Salisbury attack approved at senior level in Moscow, says May

Prime Minister Theresa May said police and prosecutors now believe the attack on Sergei Skripal was carried out by two Russian military intelligence officers who were nearly certainly acting with the approval of senior Russian officials.

MOSCOW - The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that the names of two men British prosecutors have accused of trying to murder former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia meant nothing to Moscow, the RIA news agency reported.

The Russians are charged with conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal and the attempted murder of Skripal, his daughter and Nick Bailey, a police officer who was taken ill while attending to the Skripals.

Photos made available by the London Metropolitan Police showing Alexander Petrov (right) and Ruslan Boshirov (left).

Prime Minister Theresa May said the two assassins were officers of the GRU intelligence service and that their actions were nearly certainly approved "at a senior level of the Russian state".

Although Mrs May did not explicitly blame the Kremlin for authorising the attempted assassination, senior Conservatives directly accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of approving the operation.

From there, they travelled to Salisbury on 4 March where Mr Skripal's front door was contaminated with Novichok.

The Russian charge d'affaires in London was summoned to the Foreign Office to be told Britain wanted those responsible to be brought to justice.

He said the pair flew into London's Gatwick Airport from Moscow two days before the Salisbury attack, on Friday, March 2, and stayed at a hotel in the east of the capital.

The leaders of Britain, the United States, France, Germany and Canada said they had "full confidence" that the Novichok attack suspects were officers from Russia's military intelligence service. "I don't understand why this was done and what sort of signal the British side is sending".

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said everyone should be "chilled to the bone" with the findings.

They believe they have pinned down a timeline of the failed attempt to murder Skripal, a former Russian double agent who came to Britain in a spy swap, in the first use of chemical weapons in Europe since World War II. They spent weeks in hospital in critical condition before Yulia being released in April and Sergei in May.

Hours later, the men left the United Kingdom on a flight from Heathrow to Moscow - two days after they had arrived at Gatwick.

There is no risk to other guests staying at the hotel at the time, police said. They are also charged with illegal use and possession of a chemical weapon.

Prosecutor Sue Hemming said Wednesday that the U.K.is not asking Moscow to extradite the men because Russian law forbids extradition of the country's citizens. They are now recovering in a secret location for their own protection.

Officers have formally linked the attack on the Skripals to events in nearby Amesbury when Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to the same nerve agent.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March 2018.

The bombshell claim comes as the row between Russian Federation and Britain escalates over the attempted Novichok murder of the MI6 double agent and the subsequent death of Brit mum-of-three Dawn Sturgess.

We don't yet know where the suspects disposed of the Novichok they used to attack the door, where Dawn and Charlie got the bottle that poisoned them, or if it is the same bottle used in both poisonings.

But he added that "the manner in which the bottle and packaging has been adapted makes it a ideal cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and a flawless delivery method for the attack against the Skripal's front door".

  • Jon Douglas