Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov are suspected of carrying out the Novichok attack in Salisbury in June this year.
The target of the attack, former spy Sergei Skripal, and his daughter Yulia were admitted to hospital after the poisoning in March this year. Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey also became sick after being exposed to the poison. All three later recovered.
In a related incident, locals Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley were exposed to the deadly nerve agent when the latter picked up what he thought was a perfume bottle. The pair were admitted to hospital and Sturgess died from exposure to the poison on 20 July.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 5, 2018
CPS charges against Petrov and Boshirov
Now the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Scotland Yard believe they have enough evidence to charge two Russian nationals, thought to be Russian military intelligence members. Warrants have been issued for their arrest but experts have cautioned it is unlikely they will actually stand trial. Russia has previously refused to extradite its nationals.
The CPS said it was charging the pair with conspiracy to murder the Skripals and Bailey and the use and possession of Novichok in breach of the Chemical Weapons Act. They will also be charged with causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Bailey.
They have not yet been charged with the fatal poisoning of Dawn Sturgess nor the poisoning of Charlie Rowley.
Rowley, who is still recovering from meningitis and loss of eyesight in hospital, told ITV News he wants those who carried out the attack “brought to justice”.
Sue Hemming, CPS Director of Legal Services, said: “Prosecutors from CPS counter-terrorism division have considered the evidence and have concluded there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.
“It is of course for a jury to decide whether the evidence is enough for them to be sure of the suspects’ guilt. 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. Russia has made this clear following requests for extradition in other cases. Should this position change then an extradition request would be made.”
Russia’s secret wars are growing less secret by the month https://t.co/3vMdyKFqbw
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) September 5, 2018
Russia claims the names released “do not mean anything to us”
Russia is still refusing to take any responsibility for the attack and Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the names “do not mean anything to us”.
“We again call on the British side to move from public allegations and information manipulation to practical cooperation via law enforcement,” Zakharova added.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also released a statement saying the UK’s claim the Russian state was involved in the poisonings is “unfounded”.
“Absurd demands are being made for explanations in connection with a situation which we have nothing to do with,” the statement continued.
“Instead of conducting an independent, objective and transparent investigation into the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury, London continues to engage in anti-Russian megaphone diplomacy, continuing its propaganda show.”
UK authorities say there’s enough evidence to charge two Russians with conspiracy to murder over Salisbury poisonings https://t.co/34QDqDflBO
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) September 5, 2018
UK Prime Minister Theresa May reiterated that intelligence agencies had concluded the two men were “not a rogue operation” and the attempted hit on Skripal was “almost certainly” approved by a senior figure in the Russian state.
It is believed the names of the suspects may be aliases though BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Carrera said authorities may know their real names.
Recently, the Trump administration belatedly imposed sanctions on Russia after determining it was responsible for the attack.