UK charges two Russians over Skripal Novichok nerve agent attack

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British prosecutors have charged two Russian men for a nerve agent attack on a former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the city of Salisbury earlier this year.

A European arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday for the Russian nationals, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the prosecutors said, charging the two of conspiracy to murder, attempted murder and use of the nerve agent Novichok.

“We will not be applying to Russia for the extradition of these men as the Russian constitution does not permit extradition of its own nationals,” Sue Hemming, director of legal services at the Crown Prosecution Service, said.

Russia reiterated concerns that there has been a lack of evidence to implicate the Russian nationals.

“The names published by the media, like their photographs, mean nothing to us,” Maria Zakharova, the Russian foreign ministry’s spokeswoman, told the TASS news agency. “The Russian side has numerous questions for London.”

Zakharova demanded that British authorities work with Russia on the case: “Once again we call on the British side to move away from public accusations and informational manipulations, towards practical collaboration of law enforcement agencies.”

Triggered diplomatic crisis

The poisoning of the Skripals earlier in March triggered a major diplomatic crisis between the United Kingdom and Russia, with the British government alleging that Moscow was responsible for their attempted murder.

Police had earlier said that the men, both about 40, flew from Moscow to London on Russian passports two days before the Skripals were poisoned on March 4.

Al Jazeera’s Laurence Lee, reporting from the British capital, London, said the announcement by the UK officials “comes as no surprise”.  

“A couple of weeks ago, the police here announced that they had identified two people who they had thought had come in from Russia and were travelling on Russian passports and they were putting a case against them,” he said.

“Prosecutors think there would be sufficient evidence to mount a criminal case against them and get that passed through the Crown Prosecuting Service and into a court of law.

Britain has blamed Russia for poisoning the Skripals and identified the poison as Novichok, a deadly group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet military in the 1970s and 1980s. Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack.

Both father and daughter were hospitalised for days before being discharged.

“This announcement will further worsen relations between the UK and Russia,” said Al Jazeera’s Lee.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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