Theresa May: Novichok suspects will 'face justice' if they travel outside Russia

Theresa May: Novichok suspects will 'face justice' if they travel outside Russia

Watch: Theresa May details the suspects' movements to the House of Commons. Video: Parliament TV

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister announced that charges would be brought against two men thought to be responsible for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Speaking to the House of Commons, Theresa May detailed the movements of the suspects, and said “the government had concluded” the men were members of Russian intelligence service the GRU.

May called the attack “sickening and despicable” and described the movements of the suspects, who have be named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

The names are believed to be aliases.  

A CCTV still of suspects Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. Image: Metropolitan Police/Getty

Police released CCTV of the men’s movements in the days before the attack, which May said was “hard evidence [that] has enabled the independent Crown Prosecution Service to conclude they have a sufficient basis on which to bring charges against these two men for the attack in Salisbury.”

"The same two men are now also the prime suspects in the case of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley too. There is no other line of inquiry beyond this,” she added.

Ms Sturgess, who died after being exposed to novichok, and Mr Rowley, were not targeted intentionally, May said, but rather were victims of “the reckless disposal of this agent”.

Dawn Sturgess, who died in July. Image: PA

Novichok was found in a counterfeit perfume bottle that police found in Mr Rowley’s house.

Investigations into the poisoning of Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess are ongoing.

Below are excerpts from May’s speech.


What are the suspects being charged with?

"Since then around 250 detectives have trawled through more than 11,000 hours of CCTV and taken more than 1,400 statements.

"Working around the clock they have carried out painstaking and methodical work to ascertain exactly which individuals were responsible and the methods they used to carry out this attack.

"Mr Speaker, this forensic investigation has now produced sufficient evidence for the independent Director of Public Prosecutions to bring charges against two Russian nationals for:

- the conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal;

- the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey;

- the use and possession of Novichok; and

- causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey.”


What were their movements on the days leading up to the poisoning?

The two suspects. Image: Metropolitan Police/Getty

"They arrived at Gatwick Airport at 3pm on Friday March 2, having flown from Moscow on flight SU2588.

"They travelled by train to London Victoria, then on to Waterloo before going to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road East London.

"They stayed there on both Friday and Saturday evenings - and traces of Novichok were found in their hotel room.

"On Saturday March 3 they visited Salisbury, arriving at approximately 2.25pm and leaving less than two hours later, at 4.10pm. The police are confident this was for reconnaissance of the Salisbury area.

"On Sunday March 4 they made the same journey, travelling by underground from Bow to Waterloo station at approximately 8.05am, before continuing by train to Salisbury.

"The police have today released CCTV footage of the two men which clearly places them in the immediate vicinity of the Skripals' house at 11.58am, which the police say was moments before the attack.

"They left Salisbury and returned to Waterloo arriving at approximately 4.45pm and boarded the underground at approximately 6.30pm to Heathrow - from where they returned to Moscow on flight SU2585, departing at 10.30pm.”


What has Russia said?

"Mr Speaker, we repeatedly asked Russia to account for what happened in Salisbury in March, and they have replied with obfuscation and lies.

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

"They even claimed that I, myself, invented Novichok.

"Their attempts to hide the truth by pushing out a deluge of disinformation simply reinforces their culpability.”

"As we made clear in March, only Russia had the technical means, operational experience and motive to carry out the attack.

"Novichok nerve agents were developed by the Soviet Union in the 1980s under a programme codenamed FOLIANT.

"Within the past decade Russia has produced and stockpiled small quantities of these agents, long after it signed the Chemical Weapons Convention.

"And during the 2000s, Russia commenced a programme to test means of delivering nerve agents including by application to door handles.

"We were right to say in March that the Russian State was responsible.

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


What is the GRU?

The suspects at Salisbury train station. Image: Metropolitan Police/Getty

"Mr Speaker, just as the police investigation has enabled the CPS to bring charges against the two suspects, so the Security and Intelligence Agencies have carried out their own investigations into the organisation behind this attack.

"Based on this work, I can today tell the House that, based on a body of intelligence, the Government has concluded that the two individuals named by the police and CPS are officers from the Russian military intelligence service, also known as the GRU.

"The GRU is a highly disciplined organisation with a well-established chain of command.

"So this was not a rogue operation. It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.”

Where are the suspects now?

"First, with respect to the two individuals, as the Crown Prosecution Service and police announced earlier today, we have obtained a European Arrest Warrant and will shortly issue an Interpol red notice.

"Of course, Russia has repeatedly refused to allow its nationals to stand trial overseas, citing a bar on extradition in its constitution.

"So, as we found following the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, any formal extradition request in this case would be futile.

"But should either of these individuals ever again travel outside Russia, we will take every possible step to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to face justice here in the United Kingdom.”