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‘UK identifies Russian suspects in Skripals poisoning case’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Members of the British emergency services, wearing protective clothing, work near the bench where former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found poisoned in Salisbury, Britain, March 13, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

British police have reportedly identified several Russian nationals suspected of having been behind an alleged nerve agent poisoning incident in which former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were injured more than four months ago.

The UK-based multimedia news agency the Press Association (PA) cited an unnamed source close to the British investigation on Thursday as saying that “investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack,” in which Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were hospitalized after they were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in the city of Salisbury on March 4.

A few days after the incident, British authorities announced that both victims had been exposed to Novichok, a chemical weapon purportedly developed under a clandestine Soviet program in the 1970s and 1980s, accusing Moscow of conducting the attack, yet declining the Kremlin’s request for a sample of the chemical agent.

The UK accused Russia of being responsible for the poisoning.

Moscow categorically denied the allegation. The Kremlin also said that the substance could have originated from the countries studying Novichok, including the UK itself, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Sweden.

“They (the British authorities) are sure they (the suspects) are Russian,” the source further told the PA, adding that security camera images had been cross-checked with records of people who entered the UK.

British police had previously cautioned that there had been no intelligence indicating the couple was targeted deliberately. However, London fired several Russian diplomats over claims that the Kremlin was behind the attack.

Following the alleged nerve agent attack on the Skripals, the UK’s allies in Europe and the United States also sided with London in accusing Moscow and ordered the biggest expulsion of Russian diplomats since the height of the Cold War era.

A second similar incident complicated matters earlier this month, when UK counter-terrorism police said that they had found two British citizens, a couple identified as Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, in Amesbury, claiming that they had also been affected by the same nerve agent.

British police announced a few days later that Sturgess, a 44-year-old mother of three, died in hospital following the exposure to Novichok.

British counterterrorism police have said they are looking for possible links between the alleged attack in Amesbury and the one in Salisbury.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again strongly rejected the “ungrounded accusations” leveled by the British government against Russia about the so-called nerve agent attacks.

Earlier this month, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia regretted the death of Sturgess.

He also said that Moscow was “deeply worried by the continuing presence of these poisonous substances on British territory.”

This posed “a danger not only for the British, but for other Europeans,” he added.

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