UK charges two Russians over Salisbury poisoning of Skripals | News | DW | 05.09.2018
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UK charges two Russians over Salisbury poisoning of Skripals

British prosecutors have charged two Russians with the Novichok poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. A European arrest warrant has been issued, but Russia does not extradite its nationals.

British prosecutors announced on Wednesday they had collected sufficient evidence to charge two Russians with the attempted murder of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. 

Authorities issued a European arrest warrant for the two men, named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and both aged around 40. Photographs of the two men were also released as part of an appeal for any witnesses to come forward.

However, Sue Hemming, director of Legal Services at the Crown Prosecution Service, said prosecutors would not be applying to Russia for extradition since "the Russian Constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals." The two men can still be arrested in the unlikely event that they travel to another European country. 

Watch video 00:59

Yulia Skripal: 'We are so lucky to have both survived'

Speaking in Parliament, British Prime Minister Theresa May said intelligence experts concluded that the two men charged were officers of Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU.

May said that the attack "was not a rogue operation" and that it was almost certainly approved at a "senior level of the Russian state."

"I suspect that they wanted to give a message to those Russians who were living elsewhere who had been involved in matters relating to the Russian state," May said. 

The UK has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council on Thursday, to inform its members on dramatic steps forward in the investigation.

How the poisoning unfolded

Assistant police commissioner Neil Basu said the two suspects had traveled from Moscow to London under aliases on March 2, 2018, two days before the Skripals were poisoned in the English city of Salisbury. They returned to Russia from Heathrow Airport just hours after the poisoning.

According to authorities, the Novichok was smuggled into the UK in a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle. The perpetrators then smeared the nerve agent on the door handle of Sergei Skripal's Salisbury home, according to investigators.

Investigators had also found traces of Novichok in the London hotel room where Petrov and Boshirov stayed, according to Basu.

Read more: Skripal poisoning: Czech government confirms it tested Novichok-type agent

The two Russians suspected of being behind the Salisbury Novichok poisoning (twitter.com/BBCDanielS)

British police released these photographs of the suspected Novichok culprits

Russian state suspected

Speaking ahead of May's statement, Basu did not disclose whether police believed the suspects worked for Russia's intelligence services, saying that "this was a sophisticated attack across borders." The Kremlin has denied it played any role in the poisoning. On Wednesday, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the names of the men and their photos "say nothing to us."

The poisoning sparked a diplomatic row and tit-for-tat expulsion of embassy staff between Britain and its allies and Russia.

Watch video 03:24

Novichok poisoning: Interview with British MP Tom Tugendhat

No charge yet for other poisonings

While Sergei and Yulia Skripal ultimately recovered from being exposed to the Novichok, a British couple fell ill from the same nerve agent around three months later in the nearby town of Amesbury. 

One of them, Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old mother of three, died a week after being poisoned on July 8. Her partner Charlie Rowley was discharged from hospital but was later forced to return to receive treatment for meningitis and loss of eyesight.

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dm/sms (Reuters, AP, dpa, AFP)

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