Salisbury attack suspects ‘are members of Russian military intelligence’

Sturgess Rowley

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

A counterfeit perfume box and bottle were "especially adapted" to smuggle a deadly nerve agent into the United Kingdom, said Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu.

The men have been named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament the government had concluded they were officers in Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU.

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

He said they arrived in Britain on March 2 and left on March 4.

They then returned to London and flew back to Moscow that evening from Heathrow Airport.

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Russian Federation has continually denied involvement in the attack, which left Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, badly injured.

"We heard or saw two names, but these names mean nothing to me personally, just like you, I believe", he said. "I do not understand why that was done and what signal the British side is sending".

Britain and dozens of other countries have kicked out Russian diplomats over the incident, and Moscow has responded tit-for-tat in the biggest diplomatic expulsions since the Cold War.

Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russia's military intelligence agency, was convicted of treason in 2006 by a Russian court. Britain will update the U.N. Security Council at a meeting on Thursday.

In a statement from the Metropolitan Police Wednesday morning, counter-terror boss Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said 250 counter-terror officers had been involved in the investigation, and that an Interpol red notice would be circulated for the men.

A handout picture taken on Fisherton Road in Salisbury, west of London on March 4, 2018, and released by the British Metropolitan Police Service in London on Wednesday, shows Alexander Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are wanted by British police in connection with the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

"A couple of weeks ago, the police here announced that they had identified two people who they had thought had come in from Russia and were travelling on Russian passports and they were putting a case against them", he said. They flew out on March 4, hours after the Skripals were found unconscious.

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Cops searching their room on May 4 - nearly two months after the attack in Salisbury - are said to have discovered minute traces of Novichok. They are also charged with illegal use and possession of a chemical weapon.

Hemming said the CPS would not be applying to have the men extradited as Russian Federation does not now allow the extradition of its nationals.

The Skripals and Bailey both recovered from their poisoning. A mother of three, she had sprayed the contents of the bottle - which had been found by her partner, Charlie Rowley, in a charity bin in Salisbury - onto her wrists, police said.

But Mr Basu confirmed that the two cases were related, saying: "We have now linked the attack on the Skripals and the events in Amesbury which affected Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley".

Britain has blamed the Russian state for the attempted assassinations, which Russia denies.

Britain has issued a European Arrest Warrant for the suspects, meaning they can be detained if they leave Russian Federation for another European country, but Basu conceded it was "very very unlikely" police would be in a position to arrest them any time soon.

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