Britain charges two Russians over Ex-Spy's poisoning

Britain charges two Russians over Ex-Spy's poisoning

Britain charges two Russians over Ex-Spy's poisoning

The FINANCIAL -- Britain's UN Ambassador Karen Pierce will present London's findings on the poisoning of Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury.

Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament on September 5 that two Russian military intelligence officials carried out the March 4 attack, which British intelligence has concluded was approved "at a senior level of the Russian state" and was "not a rogue operation."

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) charged the Russians, Aleksandr Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with crimes including attempted murder and the use of a chemical weapon.

Police issued photographs of the suspects, while Russia continued to deny involvement.

May said that based on the intelligence gathered so far, the suspects "are officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU."

The poisoning of Skripal, a former GRU officer, may have been meant "to give a message to those Russians who were living elsewhere who had been involved in matters relating to the Russian state," May said. "But it is up to the Russians to explain what happened in Salisbury."

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

Britain Metropolitan Police said the men, both about 40, flew from Moscow to London on Russian passports two days before Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned on March 4.

Sergei Skripal, a former double agent who was sent West in a 2010 spy swap, and his daughter were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury that afternoon.

British officials say they were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade chemical weapon that was developed in the Soviet Union, and blamed Russian President Vladimir Putin's government for the attack.

Russia denies involvement, and a diplomatic dispute over the case has led to sanctions and the expulsion of more than 150 Russian diplomats from two dozen Western countries.

The poisoning has further damaged already severely strained relations between Russia and the West and has been a cause for solidarity at a time when Western officials accuse Moscow of seeking to cause rifts in relations between Western countries.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denied London's accusations, saying that the names and photographs released by British authorities "say nothing" to Moscow.

British police detailed the movements on the two suspects and provided multiple CCTV images showing them at airports, train stations, and the streets of London and Salisbury.

According to police, the men arrived in London on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow on March 2. The following day, they took a train from London to Salisbury, where they spent less than two hours walking the streets before returning to London. Police said that trip to Salisbury was a reconnaissance of the city. On March 4, they left their London hotel in the morning and made another trip to Salisbury.

CCTV footage showed they were near Skripal's house and the police said they believe the two suspects contaminated the front door with Novichok. The suspects left Salisbury in the afternoon, returned to London, and flew back to Moscow on an Aeroflot flight shortly before midnight on the same day.

In addition to conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal, the Russians are charged with the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey, a police officer who fell ill after going to Skripal's home after the attack; the use and possession of Novichok in violation of a British law on chemical weapons and toxic substances; and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and to Bailey.

Sergei Skripal, 67, a former colonel in the GRU who also served in the Foreign Ministry, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court that found him guilty of spying for Britain. He was released from prison in 2010 and sent to the West in a high-profile Cold War-style spy exchange, and he lived in Salisbury at the time of the poisoning. His daughter Yulia, 34, was visiting from Russia.

On June 30, two people collapsed in a house in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury. Dawn Sturgess died in the hospital in July, while her partner, Charlie Rowley, later recovered. Police said they were exposed after handling what they believed to be perfume.

On September 4, the OPCW said laboratory tests showed that Sturgess’s death was caused by the same substance that poisoned Skripal and his daughter.

However, it was not possible to conclude whether the nerve agent used in the March and June incidents was from the same batch, the OPCW said.