British police have charged two Russian nationals with the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, a former Russian spy and his daughter who were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in the English town of Salisbury in February.
The Crown Prosecution Service says that it charged the two Russians, who traveled to the U.K. under the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with conspiracy to murder the Skripals as well as Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, a police officer who fell ill after being exposed to the nerve agent (he has since recovered). They have also been charged with grievous bodily harm against DS Bailey and Yulia Skripal.
Salisbury poisoning: Naming of two Russian nationals as suspects "the most significant development in this investigation" – Met Police counter terrorism head Neil Basu https://t.co/MKL3ib00HW pic.twitter.com/kSJnYkVrUH
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) September 5, 2018
It is believed that the pair — likely using aliases — flew into London on an Aeroflot flight on Friday, March 2, before taking a reconnaissance trip to Salisbury. They returned to the town on Sunday where they are believed to have contaminated the front door of the Skripal’s property. Afterward they immediately went to Heathrow Airport and flew out of the country.
According to police, a specially-designed perfume bottle, Nina Ricci’s Premier Jour, was used to smuggle the Novichok into the country. The nozzle had been specifically altered, and the Metropolitan Police’s Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu described it as “a perfect delivery method for the attack against Skripal’s front door.”
In Parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Theresa May said that Petrov and Boshirov likely worked for the G.R.U., Russia’s military intelligence agency. She added that the operation would “almost certainly” have had to be approved by senior figures within the Russian state.
Theresa May says the men identified as suspects in the Salisbury poisonings are members of Russia's military intelligence service (the GRU) and says the poisonings were "almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state" pic.twitter.com/HO9I99qiVg
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 5, 2018
Russia will not extradite its nationals for prosecution, so British prosecutors are currently working on applying for European arrest warrants and an Interpol Red Notice in case the pair ever leave Russia. Even Basu, however, admitted that it was extremely unlikely the pair would be arrested in the foreseeable future.
The Kremlin, unsurprisingly, completely denied the British government’s charges. “The names, as well as the photos, published in the media mean nothing to us,” Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said on Wednesday. “We once again urge the U.K. to switch from public accusations and informational manipulations to practical interaction between law enforcement agencies.”
Both Sergei and Yulia Skripal are continuing to recover from their attempted assassination, a process Yulia described as “slow and extremely painful.”
Police have not yet charged Petrov and Boshirov with the murder of a British woman who died after being exposed to traces of the Novichok in July.
In response to the attack, the U.S. has announced fresh sanctions on Russia for violating chemical weapons treaties, while the U.K. expelled Russian intelligence officers from its London embassy — a move which 14 other European states, as well as the U.S., followed suit on.