Russians charged with poisoning ex-spy, daughter in Britain

Sturgess Rowley

Sturgess Rowley

The U.K. charged two Russian nationals over the attempted murder of a former spy and the use of a Novichok nerve agent on British soil, a move that will further sour ties with the Kremlin.

She said: "I come today to tell the House that based on a body of intelligence the Government has concluded that the two individuals named by the police and the CPS, are officers from the Russian Military Intelligence Service, also known as the GRU".

In a statement that will deepen the diplomatic crisis between the two countries, the Prime Minister said: "The GRU is a highly-disciplined organisation with a well-established chain of command".

May said the two men worked for the GRU, a Russian army intelligence agency that has been linked to some of Russia's most egregious foreign policy operations, including the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Britain's Prime Minister claims that it is quote "almost certainly" that the Salisbury and Amesbury nerve agent attacks this year were approved at the highest level of the Russian state. On Sunday, March 4, they returned to Salisbury and allegedly contaminated Mr. Skripal's front door with Novichok.

Following the announcement, Theresa May condemned Russian "malign state" activity and demanded Russia reigns in the activities of the GRU.

They paid a day-trip to Salisbury, a sleepy city in the southwest of England, on the Saturday to carry out reconnaissance.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, expressed disappointment that Britain had refused Russia's request to conduct a joint investigation into the Salisbury nerve agent poisonings. They are also charged with use and possession of Novichok, contrary to the Chemical Weapons Act. Police said they were aged in their 40s and had travelled on Russian passports, arriving at Britain's Gatwick airport at 3pm on Friday, March 2 on Aeroflot flight SU2588 from Moscow. Police said the perfume bottle contained significant amounts of Novichok and they believe it had been left behind by the two suspects after the Skripal attack.

Both of the Skripals survived, but in what police call a tragic outcome of the attack, Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old mother of three, died on July 8 after being exposed to the same nerve agent.

Police say tests on the couple - Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45 - show they had been exposed to Novichok. Mr. Rowley brought the box home and his partner, Dawn Sturgess, applied the supposed perfume to her wrists.

Police believe they put Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, on the door handle.

Hemming said the United Kingdom is not asking Moscow to extradite the suspects because Russian law forbids extradition of its citizens.

Mrs May said Russian Federation had replied with "obfuscation and lies" when asked to account for what happened, including claiming she had invented Novichok.

Despite the link between the cases, no charges have yet been made over the subsequent poisonings after the Skripals.

British prosecutors announced the new development Wednesday.

Neil Basu, head of UK Counter Terrorism policing, said the plot was "a remarkably sophisticated attack" which appeared to be a clear assassination attempt.

The Interpol red notice will keep the two from leaving Russian Federation in the future, however. Moscow said it had no idea who the men were.

Officials determined that the same substance, found in a perfume bottle in a park weeks later, sickened a man and his girlfriend, who later died. He warned, however, that "it is likely that they were travelling under aliases and that these are not their real names".

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