London : Scotland Yard on Wednesday said there was “sufficient evidence” to charge two Russian nationals for the nerve agent poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK earlier this year. The suspects were named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, believed to be in their 40s and using the names as aliases, Scotland Yard and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said in a statement.
The 66-year-old former Russian double agent and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a shopping centre bench in the English town of Salisbury on March 4. They spent weeks in hospital in critical condition before Yulia being released in April and Sergei in May. They had been sent to an undisclosed location.
Britain blamed Russia for poisoning them with a military-grade nerve agent, Novichok, a charge Russia vehemently denied. The poisoning has sparked a Cold War-style diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West, including the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from both sides.
“We now have sufficient evidence to bring charges in relation to the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury and domestic and European arrest warrants have been issued for the two suspects. We are also seeking to circulate Interpol Red Notices,” said Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the UK’s National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing.
He confirmed the police were in “no doubt” the attack on the Skripals in March had been linked with events in nearby Amesbury, which poisoned Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley in July and led to the death of 44-year-old Sturgess.
“We know that Novichok was applied to the Skripals’ front door in an area that is accessible to the public, which also endangered the lives of members of the public and emergency service responders,” Basu said.
Sue Hemming, CPS director of legal services, said there was enough evidence “to provide a realistic prospect of conviction” and “it is clearly in public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov”. The offences include conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal; the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal, Yulia Skripal and police officer Nick Bailey; the use and possession of Novichok contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act; and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey. He said the CPS would not be applying to have the men extradited as Russia does not currently allow the extradition of its nationals.
According to the Met Police, the two suspects arrived at Gatwick Airport, near London, from Moscow on March 2 and stayed at the City Stay Hotel in east London before travelling to Salisbury on March 4, where Skripal’s front door was contaminated with Novichok.