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UK charges two Russians in absentia with Skripal poisoning

  • 5 Sep 2018

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign spy service, and his daughter Yulia, were found unconscious on a public bench in the southern city of Salisbury on March 4.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who were formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, are seen on CCTV at Salisbury Station on March 3, 2018 in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018. ( Reuters via British Metropolitan Police )

British prosecutors on Wednesday identified two Russians whom they accused of trying to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a military-grade nerve agent in England.

Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign spy service, and his daughter Yulia, were found unconscious on a public bench in the southern city of Salisbury on March 4.

Britain has blamed Russia for the poisonings and identified the poison as Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

TRT World's Sarah Morice has more from London. 

Suspects named

British prosecutors named the two suspects as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, whom police said arrived in Britain from Moscow on March 2 at London's Gatwick airport on an Aeroflot flight and left on March 4. 

Police released images of the two men.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who were formally accused of attempting to murder former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, are seen in an image handed out by the Metropolitan Police in London, Britain September 5, 2018.()

A European arrest warrant has been issued for the two Russians, the prosecutors said.

The Russians are charged in absentia with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter and Nick Bailey, a police officer who was taken ill while attending to the Skripals.

They are also charged with use and possession of Novichok, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act.

“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.

Neil Basu, Head of UK Counter Terrorism policing, said the two suspects were travelling under aliases but were around 40 years old and had genuine Russian passports.

"We would like to hear from anyone who knows them," Basu said. 

Russia's foreign ministry said the names given by Britain did not mean anything to them.

Basu said Novichok was sprayed on the front door of Skripal's house in Salisbury, where the two men were sighted on CCTV nearby. 

Basu said traces of Novichok contamination were found in the London hotel room where the two men had stayed.

"Tests were carried out in the hotel room where the suspects had stayed. Two swabs showed contamination of Novichok of levels below that which would cause concern for public health," Basu said.

Other victims

A British woman, Dawn Sturgess, died in July after coming across a small bottle containing Novichok near Salisbury where the Skripals were struck down. 

Her partner, Charlie Rowley, was also stricken.

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