Two Russians charged over Novichok poisoning

Two Russians charged over Novichok poisoning

Britain charged two Russians in absentia with the attempted murder of a former Russian spy and his daughter, saying the suspects were military intelligence officers.

It was almost certainly acting on orders from high up in the Russian state.

British police revealed images of the two men they said had flown to Britain for a weekend in March to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent.

Skripal's daughter Yulia and a police officer who attended the scene also fell ill in the case, which has caused the biggest East-West diplomatic expulsions since the Cold War. A woman later died from Novichok poisoning after her partner found a counterfeit perfume bottle which police believe had been used to smuggle the nerve agent into Britain.

British authorities identified the suspects as Russian nationals travelling on genuine passports under the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Prime Minister Theresa May said the government had concluded they were officers in Russia's military intelligence service GRU.

"The GRU is a highly disciplined organisation with a well-established chain of command, so this was not a rogue operation, May told parliament. "It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state."

Skripal, himself a former GRU officer who betrayed dozens of agents to Britain's MI6 foreign spy service, was found unconscious with Yulia on a public bench in the southern English city ofSalisbury on March 4.

Police released security camera images of the two suspects and outlined a three-day mission that took them from Moscow to London to Salisbury, where they sprayed poison on Skripal's door before flying back to Moscow hours later.

Russia's foreign ministry said the names given by Britain did not mean anything to Moscow, which has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

"We have heard or seen two names, these names mean nothing to me personally," Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow. "I don't understand why this was done and what sort of signal the British side is sending."

Britain and dozens of other countries have kicked out scores of Russian diplomats over the incident, and Moscow has responded tit-for-tat with an identical number of expulsions. The affair has worsened Russian relations with the West, already under strain over Ukraine, Syria and other issues.

May's spokesman said May had briefed U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening. U.S. Ambassador to Britain Woody Johnson said on Twitter the United States stood with Britain in holding Russia accountable for its "act of aggression".

Published: by Radio NewsHub
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