United Kingdom charges two Russians over Salisbury poisoning of Skripals

The poisoning of the Skripals earlier in March triggered a major diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and Russia

The poisoning of the Skripals earlier in March triggered a major diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and Russia

If the British version is to be believed, on March 4 former GRU Colonel Sergei Skripal, convicted in Russian Federation of spying for Britain, and his daughter Yulia, were affected by a nerve gas of the Novichok class in Salisbury.

Theresa May told MPs investigations have concluded that the two suspects are members of the GRU, Russia's military intelligence service. May said. "It was nearly certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state".

Russian nationals, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, have today been charged with the nerve agent attack on the former spy and his daughter according to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The men, both about 40, flew from Moscow to London on Russian passports two days before the Skripals were poisoned on March 4, police said.

The investigation by the CPS recovered CCTV footage of the two Russian nationals after they flew into Gatwick airport on an Aeroflot flight on the 2 March and stayed in the City Stay hotel in east London.

Russia denies involvement in the attack on Sergei Skripal - a former Russian agent who had been convicted in his homeland of spying for Britain - and his daughter.

Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping centre in Salisbury on 4 March.

Police say tests on the couple - Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45 - show they had been exposed to Novichok.

Assistant police commissioner Neil Basu would not say whether investigators believe the suspects worked for Russian security services but, he added: "This was a sophisticated attack across borders".

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Hours later, the men left the United Kingdom on a flight from Heathrow to Moscow - two days after they had arrived at Gatwick.

Police released images of a counterfeit Nina Ricci Premier Jour pink perfume box and a bottle with a modified nozzle that was used to secrete the military-grade nerve agent into Britain.

Russian Federation has issued a denial of involvement both to the United Kingdom and to the OPCW.

The case, with its chilling cloak-and-dagger details, echoes the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian agent who died after drinking tea laced with radioactive polonium-210 at a London hotel. Basu said the men were probably using aliases.

Alexander Petrov is seen in this undated photo released by Metropolitan Police.Ruslan Boshirov is seen in this undated photo released by Metropolitan Police.

"The names published by the media, like their photographs, mean nothing to us", Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry's spokeswoman, told the TASS news agency.

Basu said they ha no doubt the two events were connected and they were liaising with prosecutors about bringing charges connected to the poisoning of Sturgess and Rowley. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, was also stricken. While police said they were certain the two incidents were firmly linked, that investigation is almost four months behind the one into the Skripals.

Traces of Novichok, below levels which would cause public health concern, were later found in their room.

He said: "The evidence trail suggests that either the GRU's espionage techniques are faulty or that Russia's intelligence agencies don't really care about the political backlash, and have the sole aim of warning defectors not to continue to work against Moscow - or else".

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