Skri­pal poi­son­ing suspects are civil­ians, says Putin

Muscat Daily - - WORLD -

Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin said on Wed­nes­day that two men Bri­tain suspects of poi­son­ing for­mer spy Sergei Skri­pal with mil­i­tary­grade nerve agent had been iden­ti­fied as ‘civil­ians’ and were not crim­i­nals.

Putin urged the men to ad­dress the me­dia and said there was ‘ noth­ing crim­i­nal’ about them, as he spoke at an eco- tel­li­gence agency.

Putin urged the men to speak to jour­nal­ists.

“I hope they will turn up them­selves and tell about them­selves,” he said in com­ments that hinted they will make a pub­lic state­ment shortly.

“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 Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary intelligence agency, the GRU.

They are ac­cused of trying to kill Rus­sian for­mer 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 Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has said Putin is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for the at­tack, a claim the Krem­lin has fu­ri­ously de­nied.

Lon­don and its al­lies ex­pelled dozens of Rus­sian diplo­mats af­ter the poi­son­ing, prompt­ing a tit-for-tat re­sponse from Moscow and plung­ing relations to a new low.

The Skri­pals sur­vived the poi­son­ing but a lo­cal man, Char­lie Row­ley, picked up a fake per­fume bot­tle con­tain­ing Novi­chok weeks later.

Row­ley gave it to his girl­friend, Dawn Sturgess, who later died.

Bri­tish prose­cu­tors ac­cuse Petrov and Boshi­rov of con­spir­acy to mur­der Skri­pal, at­tempted mur­der and the use of a banned chem­i­cal weapon.

They said they would not for­mally de­mand the men’s ex­tra­di­tion, as Rus­sia does not ex­tra­dite its cit­i­zens, but have ob­tained a Euro­pean Ar­rest War­rant for the pair.

The case has strong echoes of the poi­son­ing of ex-Rus­sian agent Alexan­der Litvi­nenko in Bri­tain in 2006.

Bri­tain said Rus­sians An­drei Lu­govoi and Dmitry Kov­tun were be­hind what it said was a likely Krem­lin-backed killing, but the pair have never been tried and Lu­govoi has since be­come a law­maker in Rus­sia.

(AFP)

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin speaks at the ple­nary ses­sion of the East­ern Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Vladi­vos­tok on Wed­nes­day

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