UK police have reportedly identified two suspects in the nerve agent poisoning and suspected assassination attempt of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March, CNN reports.
The pair left the UK in the wake of the attack on what is believed to have been a commercial flight, the source added.
Their departure was revealed in a coded Russian message to Moscow sent after the attack, which was intercepted by a British base in Cyprus, the source said. The British government blames the Skripals’ poisoning on Russia.
The suspects were identified by UK police, who have been combing through months of surveillance camera footage from UK airports and from Salisbury, the town where the Skripals were poisoned on March 4.
Using facial recognition technology, authorities discovered two “fresh identities” — individuals not known to have been spies or used in other attacks — the source added.
Investigators cross-checked that information with the manifest of the flight on which the suspects were believed to have left Britain. They traveled under aliases, the source said. It is not clear whether the pair are Russian.
The Skripals were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury in March after being poisoned by a Soviet weapons grade nerve agent called Novichok. Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia both survived the attack and are recovering. On June 30, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, were hospitalized after being exposed to Novichok. Rowley was released from the hospital today, three weeks after being admitted, saying he had endured an “appalling experience most of us could never imagine”. Dawn Sturgess, 44 year old mother of three, died days after being rushed to the hospital.
It is unclear where Rowley found the bottle, or whether it is the same batch of nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. The Novichok was believed to have been in a perfume bottle, which Sturgess dabbed on her skin thinking it was perfume, three sources briefed on the UK poisoning investigation told CNN on Thursday. That was the reason she got the fatal dose, investigators say.
A UK security minister has described the press reports of suspects being identified as “ill-informed and wild speculation.” Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the UK, dismissed the reports, saying, “These are the reports of the media.”
⊕ The UK and more than 20 other countries expelled Russian diplomats after the attack.
- The UK expelled 23
- The US expelled 60
⊕ UK officials blame Russia for the attack, saying there is no plausible alternative explanation.
⊕ Russia has accused the UK of framing them and offered a variety of alternative explanations.
⊕ The same Russian intelligence agency named in the recent indictments filed by Mueller are suspected in the Novichok attack.
⊕ The OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) confirmed UK officials findings that Novichok was the nerve agent. They have been asked to evaluate the substance that killed Sturgess and left Charlie Rowley in critical condition.
⊕ The Skripal attack is similar to the poisoning of Litvinenko, a former Russian spy who died after drinking tea poisoned with polonium in 2006. The UK concluded Putin approved the assassination while the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed the investigation.
⊕ Yulia Skripal made a statement from an undisclosed UK location in May that can be viewed here.