- British prosecutors have obtained a European arrest warrant for two Russian nationals in connection with the March nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.
- Authorities say the suspects are officers in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.
- Russia has denied involvement in the attack and says the suspects “mean nothing to us.”
British police named two Russian nationals as suspects Wednesday in the nerve agent attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English city of Salisbury.
The two men, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, are believed to be officers in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service, according to Scotland Yard.
Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, fell critically ill in March after being poisoned with Novichok, a deadly Soviet-era nerve agent. A former Russian military intelligence colonel, Sergei Skripal had been living in Britain since 2010, when Moscow released him from prison in a swap for Russian spies.
A British police officer, Detective Sgt. Nick Bailey, also fell ill after responding to the Salisbury incident.
Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May said the latest development in the investigation supported her previous allegations the attack was ordered by Kremlin officials.
The attack was “not a rogue operation” and was “almost certainly” ordered at high levels of the Russian government, May said, according to the BBC.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said investigators had obtained “sufficient evidence” to charge the men with conspiracy, attempted murder, causing grievous bodily harm, and use and possession of Novichok in violation of the Chemical Weapons Act. Prosecutors have obtained a European arrest warrant that allows the suspects to be taken into custody if they travel to a country where the warrant is valid.
Britain will not ask Russia to extradite the suspects because the transfer is prohibited under Russian law, CPS said.
“We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals,” Sue Hemming, CPS director of legal service, said in a statement. “Russia has made this clear following requests for extradition in other cases. Should this position change then an extradition request would be made.”
Britain had already blamed the Salisbury attack on Moscow, but the identification of the suspects could provide the basis for additional international sanctions against Russia. The U.S. and other British allies expelled hundreds of Russian diplomats, many believed to be spies, after Britain confirmed that a Russian military grade nerve agent had been used in the attack. (RELATED: Countries Expel Over 100 Russian Diplomats In Coordinated Effort Against Moscow)
Investigators are now looking for evidence the two Russian suspects were also involved in a separate Novichok poisoning that killed a woman and left a man seriously injured in the city of Amesbury, about eight miles from Salisbury. Police believe the victims picked up a contaminated container that had been used to apply the nerve agent to Sergei Skripal’s front door.
Russia has repeatedly denied involvement in the Novichok poisonings. In response to Wednesday’s announcement, the Russian foreign ministry said the suspects are unknown to Moscow.
“A link is being made with Russia. The names published in the media as well as the photographs mean nothing to us,” foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova was quoted as saying by Russian state media, according to Reuters.
“We again call on the British side to move from public allegations and information manipulation to practical cooperation via law enforcement,” she added.
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