Skripal poisoning: Putin says suspects 'civilians, not criminals'

CCTV6 = image of both suspects on Fisherton Road Salisbury at 13:05hrs on 04 March 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the two men Britain suspects of poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal with military-grade nerve agent are not criminals and have been identified as civilians.

"We, of course, looked at what kind of people they are, and we know who they are, we found them", Putin told an audience at the Eastern Economic Forum in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok. "It will be better for everyone". "There is nothing unusual or criminal there, I assure you". The men were spotted on numerous security and surveillance cameras as they moved between the two cities.

They said they would not formally demand the men's extradition, as Russian Federation does not extradite its citizens, but have obtained a European Arrest Warrant for the pair.

Detectives believe it is likely the two Salisbury suspects, thought to be aged around 40, travelled under aliases and that Mr Petrov and Mr Boshirov are not their real names. "I hope they will come forward and tell about themselves".

Last week, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, while addressing a Parliament session, held Russian Federation accountable for the Salisbury attack and said that only Russian Federation had the motive to carry out the attack as well as the technical means and operational experience.

"I have seen nothing to suggest that has changed", the spokesman said.

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The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Putin had not spoken to the two accused men and refused to say how and by whom they had been found.

The UK has said that it has sufficient evidence to charge the men but will not seek extradition of the suspects and instead will apply for a European arrest warrant.

A police officer who visited the home of the Skripals shortly after the attack, Nick Bailey, was also left critically ill from exposure to the substance. The Skripals were hospitalized for months but recovered.

Police are linking the attack to a separate Novichok poisoning on 30 June, when Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley became unwell at a house in Amesbury, about eight miles away. Sturgess died in hospital on July 8.

Furthermore, the United Kingdom and 25 other western nations expelled Russian diplomatic workers in a display of solidarity.

Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement in the poisoning, casting it as part of a Western plot to smear Russian Federation to justify more sanctions against it.

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