britain - and his daughter were found collapsed on a bench in the cathedral city of Salisbury, 140 kilometres southwest of London.

The two men, named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were charged with the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, speaking Thursday in parliament after the police announced the charges, said it was "not a rogue operation", and that based on the evidence gathered, United Kingdom authorities believe the two suspects are operatives of the Russian military intelligence service known as the GRU.

She said: "The GRU is a highly-disciplined organisation with a well-established chain of command".

Prime Minister Theresa May was adamant that this attack was not carried out by "rogue" GRU operatives.

Britain's Prime Minister claims that it is quote "almost certainly" that the Salisbury and Amesbury nerve agent attacks this year were approved at the highest level of the Russian state.

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Police released the pair's passport photographs on Wednesday, along with a series of CCTV images showing the pair at Gatwick Airport, Salisbury rail station and various roads. The GRU was named in an 11-count indictment as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the names of the two men "do not mean anything to us", adding that the case required careful analysis and therefore close cooperation between London and Moscow.

Mr. Putin and other Russian officials have steadfastly denied any involvement in the attacks and they've called on Britain to work with Russian police on the investigation.

Having taken advice from Public Health England, police say they are confident that there was no risk to members of the public who were on the same flight, trains or public transport used by the suspects.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital in July, just over a week after the pair fell ill.

The charges include conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and use and possession of Novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act. Both the box and the bottle were labelled with the Nina Ricci brand.

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On April 3 the British military facility analysing the nerve agent - which appears to have been put on the door of Skripal's home - says it has "not verified the precise source" of the substance.

British authorities and the global chemical weapons watchdog say the victims were exposed to Novichok, a type of military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The CPS said that a European arrest warrant had been issued for the two Russians but that Britain would not seek their extradition, suggesting it would be fruitless to do so.

The case, with its chilling cloak-and-dagger details, echoes the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at a London hotel. Russian Federation reiterates that it has no connection to either the Salisbury or Amesbury attacks, adding that co-operation with Britain remains vital.

A man found the nerve agent in a perfume bottle and gave it to a woman who sprayed it on her wrist. Police became aware of the men by name in May, he said. "We are also seeking to circulate Interpol Red Notices", said Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the UK's National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing.

They are thought to have been using the names as aliases and are about 40.

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