MOSCOW—President Vladimir Putin says that Russia has identified the two men that Britain is seeking as suspects in the poisoning of a former Russian spy, and he insists that they are civilians.
Britain last week charged the two Russians they allege are military intelligence agents in absentia with the Novichok poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. Britain blames the Russian government for the attack, a claim that Moscow has vehemently denied.
Speaking on Sept. 12 at a panel of an economic conference in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin insisted the two men don’t work for the military.
“We know who these people are, we have found them,” Putin said. “I hope they will turn up themselves and tell everything. This would be best for everyone. There is nothing special there, nothing criminal, I assure you. We’ll see in the near future.”
British authorities said the two men, who they identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, had been operating under aliases.
Asked by the panel’s moderator if the men work for the military, Putin replied that they are “civilians” and called on the men to come forward.
“I would like to call on them so that they can hear us today: They should go to some media outlet. I hope they will come forward and tell about themselves.”
After the Skripals were poisoned March 4, Britain and more than two dozen other countries expelled a total of 150 Russian spies working under diplomatic cover. Russia kicked out a similar number of those countries’ envoys.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the use of a chemical weapon in the city of Salisbury, which left a British woman dead and four other people seriously ill—including Skripal and his daughter—was carried out by officers of the GRU intelligence service and almost certainly approved “at a senior level of the Russian state.”
“Neither Russia’s top leadership nor those with lower ranks, and [Russian] officials, have had anything to do with the events in Salisbury,” Putin said at that time.
Additional reporting by Epoch Times staff.