Putin says suspects in Novichok poisoning are 'civilians'

Russian journalists being refused at the London hotel where the two novichok suspects stayed

Russian journalists being refused at the London hotel where the two novichok suspects stayed

President Putin said yesterday that Russian Federation had identified the two men accused by Britain of carrying out the nerve agent attack in Salisbury, and insisted that they were innocent of the charges against them.

Russian Federation has hotly contested the allegations that it is responsible for the attack, and on Wednesday Mr Putin escalated the war of words by denying the men were members of military intelligence, and that his officials "know who these people are".

"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.

Prosecutors deem it futile to apply to Russian Federation for the extradition of the two men but a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained and the authorities are also seeking the assistance of Interpol.

On September 5, British Prime Minister Theresa May informed the country's parliament about the conclusions that investigators looking into the Salisbury incident had come to, saying that two Russians, believed to be GRU agents, were suspected of conspiracy to murder the Skripals.

They accused the pair of smuggling the Soviet-designed nerve agent Novichok into Britain in a fake perfume flask and smearing some of the substance on the front door of Sergei Skripal's home in the English city of Salisbury, where the former GRU officer settled after being sent to the West in a Cold War-style spy swap in 2010.

Theresa May previously announced the pair were Russian military intelligence officials, there was "hard evidence" against them and "this was not a rogue operation. nearly certainly" approved at a "senior level of the Russian state". "We'll see in the near future".

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Mr Skripal is a former GRU agent who secretly spied for Britain before being pardoned by the Kremlin and exchanged with among others - glamour agent Anna Chapman.

Russian Federation adamantly denies involvement in the poisoning, which had added to severe strains in ties between Russian Federation and the West.

The pair, who are said to be operatives of the country's GRU military intelligence service, entered the United Kingdom from Russian Federation via Gatwick Airport in March, smuggling the nerve agent by using a perfume bottle.

"We have repeatedly asked Russian Federation to account for what happened in Salisbury in March and they have replied with obfuscation and lies", Slack said.

Putin goes on to claim that his government has "found them" and he sincerely hopes that they'll come forward and tell their side of the story soon.

Ms Sturgess died while Mr Rowley remains in hospital fighting meningitis after his body was severely weakened by exposure to the military grade poison.

Russian Federation had previously said the names given to them by British prosecutors were meaningless.

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