Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said that the two suspects in the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter are “civilians, not criminals”.
Putin said that his government had found the pair and he hoped they would appear soon and tell their story. “We know who they are, we have found them,” he told the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok city.
“I hope they will turn up themselves and tell everything. This would be best for everyone. There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We’ll see in the near future,” he was quoted as saying by Sputnik news agency.
Skripal, 66, and Yulia, 33, were poisoned in the UK in March. The incident caused tensions between Russia and the UK, as London and its allies accused Moscow of orchestrating the attack, which it refutes.
The UK government named the two as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov and said they were from Russia’s military intelligence service, the GRU, according to the BBC.
Scotland Yard and the UK’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have said there was enough evidence to charge the men, who were understood to have travelled to London from Moscow on March 2 on Russian passports.
Two days later, they sprayed nerve agent Novichok on the front door of Skripal’s home in the Wiltshire city of Salisbury, before travelling home to Russia later that day, the police said.
UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid warned that the men will be caught and prosecuted if they ever step out of Russia.
The CPS has not applied to Russia for the extradition of the two men, as Russia does not extradite its own nationals. But a European arrest warrant has been obtained in case they travel to the EU, the BBC said.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey also fell ill after responding to the Salisbury incident. He was later discharged from hospital, as were the Skripals.
The police linked the attack to a separate Novichok poisoning on June 30, when a couple — Dawn Sturgess and her partner Charlie Rowley — became unwell at a house in Amesbury. Sturgess died in hospital on July 8.
The police said that Sturgess and Rowley were later exposed to the nerve agent after handling a contaminated container, labelled as Nina Ricci Premier Jour perfume.
British authorities said they do not believe Sturgess and Rowley were deliberately targeted but were exposed after touching the contaminated item left behind by the perpetrators of the attack on the Skripals.