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Monday, January 30, 2023

No Guarantee Public Won’t Find More Novichok, UK Official Warns as Russian Suspects ID’d

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, national lead for counter terrorism policing at London’s Metropolitan Police Service, on Wednesday released two images of Russian suspects wanted in the March attack with the deadly Novichok nerve agent on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.

The same batch has been linked to a perfume bottle found in June by Charlie Rowley of Amesbury. His girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess, died from exposure to the nerve agent after spraying the perfume on her wrists.

The other victims, including a police officer who responded to the Salisbury scene, fell seriously ill but have been released from the hospital.

“We have no doubt these two incidents are connected and now form one investigation,” Basu said.

Domestic and European arrest warrants have been issued for Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov — possible aliases — both believed to be in their 40s and are Russian nationals who were traveling on Russian passports. The UK was also seeking to circulate Interpol Red Notices.

The two were identified as members of the GRU, Russia’s military security service.

UK authorities released images of pair, who entered the country two days before the Salisbury attack, from travel documents and CCTV footage.

“CCTV shows them in the vicinity of Mr. Skripal’s house and we believe that they contaminated the front door with Novichok,” Basu said. “They left Salisbury and returned to Waterloo Station, arriving at approximately 4:45 p.m. and boarded the London Underground at approximately 6:30 p.m. to London Heathrow Airport. From Heathrow Airport, they returned to Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2585, departing at 10:30 p.m. on Sunday, 4 March. We have no evidence that they re-entered the UK after that date.”

“Having taken advice from Public Health England, we are confident that there was no risk to members of the public who were on the same flight, trains or public transport used by the suspects.”

Basu cautioned, though, that “we do not believe Dawn and Charlie were deliberately targeted, but became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”

“We know that Novichok was applied to the Skripals’ front door in an area that is accessible to the public, which also endangered the lives of members of the public and emergency service responders,” he said. “…Despite the meticulous and painstaking searches, and although unlikely, it is impossible to guarantee that there are no other materials present in the Salisbury area. Therefore we are repeating the advice from Public Health England that people should not pick up items which do not belong to them. We don’t yet know where the suspects disposed of the Novichok they used to attack the door, where Dawn and Charlie got the bottle that poisoned them, or if it is the same bottle used in both poisonings.”

Basu said the cases have shown officials that Novichok causes symptoms within 12 hours of exposure.

Read more at Metropolitan Police

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