Vladimir Putin: Skripal poisoning suspects were ′civilians′ | News | DW | 12.09.2018
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Vladimir Putin: Skripal poisoning suspects were 'civilians'

The poisoning of ex-double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter earlier this year prompted a diplomatic fallout between Russia and the UK. The EU has also accused the Russian government of involvement in the attack.

Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov (picture-alliance/Met Police UK)

Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service released photos of the suspects

Speaking at an economic forum in the port city of Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected suspicions of Kremlin involvement in the poisoning former double agent Sergei Skripal. His daughter Yulia was also poisoned in the attack, which took place in the English city of Salisbury in March. 

Last week, British prosecutors identified two alleged Russian military officials, who they said were operating under aliases – Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. 

The two suspects identified by Britain were civilians and did not work for the Russian military, according to Putin. 

"We, of course, checked who these people are. We know who they are, we found them. Well, I hope they will come out themselves and speak about themselves. It will be better for everyone," Putin said.

"There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We'll see in the near future."

The nerve agent attack triggered a diplomatic standoff between London and Moscow. Several Western countries expelled Russian ambassadors over the incident.

Read more: US to impose sanctions on Russia over Skripal poisoning

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UK charges two Russians in Novichok poison case

Britain 'almost certain' about state involvement

British authorities said the two suspects almost certainly acted on orders from Russian state officials. Russia, however, has repeatedly denied involvement in the Skripal poisoning.

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

Read more: Yulia Skripal: Daughter of Russian ex-spy speaks for first time since nerve agent attack

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.

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 Salisbury. They returned to Russia from Heathrow Airport just hours after the attack.

According to authorities, the Novichok nerve agent 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.

shs/kms (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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