Two Russian suspects in Skripal poisoning are ‘not criminals’, says Putin
‘We know who they are,’ says Russian leader at forum in Vladivostok, adding that the men are civilians
President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia had identified two men Britain suspects of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent, saying they were civilians.
“We know who they are, we have found them,” Putin told an economic forum in the presence of
Japan’s Shinzo Abe and China’s Xi Jinping in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.
“They are civilians, of course,” he said, apparently responding to a claim by the British authorities that the two suspects are members of Russia’s military intelligence agency.
Putin urged the two men to speak to journalists.
“I hope they will turn up themselves and tell about themselves,” he said.
“There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We’ll see in the near future.”
British authorities have issued European arrest warrants for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, two suspected members of Russian military intelligence, the GRU.
Russian state television channel Rossiya-24 said it had spoken to Petrov but he declined to comment on the case for now, saying only that he worked for a pharmaceutical company in the Siberian city of Tomsk.
“No comment for the moment. Maybe later. Next week, I think,” he was quoted as saying.
The men are accused of trying to kill former Russian spy Skripal and his daughter Yulia with the Novichok nerve agent in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, in an attack London believes was sanctioned by the Kremlin.
The two men have not been seen publicly since the March attack.
Little is known about their identity, and British police say they believe the names in their passports may be pseudonyms. The Russian news agency Fontanka found traffic tickets and a Moscow flat where Boshirov is registered, but neighbours have never seen him. Even less is known about Petrov. A man with the same name and birth date works for a Russian state company that produces vaccines.
Scotland Yard said that the two men had “travelled extensively” on their passports. Fontanka reported that the two had visited Milan, Geneva, Amsterdam and Paris several times since September 2016.
A gence France-Presse, Reuters, The Guardian