Russian Federation says Skripal poisoning suspects are 'civilians'

Salisbury Novichok hit men Alexander Petrov and his accomplice Ruslan Boshirov

Salisbury Novichok hit men Alexander Petrov and his accomplice Ruslan Boshirov

Russian authorities have identified the two people suspected by London of poisoning Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.

But Mr Putin said they were civilians and would tell their story soon.

Vladimir Putin said he knows who and where they are, but that there was "nothing criminal" about their actions. Well, I hope they will come out themselves and speak about themselves.

British authorities last week charged two Russian men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempted murder over the botched poisoning earlier this year, which used the military-grade nerve agent novichok.

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The Russian president said they are "civilians" with no links to the government.

Britain's Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Sunday that the order to carry out the nerve agent attack on 4 March came from the "highest level" of the Russian state. There is nothing special or criminal there.

GRU agents Petrov and Boshirov are said to have flown into the United Kingdom via Gatwick, stayed in London, and then travelled to Salisbury with the nerve agent on March 4.

Prime Minister Theresa May said intelligence showed the poisonings were state-sponsored by Russian Federation.

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The attack left Sergei Skripal, 67, and Yulia Skripal, 34, in critical condition, but both have recovered after weeks in the hospital.

A woman near Salisbury, Dawn Sturgess, died in July and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after Rowley found a counterfeit bottle of Nina Ricci perfume containing Novichok and brought it home.

Russian Federation and Britain's row over the attempted murder of MI6 double agent Sergei Skripal reignited this week as police confirmed they had found the suspects.

Russian Federation has said the names of the suspects - as indicated in their passports - given to them by British prosecutors were meaningless. "The government has exposed the role of the GRU, its operatives and its methods, this position is supported by our worldwide allies", the spokesman told reporters.

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Britain's security minister, Ben Wallace, said on September 6 that Putin "ultimately" bears responsibility for the poisoning because "it is his government that controls, funds, and directs the military intelligence". Russian Federation kicked out a similar number of those countries' envoys.

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