British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday two Russian military intelligence officials carried out a nerve agent attack on a former spy on British soil, as prosecutors issued a warrant for the suspects’ arrest.
Police identified Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov as the men who allegedly tried to kill Russian former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with Novichok in the city of Salisbury in March.
May told MPs the pair “are officers of the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU” — adding the attack had been sanctioned from higher up.
“The GRU is a highly-disciplined organisation with a well-established chain of command. So this was not a rogue operation,” she told parliament.
“It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.” London and its allies had previously blamed Moscow for the attack, which Russia angrily denied, sparking a wave of diplomatic expulsions on both sides, as well as fresh US sanctions.
A spokeswoman for the Russian foreign ministry said Wednesday it had no knowledge of Petrov or Boshirov and accused London of “manipulating information”.
“We once again call on the British side to switch from public accusations and manipulating information to practical cooperation through law enforcement agencies,” Russian news agencies quoted spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would not apply for Petrov and Boshirov to be extradited, as Russia has made clear in previous cases that it did not extradite its nationals.
In 2007, Russia refused to extradite Andrei Lugovoi, the prime suspect in the murder by radioactive poisoning of former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko in London.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Tuesday confirmed he and Sturgess were poisoned by Novichok.
Basu said the British pair were not targeted but fell ill “as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of”. —AFP