Russian president Vladimir Putin stated that the men behind the Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury are indeed civilians, not criminals.
“We know who they are; we have found them”, said Putin and he added that the two men who were identified in the UK as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, could soon appear in the media and defend their innocence.
“These are civilians… there is nothing criminal here.”
Scotland Yard issued a European Arrest Warrant earlier this month for the two men.
The UK has stated that it found that the two accused men were members of the Russian military intelligence who were sent to the UK to kill Sergei Skripal.
Mr Skripal is an ex-Russian spy who gave information tot he British secret service which resulted i his imprisonment in Russia. His imprisonment was followed by his release which was done by the UK whereby he was released on the ground of a high profile spy swap.
The two men were charged by the UK for attempting murder on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Also, a police officer who was the first access the crime scene, was poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent.
Earlier this month, UK Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament that the attack “was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state”.
Scotland Yard found that Boshirov and Petrov travelled “extensively” with their passports which they also believed to have been aliases.
It has been reported that the men travelled around Europe. It was found that they travelled to Geneva, Amsterdam and Milan, among others in 2016.
No.10 replied to Putin’s statement of the men’s innocence and stated that Moscow was indeed responding with “obfuscation and lies”.
The prime minister’s official spokesperson stated:
“The prime minister set out the position very clearly last week. The police and Crown Prosecution Service have identified these men as the prime suspects of the attack in Salisbury.
These men are officers of the Russian military intelligence, the GRU, who used a devastating, toxic, illegal chemical weapon on the streets of our country. The government has exposed the role of the GRU, its operatives and its methods. This position is supported by our international allies.
We have repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March. They have replied with obfuscation and lies. I have seen nothing to suggest that has changed.”