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Skripal poisoning: suspects are civilians, not criminals, says Putin

Wednesday - 12/09/2018 09:53
Russian president says two men accused by UK of being behind attack have been identified
Novichok suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov seen on CCTV on Fisherton Road, Salisbury, on 4 March 2018.
Novichok suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov seen on CCTV on Fisherton Road, Salisbury, on 4 March 2018.

The two men accused by the UK of carrying out a nerve agent attack in Salisbury have been identified and are civilians, not criminals, Vladimir Putin has said.

“We know who they are, we have found them,” the Russian president said at an economic forum in the eastern city of Vladivostok, adding that the two men – named by the UK as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – may soon make appearances in the media to protest their innocence.

“These are civilians,” Putin said in remarks reported by Russian news agencies. “There is nothing criminal here.”

British officials have said the men were agents of Russian military intelligence dispatched to kill Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy who had given information to British intelligence. He was imprisoned in Russia before being released in a spy swap in 2010.

Putin’s remarks appeared to be a denial that the men worked for Russia’s military intelligence service, the Main Directorate, commonly called the GRU.

British officials this month charged the two men in absentia with the attempted murder with novichok of Sergei Skripal, his daughter, Yulia, and a police officer who investigated the scene. Scotland Yard released CCTV images of the two suspects at Salisbury train station on the day of the attack.

Theresa May told parliament this month that the attack “was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state”. Scotland Yard has issued a European arrest warrant for the two men, who have not been seen publicly since the attack in March.

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