British officials, after an intensive six month investigation, have named and charged the two Russian individuals responsible for the Novichok poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, England in on March 4, CNN International reports. The UK police have 11,000 hours of surveillance footage, took 1,400 statements, and know the airports, train stations, and hotels the suspects used before attempting to murder the former Russia spy and his daughter, Yulia, according to NBC News.
“Prosecutors from CPS Counter Terrorism Division have considered the evidence and have concluded there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov … with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and police officer Nick Bailey,” a CPS statement said.
The pair are also charged with the use and possession of the nerve agent Novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey.CNN International
UK Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two men believed to be traveling under aliases, are accused of being GRU (Russian Military Intelligence) officers and being part of a Kremlin approved plan.
“The GRU is a highly disciplined organization with a well-established chain of command, so this was not a rogue operation, it was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state,” she said in a statement to the House of Commons.CNN International
The Kremlin continues to deny involvement in the Salisbury attack, with the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman telling reporters, “The names published in the media, and the photographs, do not tell us anything.”
UK officials have not requested the two individuals be extradited since Russia’s constitution blocks extradition. Instead, they sought a European Arrest Warrant which provides for the arrest of these two men if they enter the European Union. Theresa May said, “Should either of these individuals ever again travel outside Russia, we will take every possible step to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to face justice here in the United Kingdom.”
While it is unlikely that Boshirov and Petrov will face justice in the UK, investigating, naming names, and filing charges is important, says NBC News security analyst Duncan Gardham. He cited the Litvinenko poisoning which took a decade to link to Putin himself and in which one of the suspects is a member of the Duma, the Russian Parliament.
Improbable as a prosecution may be, it is still essential for British investigators to carry out a thorough investigation, according to Gardham.
British officials “want the world to know they are prepared to wait, and that the British, like the Russians, have long memories,” he said.
For British police “the motive is more basic,” Gardham added. “The message is that they have identified suspects, that no one is untouchable, that they always get their man.”NBC
Yesterday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed the same nerve agent that was used in the attack on the Skripals was responsible for sickening Charlie Rowley and killing Dawn Sturgess in June after the couple was accidentally exposed to the nerve agent Novichok. Investigators say a fake designer perfume bottle, specially adapted to deliver the poison to the Skripal’s front door, was found by Charlie Rowley in a charity bin and given to Dawn Sturgess. Sturgess dabbed the contents on her skin and died a few days later; Rowley survived.
Jeremy Hunt, UK Foreign Secretary, stated that the government assessment was confirmed by the OPCW report. He also said, “The recklessness of the Russian state in bringing a nerve agent in to the UK, and total disregard for the safety of the public, is appalling and irresponsible.”
The investigation into what happened to Rowley and Sturgess is now one with the Skripal investigation.