Two Russian nationals have been named and charged over the novichok poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, Wiltshire. British police and prosecutors made the announcement on Wednesday.
Police said the two men were travelling on authentic Russian passports under the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and arrived in the UK on an Aeroflot flight days before the attack. The Crown Prosecution Service said there was enough evidence to charge them.
The prime minister, Theresa May, told the House of Commons on Wednesday that the two men had been identified as officers from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the GRU.
The CPS said it had charged the two men with conspiracy to murder the Skripals and DS Nick Bailey, who fell ill after going to the Skripal home after the Russian pair were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury.
The two Russian suspects are also charged with the use and possession of novichok, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act. They are also charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and DS Bailey.
They have not been charged with the later poisoning that killed Dawn Sturgess and left Charlie Rowley seriously ill, after they became unwell on 30 June at an address in Amesbury, Wiltshire.
The investigation has recovered CCTV of the two suspects after they flew into Gatwick airport and stayed in the City Stay hotel in east London. After arriving on Friday 2 March on an Aeroflot flight, they went to Salisbury on the Saturday in what police said they were satisfied was a reconnaissance trip.
They returned to London that day and went back to Salisbury on Sunday, when police say CCTV showed them in the vicinity of the Skripal house. Police believe that after contaminating the front door of the property, they immediately went to Heathrow via train and London underground and flew back on Sunday night at 10.30pm. Health experts said no one they travelled with on the flights or trains is believed to be in danger and no one else is reported to have fallen ill.
Sue Hemming, the CPS director of legal services, said: “Prosecutors from CPS counter-terrorism division have considered the evidence and have concluded there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are Russian nationals.”
“Those offences include conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal; the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey; the use and possession of novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act; and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey.
“It is of course for a jury to decide whether the evidence is enough for them to be sure of the suspects’ guilt. “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. Russia has made this clear following requests for extradition in other cases. Should this position change then an extradition request would be made.
“We have, however, obtained a European arrest warrant, which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations.”
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said: "The names published by the media, like the photographs, don’t mean anything to us.” Zakharova said she “again urged Britain to refrain from public accusations” and work with Russian law enforcement authorities to investigate the attack in Salisbury.
The use of the Russian military grade poison on British soil strained already tense relations between London and Moscow. The first use of novichok came in March and targeted Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in their Salisbury home.
Skripal had been regarded by Vladimir Putin’s regime as a traitor for selling state secrets and then moving to Britain as part of a spy swap. They were both left seriously ill but survived.
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