Canada backs British claims Russian officials approved spy's poisoning

The two suspects caught on CCTV while standing at Salisbury railway station at 16:11hrs on 03 March 2018  Metropolitan Police Handout

The two suspects were named by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, neither of whom is in the United Kingdom.

In a joint statement reiterating their "outrage", the leaders said they were completely confident the attempted killing of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal on British soil in March "was nearly certainly approved at a senior government level" in Russia. "It was nearly certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state", she said.

Moscow strongly denies involvement in the attack, and Russian officials said they didn't recognize the suspects.

"The names, just like the photos, published in the media say nothing to us", said Maria Zakharova, a foreign ministry spokeswoman.

Former GRU officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were left critically ill after being exposed to the military grade nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury in March.

The U.K.is not asking Moscow to extradite the men because Russian law forbids extradition of the country's citizens, prosecutor Sue Hemming said Wednesday.

"We have, however, obtained a European Arrest Warrant which means that if either man travels to a country where an EAW is valid, they will be arrested and face extradition on these charges for which there is no statute of limitations".

Neil Basu, head of UK Counter Terrorism policing, said the plot was "a remarkably sophisticated attack" which appeared to be a clear assassination attempt.

"And now we have identified the individuals involved we can go even further", she said.

Sergei Skripal, 67, is a former colonel in the GRU who was convicted in 2006 of spying for Britain and imprisoned.

Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, 145 kilometres southwest of London, on March 4. They were both since discharged from the Salisbury District Hospital.

British authorities and the worldwide chemical weapons watchdog say the Skripals were exposed to Novichok, a type of military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the cold war.

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If law enforcement agencies will be able to find out with whom officers contacted at Switzerland, it can become "a key element of the investigation".

Officials announced charges against two alleged Russian Federation agents, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, but said they were likely to be aliases and released the photographs in an attempt to uncover their true identities.

Police revealed that traces of Novichok were found at a hotel in London's east end where the men spent two nights.

Police also said the men's hotel room had returned dangerously-high levels of Novichok when police conducted tests for it. He was hospitalised and his girlfriend Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after being exposed to the contents.

They also urged Moscow to come clean to the organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) about its Novichok programme.

Rowley tried to put the two parts of the bottle together at home on June 30, during which he got some of the poison on himself.

The CPS said the pair faced charges of conspiracy to murder Skripal, and the attempted murder of him, his daughter and Nick Bailey, a policeman injured in the attack.

The bottle contained Novichok and Sturgess later died in hospital.

A British inquiry in 2016 concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin probably approved Litvinenko's murder, an accusation that Moscow has always rejected.

"This has included trying to pass the blame for this attack onto terrorists, onto our global partners, and even onto the future mother-in-law of Yulia Skripal".

It is noted that The Telegraph tightly tracks the theme of Russian spies and chemical attacks in Britain.

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