UK's allies back conclusion that Novichok suspects are Russian spies

10 September, 2018, 03:02 | Author: Kim Reid
  • The two suspects caught on CCTV while standing at Salisbury railway station at 16:11hrs on 03 March 2018  Metropolitan Police Handout

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the two suspects are members of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence service, who carried out a mission nearly certainly approved at a senior level of the Russian state.

POLICE have identified two Russians they say are responsible for the nerve agent attack on Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the United Kingdom town of Salisbury earlier this year. A police officer, Nick Bailey, was also hurt in the attack.

The Novichok itself was transported in a counterfeit bottle of Nina Ricci perfume, and then sprayed onto the door of Sergei Skripal's house.

Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers that British intelligence has concluded that the two men are officers of Russia's GRU military intelligence service.

"The GRU is a highly-disciplined organization with a well-established chain of command".

"It was also nearly certainly approved outside the GRU at a high level of the Russian state".

Detectives believe the front door of Mr Skripal's Salisbury home was contaminated with Novichok on March 4.

After the attack in March, Britain and its allies expelled dozens of Russian diplomats, prompting Moscow to respond in kind, while the United States later introduced sanctions in relation to the incident.

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He told the BBC the pair, thought to be from Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU, were acting on orders from the "highest level" in Moscow. "I don't understand why this was done and what sort of signal the British side is sending".

A top Russian diplomat on Thursday denounced British accusations that Russian military intelligence agents poisoned a former spy in England, calling them base untruths aimed at whipping up hostility toward Moscow. The affair has worsened Russian relations with the West, already under strain over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

But, he said, "we will never give up".

But assistant commissioner Neil Basu, head of counterterrorism at London's Metropolitan Police, conceded it was "very, very unlikely" police would be in a position to arrest them any time soon.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, named earlier on Wednesday by police and prosecutors, were charged with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal, with possessing a chemical weapon, and with the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and a police officer who fell ill after attending the scene.

In May, police collected samples from the hotel room in which they stayed.

"On Saturday March 3 they visited Salisbury, arriving at approximately 2.25pm and leaving less than two hours later, at 4.10pm". They stayed in a hotel in London, where traces of Novichok were also found.

They are also accused of using a banned chemical weapon and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Bailey.

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"We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals", said Sue Hemming, director of Legal Services at the Crown Prosecution Service.

Basu said the Skripals were making a good recovery.

Prosecutors did not release charges relating to the death of Dawn Sturgess, a woman who died in the Salisbury region after coming into contact with a discarded Novichok bottle several months after the Skripal poisonings, nor to the poisoning of her partner Charlie Rowley, who survived.

Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March by the nerve agent Novichok.

A nerve agent was used in the attack in Britain, where two Russian agents are wanted for attempted murder.

The intelligence expert added the odds of the two men being extradited out of Russian Federation are none.

The attack left the Skripals hospitalized for weeks.

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